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e-training: Composites Design, Manufacturing, and Business

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

How we learn about composites and light structures design has changed drastically be it due to Covid-19, zoom classes, or open-access software, This article focuses on the transition and elaborates on the new way of learning called e-training. Let's dive into it!

COVID-19 acceleration

Since the start of the pandemic, colleges have to shut down and students are forced to study from home. This has forced the teaching curriculum to be updated on the go and do what is possible from home. Online teaching has now come to a point where we start to feel comfortable. Online teaching has already been educating in the third-world countries way before the pandemic, due to the high accessibility and low cost of distribution.

Composites classes to Composites e-learning

Education with composites has not been much different than conventional metal design and production. it has required understanding the material and process landscape with stiffness matric calculations. In the recent curriculums, most institutes added the design and analysis with FEA programs and a few also added some manufacturing processes simulation. The e-learning with composites has now seemed to be shifting online with the composites e-learning courses, such as

Paid classes / tutorials

Free classes/tutorials

Why e-training

Despite the vast amount of courses being helpful in gaining fundamental knowledge, they are unable to provide real-life hands-on problem-solving skills. As a team composites engineer, at Addcomposites, we perform a lot of work on our computers, as more and more composites manufacturing is going digital and Automated fiber placement, Kitting solutions and continuous fiber 3D printing processes are taking over the conventional process in real industries.

  • Not the reality of the industrial world

  • Lack of end-to-end practicals for part design/production/business case modeling

  • A lot of nonessential knowledge from legacy courses/teaching styles is added

Composites e-training

It is a framework to learn and work with digital composites design, manufacturing, testing, and business modeling framework that enables solving of real-life problems. The key steps are

  1. Scope

  2. Design to make

  3. Tooling design

  4. Production planning

  5. Evaluation and changes

  6. Virtual testing

  7. Business case

Let's try to understand how the e-training goes

Pre-requisite: Access to open FEA software and AddPath.

1. Scope

This step is usually carried out in a project scope document, where all the key factors about the product requirements, test qualification, parts to be produced, manufacturing-cost/part criteria, etc are provided. We are going to take an example part to walk through the steps of the process.

Case: Need to design a turbine blade optimized for lightweight. A lightweight design produced at a large scale usually relies on continuous fiber-reinforced parts and other lattice design principles to optimize the weight.

2. Design to make

The next step focuses on the manufacturable design that meets the product requirements.

2.1 Design the blade in the following scenarios

- Aerodynamics and fluid simulation

- Vibration

- Impact

- Thermal

2.2 Rough evaluation of manufacturing method


- Continuous fiber 3D printing

- Adhesive Bonding

2.3 Feeding manufacturing technologies capabilities to optimize the design

- Optimise design for manufacturing

3. Tooling design

In order to make the fan blade mold, the following steps should be followed:

Mold making steps from Fan of jet engine to mold design
Mold making steps from fan of jet engine to mold design

  1. Remove any holes from the fan blade surface

  2. Extend the edges of the surface by up to 50-100 mm, up to 150mm if possible

  3. Plan for the trimming allowance and draw an outer boundary

  4. Sperate the layup and the boundary area by splitting the surface

  5. Solidify the surface with vertical walls

  6. Add mounting and alignment points for placement in AFP robotic cell

  7. Consider markings or orientation points for fiber orientation definition

4. Production planning

Planning the layup on a 3D mold shape has been made very simple and accessible thanks to AddPath. A step-by-step process of planning via AddPath is depicted in the picture below. The process with different planning strategies while allowing the user to define their own paths by simply drawing a curve in the chosen CAD modeling software and importing it.

Planning fiber placement on a mold using AddPath
Planning fiber placement on a mold using AddPath

5. Final optimization to optimize the production

Simulating the process via AddPath is very critical to make sure the following items are being met without error:

  1. Mold is positioned correctly

  2. The robot is able to reach the entire layup area without overextending or reaching a point of singularity

  3. The fiber is not being steered beyond the allowable shearing

  4. Motion sync between robot and mold is smooth and without error

  5. No collisions are occurring

  6. Fiber is being placed where you designed them to be

6. Virtual testing

Virtual Testing is the simulation of a physical test, using finite element analysis tools, multi-body dynamic analysis tools, and RPC iteration techniques to derive accurate loads, motion, and damage information of a system. Virtualized production data from AddPath with accurate loads, motion, and damages to validate the part in a virtualized environment.

The key benefit of Virtual Testing is it relies on digital twin data from real-world products and physics real simulation data from the manufacturing software. This produces simulation very close to the real world in an almost completely digital manner.

7. Business case

This step often gets missed out in most training and is often the most important for the economic feasibility of the production. In order to build the business case for the process, the key input is the production output required on annual basis, lets's assume we want to produce 1000 units of the blade per year, then the major cost item can be divided into the following

7.1 Material cost/part i.e. €400

7.2 Production time/Part i.e. 20 min i.e. 528/month

7.3 Cost of Machines capital invested i.e. €5000/month

7.4 No. of Labour: 2

7.5 Production cost/part

Material cost + (cost of machine /mo+labour cost/mo) / (part produced/month) + Overhead 20% = €510

Benefits of Composites e-training

e-training is essentially the next major step after basics e-learning platforms and offers the following key benefits

  • E-training offers to enhance the learning of previously known principles in a real-life scenario

  • E-training skills directly transfer to the final building of the parts without any fluff

  • The free access to software allows for letting the creative solution come to life with time investment alone

  • The real-life example and business case thinking enables system-level thinking in the search for the overall best solution and not only the best technical solution

  • Benefits of applying the knowledge at an industry scale mean smooth transition into work, a really valuable asset for students and the industry

Support from Addcomposites

Opening access to AFP programming and simulation software - AddPath enables students and academia to learn about the nuances of AFP during their courses, while researchers and SMEs can explore different path planning strategies for design optimization. The cloud-based license will allow anyone to create programs and perform simulations for AFP on their personal or work computers, enabling digital composites additive manufacturing from home or the office.

To support e-learning and e-training, Addcomposites has developed and published extensive resources, such as the single-two fiber placement (AFP-XS), robots from various manufacturers (i.e, Kuka, ABB, FANUC, etc.), sample projects, sample geometries, tutorials, etc. The resources library is continuously expanding based on inputs from the composites community and adding further capabilities to support specific use cases.

You can download the AddPath online now by following this link.

About Addcomposites

Addcomposites is the provider of the Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) ecosystem - including the Fiber Placement System (AFP-XS), 3D Simulation and Programming Software (AddPath), and Robotic Cells (AddCell). With the leasing program for the AFP system (AFPnext), composites manufacturers can work with thermosets, thermoplastics, dry fiber placement, or in combination with 3D Printers on a monthly basis.

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