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Funding from the German federal governments WING materials research program, coordinated by the German Ministry for Education & Research (BMBF), will be used to develop a new technique for building thin-wall moulds for composites manufacturing.
The spray forming technique is expected to have important implications for composites manufacturing due to its ability to create moulds of complex parts, while also delivering cost efficiencies in the manufacturing process.
Using spray forming, a mould is created by spraying thin layers of thermal spray onto a master form. The spray jet is attached to an industrial robot, which analyses the spray in-situ during the coating operation to correlate spray parameters and predict layer formation to prevent distortion.
Once hardened, the sprayed form is then separated from the master form providing a hard, thin mould. Cooling and heating systems can also be integrated into the mould during the spraying process to enhance temperature control when manufacturing composite parts.
Thin-wall moulds can offer key cost efficiencies in manufacturing, as they have a lower thermomass than traditional alternatives (such as metal) and are therefore faster and more energy efficient to heat and cool during the manufacturing process.
The Research & Development program will be undertaken by a consortium including two R&D partners (The University for Defence in Munich and New Materials Beyreuth), a tool manufacturer (WESTCAM Fertigungstechnik GmbH, Mils), a sensor supplier (Zierhut GmbH, Munich) and two end users (Quicksteps German-based subsidiary, Quickstep GmbH, and Schmuhl Faserverbundtechnik GmbH), with EADS Innovation Works acting as project coordinator and providing key input to ensure the Sprayforming technology is developed to meet aerospace requirements.
Chief Executive of Quickstep, Mr Philippe Odouard said If the technology can be successfully developed, spray forming would enable the rapid and economic production of thin-wall moulds for large-sized composite aerospace parts with complex geometry, Mr Odouard said. Tooling is currently a key cost component within the manufacturing process, and we believe the twin benefits of complex geometries and enhanced cost efficiencies will be highly attractive to end users.
Mr Odouard said Sprayforming would also offer major benefits for Quicksteps patented manufacturing technology the Quickstep process. The Quickstep process uses a unique bladder membrane filled with thermal fluid to cure the composite part, he said. Traditional thick, high-relief moulds often dont fit into our bladder system, so we believe the development of thin-wall moulds should increase the potential use of our manufacturing technology.
The total grant from BMBF amounts to almost 3 million. The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-2012.
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