The limiting factors for Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) machines are their exorbitant cost, lack of desired accuracy and speed etc. This is understandable as the automated fabrication of composite parts is a very challenging task. But the new robotic innovation has the potential to do away these shortcomings.
Recently, Spirit AeroSystems has added a first-of-its-kind robotic automated fiber placement (AFP) system (by Electroimpact) to its fleet of AFP machines which will now stand at an impressive count of 17; solidifying its position as the leading user of the technology. The new system consists of a robot mounted on a rail and has changeable attachments or AFP heads. These heads have the ability to place the composite material at twice the speed and thrice the reliability vis-a-vis traditional AFP heads. The robot is also equipped with an ultrasonic knife for trimming composite parts. The new machine will be used entirely for R&D purposes and shall explore the limits of types of parts that can be fabricated via automation keeping complexity and price in perspective. The Robotic AFP offers additional flexibility, lower cost and more diversity in dealing with complexity and enables fabrication of smaller composite parts.
Addition of this machine will further strengthen the leadership position of Spirit AeroSystems in the global aerospace AFP/ATL composites market, which is expected to grow at over 8% CAGR during the next five years to reach a market size of US$ 4 bn in 2024, as per Stratview Research. According to Stratview Research, the present AFP machines are afflicted with the lacuna of their inability to produce smaller parts, since the conventional AFP machine is designed to produce larger parts only, thus limiting their application. The new system gives a much-needed breakthrough in automated composite fabrication. One can be sanguine that this development is a stepping stone which will open the door for many future possibilities and expedite the expansion of a market which is already growing rapidly.
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News Source: Spirit AeroSystems
Market Estimates: Aerospace AFP/ATL Composites Market