First Industrial Fiber Patch Placement System for Manufacturing Complex Composites

(Cevotec GmbH)

Complex-shaped composites are still manufactured by hand – up to now. Cevotec offers with SAMBA the first industrial Fiber Patch Placement (FPP) production system together with the matching CAD-CAM software ARTIST STUDIO, enabling automated production for complex composites. The process starts with dry carbon fiber tape that is laser-cut into patches. The patches are picked up by a handling robot, equipped with a special gripper, and placed on a 3D form tool that is mounted on a 6-axis robot. Patch by patch, complex preforms are produced using this additive manufacturing technique. SAMBA breaks the “endless fiber paradigm” of the composites industry by using discontinuous patches for high performance applications instead of the commonly used continuous fibers. This yields two major advantages:

1. Automation of fiber deposition on complex shapes: the extremely form-flexible gripper enables the placement of
patches on complex shapes like strongly convex and bi-axially curved surfaces.
2. Curvilinear fiber orientations: Because each patch is individually deposited on positions predetermined by the ARTIST STUDIO software, its orientation can be adjusted to follow curved load paths. This increases the strength and stiffness by up to 150% compared to conventional laminates and overcompensates the performance loss that is initially induced by using discontinuous fiber patches (scientifically-proven results).

By generating both optimized laminates and efficient robot movements, fiber material costs and production cost are significantly reduced, while the product development process is significantly accelerated. ARTIST STUDIO enables engineers to exploit the full advantage of the Fiber Patch Placement technology. With SAMBA and ARTIST STUDIO, Cevotec’s customers have access to an industrial production system which can be used flexibly for a wide range of applications across a range of industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical devices, sports equipment and industrial goods. Three primary application areas have the largest potential:

1. Complex-shaped parts (e.g. aerospace window funnels, gearbox covers)
2. Load-path-oriented reinforcements (e.g. of stacks, reducing the number of stack plys)
3. Ornamental surfaces (e.g. letters, logos, designs)

These applications are estimated to address more than USD 2 billion in composite applications, or more than 10% of the market. Application areas will expand as Cevotec continues to extend the patch technology to larger sizes, and also toadditional materials, e.g. thermoset and thermoplastic prepreg tapes as well as glass fibers.