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Design for Manufacturing: Composite Helicopter Tailboom (AFP)


This blog describes a development project to evaluate the efficiency and benefits of automated fiber placement technology through the design, prototyping, and testing of composite bars. Discussions focus on the concept of “design-for-manufacturing” and provide an overview of the process going through selecting project objectives, material choices, processes and compensations, engineering and structural considerations, and the set of parts and accessories.

Why automate helicopter production?

Recurring costs have become an important factor in helicopter design, and although composite materials are widely used in aircraft parts, in many cases, manual manufacturing processes impede profitability. Automatic manufacturing techniques can not only reduce production costs but can also provide repeatable, high-quality parts, digital traceability of defects, lower worker costs and help achieve higher production rates helping lower the cost even further. The introduction of automation in industrial processes affects not only how parts are manufactured, but also how they are designed.

Design for “X”

As discussed in the previous design guide "steps in the process flow of designing the composites part", the first step is to Set out a program objective, In this conceptual design phase, the selected criteria are as follows

  • Customer satisfaction

  • Cost, weight

  • Product readiness

  • Manufacturing (automated)