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Automation of hand lay up manufacturing process for composites stiffeners

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COBOMEGA (Automation of hand lay up manufacturing process for composites stiffeners)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-12-31

Composite materials are intensively use in aerospace industry, even more in the last aircrafts such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, mostly due to their advantages compare to metallic : design possibilities, better fatigue resistance, strength to weight ratio, contributing to lighter aircrafts, fuel consumption reduction and competitive advantage. Despite their intensive use, composites materials remains associated to low efficient processes, mostly hand lay up. Therefore major OEM are pushing hard to increase process efficiency by driving down manufacturing costs and maximizing productivity using more automation.
AFP and ATL have demonstrated their potential for large parts like fuselage sections, cowls or wing skins, but their is still further improvements needed for secondary parts such as stringers and stiffeners, with high flexibility and relatively low investment.
This is the entry point of Cobomega project.

Compositadour, based in Bayonne, France, has collaborated with Airbus DS (Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain) to develop an automated collaborative lay up process and manufacture a full scale aerospace omega stiffener within European funded Cobomega research project.
Focus of this project was to design and test a highly efficient automated and/or assisted process for the layup operation of the manufacturing of composite stiffeners, with a competitive cost advantage comparing to the current hand lay up process.

COBOMEGA project has been devoted to the following objectives:
- set up a concept for highly efficient industrial equipment able to manufacture stiffeners with different curvatures
- evaluate various solutions considering ergonomic, cost and flexibility aspects such as collaborative robot, pick and place processes or automated fibre placement
- design and test automated and/or assisted process for the layup operation of the manufacturing of composite stiffeners, with a competitive cost advantage comparing to the current hand lay-up process
- deliver four stiffeners prototypes manufactured according to the selected process
Compositadour has developed a combined process with prepreg unidirectional carbon reinforcement lay up by automated fibre placement machine, fabrics lay up using robotized pick and place and hot forming technology. The demonstrator manufactured in house featured the same geometry of existing stiffener with an approximate length of 3.4m and allow a detailed evaluation of these technologies in a true industrial environment.
A recent completed test made in house by Airbus DS has demonstrate higher resistance of Omega stiffener manufactured within Cobomega project.
Benefits of manufacturing automation are today not applied to stringers or stiffeners because of their specific geometry, except in some applications requiring high investment such as A350 stiffeners. Cobomega demonstrates that with reduced investment, an efficient manufacturing process can be set up for composite stiffeners manufacturing, keeping enough flexibility and capability to be applied to different stiffeners curvatures and geometries.
Results achieved can be used by companies involved in composites industry for aerospace looking for durable technology, cost-competitive, with ability and flexibility to deliver customized products.
Omega stiffener prototype made within Cobomega project