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New Era AI to Overcome Expertise Shortages in Automated Fiber Placement



Challenges in SOA Automated Fiber Placement for Composite Manufacturing

Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) is an intricate part of manufacturing advanced composite structures. Presently the key challenges in AFP for composite manufacturing are:

  • AFP requires a great deal of experience, expertise, and labor to optimally plan the fiber placement paths, especially for large and thick structures. The number of decisions required is immense.

  • Manual path planning by human experts is very time-consuming. Early planning decisions can have consequences later in the process.

  • Expertise in AFP process planning requires years of trial-and-error experience on various structures and geometries. Such expert-level knowledge is needed to manufacture high-quality parts, especially for complex/contoured structures.

  • Companies face "brain drain" issues due to an aging workforce, high turnover, and skill/labor shortages. Losing an expert AFP process planner can lead to increased development time, lower part quality, and compromised performance.

  • Finding and acquiring such niche AFP talent is difficult. More advanced industry 4.0 and digitization concepts that could help are not yet widely adopted.

The high level of expertise required, time-consuming manual planning, risk of losing expert knowledge, and difficulty finding skilled AFP process planners pose significant challenges to composite manufacturing using AFP. New approaches are needed to capture and automate AFP process planning knowledge and decisions.


Expertise Shortages and Inefficiencies in Traditional Fiber Placement Methods

Several expertise shortages and inefficiencies persist in traditional fiber placement methods:

  • Brain drain: As the experienced workforce ages and retires, companies face a loss of valuable expertise. High turnover rates and labor shortages exacerbate this issue, making it difficult to retain skilled process planners.

  • Niche talent pool: AFP process planning requires a highly specialized skill set, which can only be acquired through years of hands-on experience. Finding and recruiting individuals with this expertise is challenging due to the relatively small talent pool.

  • Time-consuming manual planning: Traditional fiber placement methods rely heavily on manual path planning by human experts. This process is labor-intensive and time-consuming, especially for large and complex structures.

  • Consequences of early decisions: In manual planning, decisions made early in the process can have unforeseen consequences later on. This can lead to suboptimal fiber placement and reduced part quality.

  • Limited adoption of advanced technologies: While industry 4.0 and digitization concepts offer potential solutions, their adoption within the AFP industry has been slow. This hinders the implementation of more efficient and automated process planning methods.

These challenges highlight the need for an artificially intelligent process planner that can capture and leverage expert knowledge, optimize fiber placement paths, and adapt to various structures and geometries, ultimately improving efficiency and part quality in AFP composite manufacturing.


Innovating with AI To Bring in a New Era in Fiber Placement Process Planning

The artificial intelligence (AI) can help usher in a new era of fiber placement process planning by addressing the challenges and inefficiencies of traditional methods:

  • Capturing and retaining expertise: An AI process planner can incorporate domain knowledge and expert insights into a robust, permanent, and evolving system. This helps mitigate the impact of brain drain and ensures that valuable expertise is retained and utilized.

  • Optimizing path planning: By leveraging machine learning algorithms and simulation capabilities, an AI process planner can analyze various fiber placement scenarios and generate optimized path plans. This reduces the reliance on time-consuming manual planning and improves overall efficiency.

  • Adapting to complex structures: AI-driven process planning can handle complex geometries and contoured structures more effectively. The system can learn from historical data, design rules, and simulations to identify optimal fiber placement patterns for various part configurations.

  • Continuous improvement: An AI process planner can continuously evolve and improve over time by incorporating new data, expert insights, and advanced simulation techniques. This adaptability ensures that the system remains up-to-date and efficient as manufacturing requirements change.

  • Integration with industry 4.0: AI-based process planning aligns with the concepts of industry 4.0 and digitization. It enables the integration of advanced technologies, such as machine learning, simulation, and data analytics, into the fiber placement process, driving innovation and efficiency.

By leveraging AI the fiber placement industry can transition from relying on individual expertise to a more scalable, efficient, and adaptable process planning approach. This shift has the potential to significantly enhance composite manufacturing capabilities and outcomes.


Implementation Benefiting the Manufacturers and Industry

The adoption of AI-driven process planning in composite manufacturing offers several key benefits for manufacturers and the industry as a whole:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity:

  • Automated, optimized path planning reduces manual labor and time requirements

  • Faster, more accurate process planning leads to shorter production cycles and increased output

  • Improved part quality and performance:

  • AI algorithms can identify optimal fiber placement patterns, minimizing defects and maximizing structural integrity

  • Consistent, high-quality parts enhance product performance and customer satisfaction

  • Cost savings:

  • Reduced labor costs associated with manual process planning

  • Minimized material waste and rework due to optimized fiber placement

  • Shorter production times lead to lower overall manufacturing costs

  • Knowledge retention and scalability:

  • AI systems capture and preserve expert knowledge, mitigating the impact of workforce turnover

  • Scalable process planning enables manufacturers to handle increased production demands and adapt to new product configurations

  • Competitive advantage:

  • Manufacturers adopting AI-driven process planning can differentiate themselves through improved efficiency, quality, and cost-effectiveness

  • Enhanced capabilities attract new customers and projects, driving business growth

By embracing AI in composite manufacturing, the industry can address key challenges, improve operational performance, and unlock new opportunities for innovation and growth. As AI technologies continue to advance, manufacturers that leverage these capabilities will be well-positioned to lead the industry into the future.



we extend our gratitude to the authors of the PDF titled "Artificially intelligent process planner for automated fiber placement" for their invaluable contributions to this blog. Alex Brasington, Matthew Godbold, and Ramy Harik from the University of South Carolina McNair Aerospace Center have provided crucial insights and research findings that greatly enhanced the quality and depth of our discussion on the advancements in automated fiber placement. Their expertise and dedication to exploring innovative solutions in composite manufacturing are truly commendable.


What's Next!

Discover the future of composite manufacturing with Addcomposites! Here's how you can get involved:

  1. Stay Informed: Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest updates, news, and developments in AFP systems and services. Knowledge is power, and by staying informed, you'll always have the upper hand. Subscribe Now

  2. Experience Our Technology: Try our cutting-edge simulation software for a firsthand experience of the versatility and capability of our AFP systems. You'll see how our technology can transform your production line. Try Simulation 

  3. Join the Collaboration: Engage with us and other technical centers across various industries. By joining this collaborative platform, you'll get to share ideas, innovate, and influence the future of AFP. Join Collaboration 

  4. Get Hands-On: Avail our educational rentals for university projects or semester-long programs. Experience how our AFP systems bring about a revolution in composite manufacturing and leverage this opportunity for academic and research pursuits. Request for Educational Rental

  5. Take the Next Step: Request a quotation for our AFP systems. Whether you're interested in the AFP-XS, AFP-X, or SCF3D, we are committed to offering cost-effective solutions tailored to your needs. Take the plunge and prepare your production line for the next generation of composite manufacturing. Request Quotation

At Addcomposites, we are dedicated to revolutionizing composite manufacturing. Our AFP systems and comprehensive support services are waiting for you to harness. So, don't wait – get started on your journey to the future of manufacturing today!


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