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With just a few weeks to go until Composites Innovation 2018 – Advances in Automation, NetComposites’ Communications Manager Siobhan Longhurst caught up with Dr Richard Collins of IDTechEx to hear his thoughts on automation and where the industry is heading.
On the composites industry’s toughest problems: “The composites industry has been growing healthily, but there are still some challenges preventing it from getting to very high volumes. The biggest one of these challenges is cost, both from the viewpoint of the raw material (particularly CFRP) and the technical manufacturing. Other challenges that are becoming increasingly significant within the industry are the repair, recovery and reusability of composite parts.”
On how automation might address these problems: “Automation can help tackle these problems in two ways. Automation can improve the production efficiency and also allow for more freedom and versatility in design. At present, a CFRP part can have over 20 times the raw material costs of a conventional metallic part, which is prohibitively high in many cases and not competitive in comparison to some of the lightweight metal contenders. The improved efficiency, most notable for time and waste reduction, can help reduce the total product cost significantly.”
On affordability of automation for all: “Automation shouldn’t be perceived as just the large expensive fibre and tape laying processes, but rather how it can play a role in all stages of the manufacturing, prototyping and tooling processes. I think there are opportunities to embrace different levels of automation for all sizes of business.”
On aspects of processing well suited to automation: “This can be split into manufacturing and prototyping. The role in manufacturing can be extensive, from reducing the time making the preform to whole warehouse optimisation. By way of example, an emerging trend is the rise of thermoplastics and overmoulded parts; this will result in more opportunities to utilise pick-and-place robots. Prototyping provides very interesting opportunities – design freedom and speed to testing have often been major barriers. Not only will increasing automation reduce costs, but it will allow customers to engage with composite part manufacturers at a new level. Design suites are always improving and the type of technology that these can interface with vary from more conventional methods to the 3D printing of composite parts.”
Finally, what do you want to get out of the conference? “It is a great pleasure to be a keynote at this conference. I look forward to listening to a great and diverse line-up of speakers, reconnecting with people in the industry, and learning about the new innovations and developments in this emerging field.”
Having produced a number of keynote and masterclass presentations at conferences on an international level, NetComposites is pleased to welcome Richard Collins as a keynote speaker at this year’s event. IDTechEx provides independent market research, business intelligence and events on emerging technologies to companies across the value chain. Collins works within their advanced materials division and has a specific focus on emerging lightweight technologies.
Composites Innovation 2018 – Advances in Automation takes place on 20-21 June in Nottingham, UK.
Dr Richard Collins, IDTechEx
Image provided by NetComposites Ltd
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