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Net-shape joining technology to manufacture 3D multi-materials components based on metal alloys and thermoplastic composites

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - ComMUnion (Net-shape joining technology to manufacture 3D multi-materials components based on metal alloys and thermoplastic composites)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-05-31

New products need to operate under stricter requests demanded by the market and society. Increased strength-to-weight ratio, multi-functionality and low carbon footprint are becoming essential. The traditional joining systems cannot ensure the highest performance that materials might offer in their final products so using new advanced joining technologies and incorporating multi-material design into the assembly chain, the resulting performance will be improved.
Therefore, COMMUNION project was born to fulfil this challenge through the development of new and advanced joining processes to manufacture lighter and stronger multi-material components.
The ComMUnion main result was a fully automated cell demonstrated under a relevant industrial environment (TRL7). This cell includes different technologies integrated and communicated, able to perform high quality structural metal-thermoplastic composite (TPCs) joints without using adhesives and with disassembly capabilities. The cell manufacturing technologies were evaluated with a dual-stage inspection system able to check the surface quality after texturing and during the TPCs tape placement. The ComMunion knowledge based system use several offline software supporting the different stages of the multi-material manufacturing: a decision support system (DSS) and a self-adaptive system (SAE) to assist the component design and the CAD/CAM respectively, and a multi-scale modeling able to feed the CAD/CAM but also to determine the pieces performance based on the study of the interface at micro-scale level.
This main result has been achieved through the completion of the overall project objectives:
1 Developing a new multi-stage joining robotic solution
2 Highly efficient and flexible surface condition solution
3 Developing a multi-scale modelling system
4 Implementing an embedded flexible control of the laser-assisted heating profile
5 Developing QDS in a multi-stage manufacturing approach based on active imaging techniques
6 Self-adjustment of process parameters
7 Demonstration of recycling/reuse by direct heating of the metal
8 Demonstration of a fully automated 3D joining multi-material technology applied to automotive and aeronautics
During the whole project, the following results were achieved:
A fully robotized multi-stage joining cell was placed in a relevant industrial scenario: AUTOTECH facilities. This cell will continue being updated and running trials beyond the project. This cell can operate with components belonging to other industries like aeronautics.
A highly efficient surface consisting in reproducible undercut structures was obtained using a scan speed of 20m/s with a robotized texturing head, allowing perfect structural joints between metals and TPCs (> 10MPa).
A flexible lay-up head capable of working in an out-of-autoclave process with 3 different tapes and/or up to 50 mm width one was built. The head is assisted by high power infrared laser sources (VCSELs) with a flexible configuration supported with an MWIR camera for Tª monitoring & real control with a speed of 10KHz and sensitive in a wide range of temperatures 200 – 2000 ºC.
Dual-Quality Diagnosis System (QDS) with bespoke software: in-line surface inspection based on combined speckle/vision technologies and active thermography for the on-line inspection on tape lay-up defects. With this QDS a self-adjustment of the process parameters can be done.
The mechanical behaviour at macro scale based on simulations at micro scale level was predicted to optimise product design and manufacturing.
Off-line systems (enriched CAD/CAM & DSS) were created and tested. CAD/CAM allows an intelligent management of the manufacturing cell fed by the simulation data and corrected through the SAE powered by a dual stage quality NDT system, while DSS was implemented to support the design based on an intelligent data exchange between steps.
Using TPCs tapes, the assembly/disassembly capability for multi-materials was demonstrated through a simulation software which was integrated with the DSS to incorporate a Circular Economy strategy along with the concepts of reusability and recyclability in a manufacturing line.
The results were reported in almost 100 dissemination/exploitation activities, like conferences, fairs, open access papers, and standardization/clustering/training actions, with a good balance between industry and academy. On the other hand, a continuous updating of results in the main platforms (web, EFFRA, ZENODO, social media) pursued a mainstream reach for the target audiences during the project and beyond. Also, proper exploitation strategies were set to ensure the commercial or industrial results use for the benefit of the project partners, and in a larger extent, for an effective impact in EU.
o A new texturing system was successfully assembled and adjusted for multi-pass texturing of undercut structures with scanning speed of 20 m/s
o An uncooled MWIR camera was designed with a high framerate (10 kHz), a new improved sensor with higher resolution and sensitivity, able to acquire images at lower temperature and a real time temperature close loop control.
o Customized VCSEL modules were developed, which allow adjustable heating profiles and power densities distribution to different joint geometries.
o A multi-tape lay-up head was built specifically to reinforce metal sheets, thermoplastic parts or producing TPC laminates. It can lay different tapes increasing productivity & quality.
o Online defect detection during tape placement based on active thermography with a bespoke software.
o Combined Speckle + vision technologies able to detect in-line surface texturing defects in an automated way.
o An enriched CAD/CAM software fed by the simulation able to compute the tool path for all the operations including the robots and the whole cell.
o A multi-scale modeling was developed to analyse the bonding process at the micro-scale linking it with the performance at macro-scale.
o A fully robotized cell with which a high level of integration was erected. High texturing and tape placement speeds were reached while the quality inspection of the defects was automated and included into the multi-stage process.
ComMUnion resulted, according to the life cycle and cost assessment (LCA&LCC), in an important social benefit in terms of environmental impact reduction and economic opportunity investment. As per the LCA, the reduction of metal raw materials decreases environmental impact during manufacturing (5-10%). The main environmental contribution comes from the use of steel and titanium due to the human toxicity and cancer effect category (90% of total impact.) Also, weight reduction minimizes the use phase impact, due to lower fuel consumption and GHG emissions. That means a 10-15% impact carbon footprint and the 10% environmental impact. In terms of LCC, for the automobile and aeronautical pieces manufacturer, the project means a economic opportunity, exceeding the expected profit limits set for the base piece (12% and 15% respectively).
In addition, the mechanical performance without increasing the cost and maintaining the weight, can be improved up to a 30%. So, it opens different possibilities in relation with the component design. In automotive and aeronautics, a new field of research is opened up to improve the quality of multi-material components or their integration with other components in the whole structure.
Placing thermoplastic tapes on an automotive rocker and test cases manufactured during the projec
Placement of the monitoring MWIR camera into the lay-up head
Texturing head on the robot inside the manufacturing cell
Thermal inspection camera together with the online defect detection images
Scheme of the multi-scale modeling developed under the project
offline support software: enriched CAD/CAM & DSS
Communion technologies integrated into the virtual manufacturing cell
Multi-tape flexible robotized lay up head
Speckle + vision inspection system for automated surface texturing defect detection and example of t
Real ComMunion manufacturing cell at AUTOTECH facilities (TRL7)