About the Alfond Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory for Structural Thermoplastics

The Alfond Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory for Structural Thermoplastics will utilize digital, additive, and robotics manufacturing to reduce cycle time and cost of traditional manufacturing. Thermoplastics could transform composite materials use in cars, ships, boats and aerospace applications. This lab will officially open mid-2017.

Equipment (More information below)

  • Tape Layup Cell
    • Dieffenbacher – FiberForge Relay 2000 Automated Tape Layup Machine
  • Thermoforming Cell
    • Utah – Hydraulic Press with 650-Tonnes Capacity
    • Techni-Modul – Infrared Oven
  • Post-Processing Cell
    • ABB – IRB 4400 Industrial Robot
  • Transportation System
    • ABB – IRB 6650S Industrial Robot
  • Prototyping and Mold Development
    • Stratasys – Fortus 900mc 3D Production System
    • OmegaSonics – Ultrasonic Washer SST4030

Additional Design Capabilities

  • PAM-FORM ESI: Used to simulate the preforming process of dry textiles or the thermoforming process of fiber reinforced composite materials made of thermoset or thermoplastic resins
  • Computer aided design in SolidWorks or AutoCAD
  • Finite element analysis in ANSYS or ABAQUS
  • Nonlinear material modeling including impact and fatigue
  • Multiphysics simulation in LS-DYNA
  • Aeroelastic wind turbine analysis in FAST
  • Hydrostatic design and damage stability analysis in GHS
  • Hydrodynamic analysis in Multisurf, WAMIT and Aqwa
  • Coupled analyses focused on floating offshore wind

Additional Manufacturing Technology

  •  Prepreg, tape and fiber lay-up
  •  Vacuum assisted resin transfer molding
  •  Extrusion and filament winding
  •  Injection and compression molding
  •  Property enhancement using nanomaterials
  •  Hybrid concrete / composite structures

Advanced Manufacturing Team

Consortium for Manufacturing Innovation in Structural Thermoplastics (CMIST)

CMIST logoAdvancing Structural Thermoplastic Composites Manufacturing in the U.S.

In May 2015, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center $497,965 for mapping technical manufacturing challenges in structural thermoplastic materials. Through this award, UMaine Composites Center has formed Consortium for Manufacturing Innovation in Structural Thermoplastics (CMIST) with partners U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Celanese Corporation, Eastman Chemical Company, Polystrand, and Royal TenCate.

For more information on CMIST, click here or contact: David Erb.

Tape Layup Cell

FiberForgeAutomatedTapePlacementDieffenbacher – FiberForge Relay 2000 Automated Tape Layup Machine

• Develops custom tailored blanks of fiber-reinforced resin-impregnated thermoplastic tapes over a +/- 180 degree rotating and translating vacuum suction motion table which can range in width from 50-150mm (2-6”).
• Holds up to two creels of material allowing for alternating fiber content, length, or type between layers or for emplacement of reinforcement plies.
• Utilizes 18 ultrasonic welding heads to bond tapes to the tape layers beneath it.
• TailorGen software takes a simple .dxf file and allows for custom build multilayered, multidirectional fiber reinforced tailored blanks which are exported as a simple numerical code file to the Relay 2000. These files can be easily read and edited for process optimization.

Thermoforming Cell

Utah Hydraulic Thermoforming PressUtah – Hydraulic Press with 650-Tonnes Capacity

  • 650-Tonnes capacity Utah hydraulic press which can accommodate a wide range of mold designs with its 1800mm x 1200mm (71inch x 47inch) T-slotted upper/lower heating plates and an opening distance of up to 1100mm (43inch).
  • Integrated heated plates allow for heating of custom designed molds.
  • Consolidation mold which can consolidate a plate up to 1000mm x 1600mm (39inch x 63inch) with built in forced convection cooling channels for rapid mold/blank cooling to achieve required crystallinity.

Techni-Modul – Infrared Oven

Techni-Modul Infrared OvenThis custom designed Infrared oven can range in temperature from 50-450°C (122-842°F) and can fit blanks as large as 1800mm x 1200mm (71inch x 47inch) on its automated wire mesh drawer. It can rapidly heat blanks which can then be quickly moved from the oven to the mold located in the hydraulic thermoforming press.

Post-Processing Cell

This cell includes an ABB Robot, a workstation, and hand tools for students and staff to work on developing assemblies and fixtures, and for testing post-processing methods.

ABB – IRB 4400 Industrial RobotABB – IRB 4400 Industrial Robot

  • 45kg capacity industrial robot for completing post-processing operations such as grinding, ultrasonic welding, drilling, and possible 3D Printing.
  • This will be a training tool for ABB Robotics in manufacturing.

Transportation System

ABB IRB 6650S Industrial RobotABB – IRB 6650S Industrial Robot


  • This 125kg capacity industrial robot is installed on a trolley which travels on rails to allow it to traverse from cell to cell. The robot is equipped with a quick tool changer, allowing an automatic and fast connection with several tools.
  • Blank manipulation tool head is designed for picking up and moving both raw and processed material. It is easily customizable and has 15 suction cups which can provide up to 7bar (102psi) of suction.
  • This System has the job of transferring:
    • Tailored blanks from Tape Layup Cell to Thermoforming Cell.
    • Tailored blanks in and out of the consolidation mold and to the storage table.
    • Consolidated plates from storage table to the IR oven drawer.
    • Heated material from the IR oven drawer to the thermoforming mold.
    • The molded part from the mold to the storage table 2.
    • Thermoformed parts to the Post-Processing Cell.

Prototyping and Mold Development

StratysysFortus900Stratasys Fortus 900mc 3D Production System

  • This Stratasys Fortus 900mc 3D Production System is a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer which extrudes a thermoplastic filament through a tip heated to melting temperature of plastic. Layers are printed as thin as .0010” thick.
  • Features a fully enclosed thermally regulated print oven which prevents large deformations from significant temperature changes and increases overall part accuracy and repeatability.
  • The maximum print envelope allows for parts as large as 36” x 36” x 24”
  • Prints with 13 different structural thermoplastics.
    • ABS-ESD7 for static dissipation (to prevent static shock short circuiting)
    • ABSi for translucence (amber, red and natural color)
    • ABS-M30 in six colors for great tensile, impact and flexural strength
    • ABS-M30i for biocompatibility
    • ASA in 10 colors for great mechanical strength, UV stability and the best aesthetics
    • FDM Nylon 12 for maximum toughness
    • PC for superior mechanical properties and heat resistance
    • PC-ABS for the highest impact strength, plus the mechanical properties and heat resistance of PC and the surface appeal of ABS
    • PC-ISO for biocompatibility and superior strength
    • PPSF for highest heat and chemical resistance
    • ULTEM 1010 for the highest heat resistance, chemical resistance and tensile strength of any FDM thermoplastic.
    • ULTEM 9085 for best mix of mechanical, chemical and thermal properties
  • It’s suitable for building fixtures, factory tooling and end-use parts, as well as the most demanding functional prototypes.

OmegaSonics - Ultrasonic Washer SST4030OmegaSonics – Ultrasonic Washer SST4030

  • 207-gallon capacity reservoir filled with Stratasys Waterworks Soluble Concentrate. Soluble Support material such as SR20, SR30, SR100, and SR120 support material will literally melt away in this solution and with the ability to ultrasonically vibrate the solution, you are able to get into really tight contours to dissolve hard to reach support material and in a fraction of the time.