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The Centre for Composites Materials (CCM) at the University of Delaware has developed a custom research tool for evaluation of new materials and development of novel processing techniques.
CCM explain that the Automated Materials Placement (AMP) provides an adaptable, modular, and flexible way to carry out a broad variety of composite processing methods, including thermoset and thermoplastic tape placement, out-of-autoclave processing, in-situ consolidation and cure, automated preform/tackifying/binders, MMC ultrasonic tape placement, and spray on bag technologies.
According to CCM scientist John Tierney, the AMP system promises to change the way new materials are evaluated and new processes are designed at the Centre. “Conducting research in composites manufacturing is an evolving environment as new materials and processing methods continuously enter the market,” he says. “The AMP offers us a ‘plug and play’ approach to assessing new technologies. The AMP is configured with swappable modules for various feed systems, heating sources, and consolidation methods through a LEGO-type connection structure. All of the modules use a common column design, and they all slide out the front of the chassis.”
Process models developed at CCM are used to design new processes and hardware configurations,” says Shridhar Yarlagadda, Assistant Director of Research at CCM. “The AMP is then used to validate the models and establish process windows.”
“Ideally, our goal is to enable any unit to be changed in under an hour,” he adds. “The modular design allows multiple research projects to use the system with little downtime.”
CCM Director John W. (Jack) Gillespie, Jr. points out that the modular platform allows material, process and new hardware development and optimization prior to locking into final hardware. “This translates into significant risk reduction for scale up,” Gillespie says. “We’re encouraging our industrial partners to use the AMP for their material and product development research.”
“This new machine is truly a legacy research tool that builds on all of the previous work we’ve done on composites design and processing,” he continues. “Historically CCM has benefitted from having in house equipment to aid in working with our industrial and DOD collaborators, and many of the workcells we developed for specific processes in earlier research programs laid the groundwork for this new capability.”
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