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New technologies for manufacturing composites

Tecnalia is participating in the REFORM project by focusing its work on the machining of composite materials by means of waterjet as well as conventional cutting.

In 1995 the Boeing 777 was breaking fresh ground in various directions. It was the first aircraft to be produced completely by means of CAD on screens instead of on physical models; it is a large aircraft with only two engines; and it is 50% aluminium with 12% of its weight in composites. 18 years later, the Boeing 787 cut the use of aluminium to 20% of its weight but increased the parts in composite materials to 50%. Both the fuselage and wing frames of the Airbus A350 are mainly manufactured of composites and have a proportion of 53% of these materials and 19% of aluminium. The use of composites in aeronautics is now a fact and its spread to other sectors depends only on reducing production costs, which are currently very high. Featuring among the manufacturing challenges is the need to make cuts in the parts with precision and while respecting the design geometry. That is why the European project known as REFORM (Resource-Efficient Factory Of Recyclable Manufacturing composite), funded by the European Commission through Grant agreement No: 283336 and with a duration of 4 years is focusing on the manufacture of composites to develop cleaner, more efficient technologies for the manufacture of composites. These composites produced with a polymer base and reinforced with fibre, which can be of various types, allow components to be manufactured with a considerable cut in weight while maintaining or even improving their mechanical properties. In most of the applications this weight reduction means energy saving during the product’s in-service lifetime. REFORM is geared towards the manufacturing cycle of fibre-reinforced composites. The methods under consideration are: rolling, machining (cutting and edge finishing), assembly and recycling. Tecnalia is participating in the project alongside another 13 partners and is gearing its work towards the machining of composite materials, using waterjet as well as conventional cutting. Featuring among Tecnalia’s activities is the development of an adaptive control system that can be applied to various materials and working conditions, as well as a fresh solution for swarf extraction, which is essential for the final quality of the part. In waterjet cutting technology the research is concentrating on the process and the application of it to composites resulting in a cutting model that could be implemented in a CAD/CAM module and in machine manufacturers directly. Within REFORM, the model will be used to develop the CAD/CAM module in collaboration with ModuleWorks and Fraunhofer IPT. The main advantage of this process over conventional machining is high productivity and a lower environmental impact. REFORM will be using a CAD/CAM module optimized for composites and which will validate the environmental savings through its validation in real industrial cases. The final results will make available a new tool for a type of machining of high-performance composites using waterjet.