Gillespie, C., "Integrating 20 Tow, 1.5 Inch AFP Heads on Large Part for High Deposition Rate Application," SAE Technical Paper 2017-01-2149, 2017.
As carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) become more integrated into the design of large single piece aircraft structures, aircraft manufacturers are demanding higher speed and efficiency in Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) deposition systems. To facilitate the manufacturing of large surface area and low contour parts (wing skins, in this case) at a high production rate, Electroimpact has developed a new AFP head consisting of 20 1.5 inch wide pre-impregnated carbon tows. The new head design has been named the ‘OH20’, short for ‘One and a Half Inch, 20 Tows’. This AFP head format creates a deposition swath over 30 inches wide when all 20 tows are active. A total of four of these AFP heads have been integrated with a quick change robotic tool changer on two high speed, high acceleration, and high accuracy moving beam gantries. All head CFRP spool loading, maintenance, and cleaning can be accomplished in a maintenance cell while the other AFP head is depositing CFRP in the part cell. This has greatly increased machine cell up time and hourly deposition rate. In addition to the implementation of a robotic tool changer for the AFP heads, a high power, large IR heater and in-process profilometer inspection assembly has been combined and integrated with separate automated robotic tool changer drop off routine. This allows for multiple heads to use the same heater/profilometer assembly which provides a reduction in expensive hardware quantity requirements and improves the safety for operators and equipment. The development and manufacture of this system has resulted in a greater than 900 pound per hour (PPH) layup rate during production part program execution.