Meyer, M., "STAXX 50K - Standards for Carbon Composites Production Technology," SAE Technical Paper 2016-01-2114, 2016, doi:10.4271/2016-01-2114.
Carbon composites have been on an odyssey within the past 15 years. Starting on the highest expectations regarding the performance, reality was hitting a lot of programs hard. Carbon composites were introduced on a very high technical level and industry has shown of being capable to handle those processes in general. In particular, production never sleeps and processes undergo a continuous change. Within these changes costs remain the most critical driver. As products are improving during their lifetime, they usually increase the degree of complexity, too. According to the normal cost improvement, this has drastic consequences for production. When setting up the first generation of composite production, the part being produced has been in the centre of attention. At a first glance this was the correct approach, but at a second one, it initiated up a huge number of variations in production processes, as in composite production the material and the part have to be built at the same time. This phenomenon especially occurs in the production of small, monolithic parts, where prepreg technology, hand layup, resin transfer moulding and more technology is applied. Today, also the variety in material is growing, when thermoset sytems have to compete with thermoplastics. This adds complexity to production as well. As the trend for those small, monolithic parts develops into the direction of being non-core for the production of OEM and Tier one suppliers, OEM and Tier one suppliers seek to find new suppliers for those parts, as their production will not remain profitable for those parts on the long run. Therefore, a supply chain has to be built upon standards, that helps suppliers to assess their risk on investment on the one hand and on the other hand where only proven standard technology is used to build parts within a spectrum of given and controllable technology. Automation will help to put the supply chain into a place, where the assessment of the quality and the cost are becoming more transparent for all parties. In terms of standards, only those should be applied where they are beneficial to the production. When standards meet automation it is most profitable, when automation occurs early in the process chain. Because of that the fibre placement process is most promising of being the industrial standard, as it offers a very high flexibility to build a large variety of parts. Fibre Placement has been introduced on a large scale for building fuselage structures for example. It is not applied for the production of small parts yet, even though it would offers several advantages. So far, production equipment for this purpose was not available. STAXX machines will close this gap. This will be an enabler to produce parts on a high level of automation and STAXX machine will improve the supply chain, too. As suppliers will benefit from the experience in automation of the OEM and Tier 1 suppliers, the entire process chain of composite parts will develop the option of becoming simpler, because of the reduction of raw materials used. STAXX will decrease the risk for the part manufacturer as it builds upon well established technology and with regard on invests and production cost it is cost efficient due to being a stand alone production system, also because one machine will be able to operate different materials. By setting standards in production using a direct fibre layup the impact on cost reduction is given by technological factors and by economical factors, because standards assure to increase the number of potential suppliers.