Automated inspection could revolutionize automated fiber placement

The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has awarded a contract to Flightware Inc to develop a real time, automated inspection system for use with (AFP) equipment that makes large composite parts.

According to the company, the automated system could help the machines operate faster with higher throughput and productivity.

Most large and high-rate composite aircraft structures, both military and civilian, are made using large AFP machines. While these machines lay down or place material into a mold very fast, this operation is stopped every ply (or layer) to allow a team of human inspectors to closely inspect and validate that the machine layup was properly performed. This is repeated dozens to hundreds of times for a single part. In many cases the time to inspect the layup by eye is longer than the machine layup time and as a result the machines are often only productive (i.e. laying down material) less than 30% of the time. 

Flightware’s real time automated ply inspection (RTAPI) program uses commercial sensors and custom software to scan AFP layups and compare them with the programmed layup instructions created from the part model. Deviations in excess of allowed layup tolerances are automatically detected and presented to the operator for repair.

This story is reprinted from material from U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.