Being more than a machine tool builder, MAG recently developed a new system for Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ manufacturing operation in North Charleston, S.C., that automatically exchanges a fresh cut/clamp/restart (CCR) unit on fiber placement machines whenever necessary, eliminating downtime and allowing the machines to maintain full production rates virtually uninterrupted.
Boeing South Carolina fabricates, assembles, and installs systems for aft (rear) fuselage sections of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and joins and integrates midbody fuselage sections. The 240-acre operation also undertakes final assembly and delivery services for 787s.
Recently Boeing purchased a new MAG Viper 6000 Automated Fiber Placement system for the North Charleston operation, to produce carbon-fiber structures for the fuselage sections.
The CCR changing system will allow Boeing to handle offline servicing of contaminated end effectors used in the AFP process, increasing the production availability of new or existing machines dramatically. MAG estimated the system would yield higher machine utilization and a significant time savings on part production by minimizing interruption of part layup..
“We expect the interchangeable cut/clamp/restart (CCR) system to be an important factor in helping Boeing fulfill its plans for increasing production rates at the South Carolina facility,” explained MAG Composites’ Robert Harper, director-technical sales. “The Viper 6000s have delivered highly reliable layup for fuselage sections … The interchangeable CCR module will maximize the machines’ efficiency and throughput, particularly when fabricating these large parts.”
Working outside the zone
The CCR changing system automatically exchanges one end-effector for another that processes material of the same width, operating from a docking stand outside the work zone. Then, the offline CCR can be cleaned or serviced without interruption to production.
MAG notes it designed the interchangeable CCR module for easy maintenance, and it can be disassembled in minutes without hand tools. “Unlike head docking, this system leaves all the raw material aboard the machine and changes the end-effector only," according to Harper. "This makes the exchange fast and simple."
The interchangeable module includes high-speed cut and add-on-the-fly rates as a standard feature.
MAG’s Viper AFP system is the world’s most widely used platform for automated layup of complex composite aerostructures. "While the industry struggles to introduce technology that can deliver high-quality layup at required production rates, the Viper has been supporting, and continues to support, the largest number of aircraft programs worldwide, including commercial, military and space," Harper stressed.
The Viper is capable of independent control over feed, clamp, cut, and re-start for up to 32 individual tows of composite prepreg slit tape, so the operation can perform automated "on-the-fly" adjustment of the fiber band width, controlled placement of fibers around changing contours, and precise configuration of openings.
The system achieves “wrinkle-free, near-net-shape lay-up of enclosed and deeply contoured structures and concave/convex surfaces for precision production,” according to the developer. Typical products include fuselage sections, panels, cowls, ducts, and nozzle cones for commercial, military and space vehicles. The Viper 6000 handles tow widths of 3.2, 6.4 and 12.7 mm (0.125, 0.25, 0.5 in), producing fiber-band widths up to 406.4 mm (16 in.)
In the same market for composite manufacturing, MAG recently developed the Gemini™Composite Processing System and the Viper 7000 vertical gantry fiber placement system. The Gemini vertical gantry is an accurate and versatile system for aerospace composite parts production that offers head-changing capability to accommodate various fiber or tape laying heads or a combination of both.
The Viper 7000 is another gantry platform with a fixed head designed for speed and high-volume performance. Its design allows unlimited part length and multiple work zones for the largest parts required in wind energy and aerospace manufacturing sectors. In addition to the hardware for these operations, MAG provides Advanced Composites Environment Suite (ACES®), a programming and simulation software for tape laying and fiber placement.