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QinetiQ has recently installed a 3D stitching robot for creating dry fibre preforms which reduce handling and lay-up time.
The robot selectively stitches the net-shape preform in order to optimise its strength and weight to the precise requirements of its end application.
The robotic composite stitching facility is located within QinetiQ’s materials division at Cody technology Park, Farnborough, UK and is based around industry standard equipment making it equally suitable for both development and production tasks. The robot is teamed with three different sewing heads, each providing a different single sided stitching capability allowing both preform production and addition of through thickness reinforcement.
The equipment was supplied by KSL- a German company which specialises in the single sided stitching techniques required for the production of composite 3D shaped preforms. The robot possesses a “”7th axis”” because it is mounted on a 3 metre long rail. This means that, when combined with the natural sweep of the robot arm, it has the capability of operating over a very large area, enabling large components to be produced, typical of those required by the aircraft industry.
The heads are interchangeable within a production operation and the equipment can be run in automatic mode for fast production. To ensure safe operation the equipment is contained within a caged area fitted with fully interlocked doors.
The three sewing methods, which are all interchangeable during the manufacture of any single preform, are tufting (a technique for providing through thickness reinforcement), blind stitching (using a curved needle) and two needle single sided stitching (developed specifically for composite perform production.)
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