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Course: Composite Design-for-Manufacturing using AFP

Updated: Aug 9, 2022


Using composites to manufacture complex products such as the load-bearing structure of an aircraft requires designers to consider specific material and fabrication limitations when creating designs. The difference between conceptual design and composite manufacturing is so great that approximately 80% of manufacturing costs are based on design decisions made at the conceptual design stage of a composite component.

This course will focus on helping composites designers

  • Identify key manufacturing constraints: by following a systematic approach to evaluating the manufacturing process relative to the design steps.

  • Implement DFM for automated manufacture of composites: by following the design process flow provided.

  • Improve the manufacturability of a composite design: by understanding how the design decisions influence the manufacturing process.

  • Digitize tools to improve manufacturability: by quantifying what constitutes good composite manufacturing and embedding the knowledge within digital design tools.

Course structure

The article highlights the presently conceptualized and tried approaches as mentioned below. these approaches have been designed around the provided constraints e.g. available resources, time to project, minimum failure, data gathering, analysis possibilities, etc.

The article highlights the challenges posed to composites designers. The specific nature of the problem makes the best approach indeterminate due to too many variables. The two key aspects to understanding the problem can be summarized in the two following points

  • Challenge 1: Designing for novel manufacturing processes: If the design is using a novel manufacturing material/process, and the manufacturing constraints are not fully understood,

  • Challenge 2: Digital tools' Best practices: If the digital tools used to create the design are derived for use with a different material or process. A strategy for using digital design tools in the context of DFM is required.

The fundamentals of composites design along with a step-by-step guide for achieving a manufacturing optimized design. The key difference of the approach presented here is that it considers manufacturing and material as an integral part of the design process. below are the links to quickly jump to respective sections

The focus is on understanding the key steps in designing structural composites with examples of aerospace components; i.e. wing and fuselage.

  • A focus on thin-walled structures made up of continuous unidirectional fibers in a polymer matrix

  • The link between CAD, CAM, and CAE tools is described in the context of structural design for composites

  • Parameters needed to describe mechanical properties are segmented for their analytical significance. e.g. the dimension and the location of plies for localized regions with constrained curved fiber radius

  • The optimization techniques are highlighted for the design and analysis phases utilizing the anisotropic nature of composites

Composite structure designs are challenging due to the wide range of design variables e.g. materials, laminates, and interactions. The use of a design tool speeds up the process and allows investigation for an optimal solution. The focus is on structural design tools at different stages of the design process.

  1. Conceptual design

  2. Detailed structural design

  3. Design for Manufacture

  4. Design of tooling

The application of virtual manufacturing simulation tools ensures that composite manufacturing processes lead to high-quality and cost-effective components. The simulation tools are used over a wide range of processes to validate the design and predict material behavior at each step of the processing. A wide gamut of virtual manufacturing simulations is available for different process simulations. In this article, the focus is on the next step i.e. production simulation of composites.

The article 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.

Key takeaways

  • Understanding the present state of the art provides a good understanding of the present-day practices in the composites industry

  • Given the part/shape under consideration, a comprehensive review in the light of material and process is required before any design

  • The design process is iterative and requires a clean process flow that can be repeated for multiple cycles to achieve a well-optimized solution

  • CAD, CAE, and CAM tools on their own are not useful unless combined in a design flow to find global maxima solution.

  • Start with virtualized production tools and prioritize the quality at high volume production to ensure the part produced will be optimum.



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