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17th February 2020, Delaware

Mikrosam partners UD-CCM on automated tape placement

Mikrosam ATP machine. © Mikrosam.© Mikrosam.

The University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Materials (UD-CCM) has selected Mikrosam and its US representative Composite Automation LLC to deliver an integrated ATP machine for automatic placement of dry, thermoset and thermoplastic tape. Equipment specifications include placement of thin to standard ply thickness tape (up to 1-inch in width), laser and IR heating with in-situ temperature control and thermal camera feedback, and horizontal axes allowing manufacturing of full-scale prototypes (10 feet in length).

Mikrosam is designating UD-CCM as its primary academic partner in the US providing open software and hardware access enabling R&D to develop new material solutions, in-situ process control and path/placement optimization. Robotic tape placement of composites in dry, thermoset and thermoplastic formats enables precision control of fibre orientation for high-performance applications with the benefit to meet higher production rates.

UD-CCM has a long history of composites manufacturing ranging from thermoset and thermoplastic filament winding and tape placement to infusion of dry preforms including the development of process models, sensors and control systems.  In thermoplastic composite processing, more than 250 papers and dissertations have been published and multiple patents awarded in this area.

UD-CCM was a pioneer in investigating laser based thermoplastic ATP process in the mid-80’s, which evolved into robotic tape placement and a physics-based modelling and simulation framework for process and materials optimization under high heating/cooling/deposition rates.  The models incorporate various heat sources and compaction methods on multi-layer tape consolidation and void dynamics within the tape as well as coupled bonding mechanisms including intimate contact and polymer reputation between layers.

The effects of non-isothermal material response (rheology, crystal melting and crystallization, thermal degradation limits) and part-tool interactions on residual stress and warpage was also quantified. This body of work culminated in the first model-based process control system with real time sensor feedback to control void content, part quality while maximizing deposition rates.  “We look forward to implementing this system in the Mikrosam ATP equipment,” the company says.

“The Mikrosam ATP equipment significantly upgrades UD-CCM’s current capabilities allowing R&D of primary structures at rate production. Initial studies will evaluate placement of thin ply materials to support current projects with NASA. UD-CCM novel Tailorable Universal Feedstock for Forming (TuFF) material developed under a four-year DARPA program enables low areal weight, steerable tape options allowing variable stiffness designs for weight critical applications, tailored blank formation for forming of aerospace and automotive parts as well as wider steerable tape to drastically increase productivity.”

Assistant Director for Technology at UD-CCM Dirk Heider explains: “We are looking forward to collaborating with Mikrosam and other industry & government partners on next-generation ATP materials and processes.”

Mikrosam offers one of the most cost-competitive and proven ATP solutions with many advancements for maximum productivity. Designed as an integrated, modular, and upgradeable ATP work-cell, the 8-axis robotic AFP machine is capable of automated and precise placement of dry/thermoset and thermoplastic tape. Mikrosam’s ATP heads are a premier tool for researchers in advanced composites allowing access to machine code for integration of 3rd party equipment. 

“The market for automated layup of thermoplastic and thermoset composites demands flexible equipment to ensure maximum utilization in exploring new techniques and applications. When combined with our sophisticated control for in-situ consolidation of thermoplastic composites and UD-CCM’s expertise, the new partnership will provide novel process solutions for industry,” states Dimitar Bogdanoski, Sales Manager at Mikrosam. 

Composite Automation, LLC enters its fourth year as the exclusive partner of Mikrosam and is now fully represented throughout the North American marketplace for composites representing ten diverse technologies for the manufacture of advanced composite structures. 

John Melilli, President and CEO of Composite Automation, LLC adds: “Mikrosam represents the best value in ATP/AFP/ATL in thermosets, thermoplastics and dry fibre machines in the world. Being selected by the UD-CCM gives us the opportunity to work directly with North American companies that want to perform manufacturing R&D while staying in the US.” 

The system will become available in the summer 2020 for prototyping, material and process evaluation at UD-CCM.

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