As part of an on-going investment programme, Brookhouse Composites Ltd has recently installed an automatic ply-cutting machine at its Darwen factory.
The new machine will be used within the company’s expanding facilities for high volume production and assembly of composite parts for the aerospace industry. Brookhouse already has the capacity to handle large and complex composite assemblies, both tools and components, as well as minor details and interior trim panels. It was the first composites manufacturing company in the UK to have gained the JAR-21 Sub Part G certification, which allows it to manufacture aircraft components, certified for acceptance in all thirty of the countries which form the Joint Aviation Authority.
An essential part of the company’s operations is the development of multi-ply, pre-preg carbon fibre laminations, which are then cured at high temperature and pressure in autoclaves to form the finished components. The manual development of ply templates from master models and mould tools is a very time-consuming operation and can often produce unwanted wastage of expensive pre-preg material. Consequently, in order to solve these problems and so improve operating efficiency, Brookhouse decided to investigate the possibilities of automated ply cutting.
As a result, a Vector 2500 machine from Lectra Systems, has been installed and has allowed significant benefits. For example, it is now possible to develop plies directly from CAD data, instead of having to wait for physical models and mould tools. This can save up to 24 hours in a production schedule, which can be vital in some build schedules. Moreover, the machine software can plan cutting operations so that individual pre-preg templates can be nested within rolls of material. This allows complete sets of templates for components to be manufactured and, by better material utilisation, can save up to 10% in material costs.
With an ability to cut a wide range of plies and materials, including honeycombs, and with a software package to cater for a complex shapes and imported data from various CAD systems, the new automatic ply cutter, which complements a similar machine at Brookhouse Paxford, in Huntingdon, is seen as a valuable addition to the comprehensive resource and expertise within the Brookhouse Group.
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