The new automated digital manufacturing system was built at Airborne’s facility in The Netherlands and is capable of producing four thermoplastic composite laminates every 60 seconds, totaling up to 1.5 million parts annually. Potential applications include cases and covers for consumer electronics, aircraft inserts, automotive components and sports goods.
Gino Francato, Global Business Leader, Advanced Composites, Sabic, said :
“Composites offer amazing properties found in no other materials such as extreme strength and ultra-low weight for diverse applications, ranging from wind turbine blades to sporting goods”
“Until now, however, their adoption has been restricted because of time-consuming, inefficient and expensive processes. By focusing on new materials and manufacturing automation to overcome these hurdles, the industry will make tremendous strides; and it is precisely efforts such as our collaboration with Airborne that are helping to make the industrialization of composites a reality.”
Arno van Mourik, Chief Executive Officer of Airborne, said:
“The good thing about this collaboration is that we work closely together with Sabic, so the material development, automation technology development and the product development go hand in hand”“With such a holistic approach we can create real breakthroughs in cost efficiency for mass volume applications.”
Experiencing “Innovations of Scale”
Industrialization of laminate production using the new Digital Composite Manufacturing line will enable customers in diverse industries to mass-produce high performance thermoplastic composite parts, gaining advantages of faster speed, higher efficiency and lower costs.
Digital technologies for speed, mass customization and quality
The digital composites manufacturing line uses cutting-edge digital technologies, including robotics, to enable mass customization of flat laminates while reducing cycle times and cost. The highly sophisticated, fully digital system can run multiple laminate sizes simultaneously. Adaptive process controls allow settings to be modified almost immediately. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will be used to achieve continuous yield improvements over time, maximize quality and repurpose irregular parts to minimize scrap.
To support and enhance these capabilities, Sabic will offer customers a range of services including simulation-based part and laminate design assistance and guidance on hybrid molding processes in order to streamline the switch to composites. The company can customize its composite tapes and laminate products to meet customer requirements. Importantly, Sabic can leverage its wealth of experience in injection molding to help customers mitigate warpage, a common issue, by making modifications to part design, materials selection, and processing.