Alfond Advanced Manufacturing Lab for Structural Thermoplastics

Alfond Advanced Manufacturing Lab for Structural Thermoplastics

The mission of this lab is to increase the market prevalence of structural thermoplastics through the demonstration of automated, advanced manufacturing techniques.

The TPL

In 2015, the Center received its largest philanthropic gift to date from the Harold Alfond Foundation to name the $13.8 million Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Labs.

David Erb

David Erb

R&D Program Manager

Rapid Mold Development and Prototyping Fortus 900mc 3D Production System — Stratasys

Continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics allow improved material strength through the use of pre-consolidated, unidirectional (UD) thermoplastic tapes. UD-thermoplastic tapes are cut to size and laid down by the RELAY Station on a 2-axis, rotating vacuum table. The tapes are held initially by the vacuum motion table and tacked in place by the system’s 18 ultrasonic welders. These unconsolidated tailored blanks maintain highly accurate fiber orientation, ideal for consolidation by heat and pressure in the thermoforming cell. These consolidated thermoplastic blanks are later thermoformed to the desired geometry. The speed of the RELAY system and software further contributes to reduced material costs and cycle times.

Additional information about tape layup machine:
The RELAY Station 2000 includes a rapid tape dispensing system, which feeds thermoplastic tapes through a track positioned above a two-axis motion table. This system develops custom-tailored blanks of fiber-reinforced resin-impregnated thermoplastic tapes by placing and stacking them over a rotating and translating vacuum motion table. The first ply is held by vacuum to the table surface, while all subsequent plies are rapidly welded using the 18-ultrasonic welders oriented above the table. This system can support up to two different types of thermoplastic tape that range from widths of 50mm – 150mm (2”- 6”). This system is not limited by the type of polymer you wish to process. Final parts can be up to 60% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminum and the overall process can have up to a 60% reduction in waste during production.

Automated Tape Layup Cell Dieffenbacher-FiberForge RELAY 200 — Dieffenbacher-FiberForge

Continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics allow improved material strength through the use of pre-consolidated, unidirectional (UD) thermoplastic tapes. UD-thermoplastic tapes are cut to size and laid down by the RELAY Station on a 2-axis, rotating vacuum table. The tapes are held initially by the vacuum motion table and tacked in place by the system’s 18 ultrasonic welders. These unconsolidated tailored blanks maintain highly accurate fiber orientation, ideal for consolidation by heat and pressure in the thermoforming cell. These consolidated thermoplastic blanks are later thermoformed to the desired geometry. The speed of the RELAY system and software further contributes to reduced material costs and cycle times.

Additional information about tape layup machine:
The RELAY Station 2000 includes a rapid tape dispensing system, which feeds thermoplastic tapes through a track positioned above a two-axis motion table. This system develops custom-tailored blanks of fiber-reinforced resin-impregnated thermoplastic tapes by placing and stacking them over a rotating and translating vacuum motion table. The first ply is held by vacuum to the table surface, while all subsequent plies are rapidly welded using the 18-ultrasonic welders oriented above the table. This system can support up to two different types of thermoplastic tape that range from widths of 50mm – 150mm (2”- 6”). This system is not limited by the type of polymer you wish to process. Final parts can be up to 60% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminum and the overall process can have up to a 60% reduction in waste during production.

Transportation System IRB 6650S Industrial Robot — ABB

This 125-kg capacity industrial robot is installed on a trolley that travels on rails, permitting it to traverse from cell to cell. The robot is equipped with a quick tool changer, that enables an automated and fast connection to several compatible end-of-arm-tools. The industrial robot is easily customized and can also be fitted with made-in-house tooling to fit the needs of current manufacturing challenges.

Unique solutions for pre-form manipulation are designed in the tool head and allow for smooth handling of both raw and processed materials. The IRB 6650S utilizes a manipulator tool head with 15 suction cups that provide up to 7-bar (102 psi) of suction for seamless part transport.

Thermoforming Cell 650-Tonnes (700-Ton_ Hydraulic Press — Utah

This 700-ton capacity press can accommodate a wide range of mold designs with its 1800mm x 1200mm (71” x 47”) T-slotted platens, integrated with electrical heating elements, and unique opening distance of up to 1100mm (31.5”). The press platens can process materials at up to 450°C. This press also incorporates built-in forced convection cooling channels for rapid mold/blank cooling, to achieve the required part crystallinity. Applications of thermoforming vary and can encompass anything from straightforward shapes to complex, detailed parts. The ability to quickly 3D print a thermoplastic mold and demonstrate the successful manufacture of a subsequent part in the thermoforming cell is supported by industry’s consistent need for accelerated prototyping and development prior to bringing a new product to market.

Infrared Oven – Sopara

This Sopara, custom-designed, infrared (IR) oven incorporates short-wave IR lamps which can produce temperatures up to 450°C (842°F). The oven size is great enough to fit blanks as large as 1800mm x 1200mm (71” x 47”).

Unique solutions for pre-form manipulation are designed in the tool head and allow for smooth handling of both raw and processed materials. The IRB 6650S utilizes a manipulator tool head with 15 suction cups that provide up to 7-bar (102 psi) of suction for seamless part transport.

Post-Processing Cell IRB 4400 Industrial Robot — ABB

The ABB IRB 4400 is a 6-axis robot with a 45-kg lifting capacity. This industrial robot is extremely fast, compact, and versatile with exceptional all-around capabilities which make it suitable for a variety of manufacturing applications, including grinding, ultrasonic welding, drilling, and part manipulation. Rapid maneuverability makes the IRB 4400 perfectly matched for applications where speed and flexibility are important. The robust, rigid construction means long intervals between routine maintenance. Well-balanced steel arms with double bearing joints, a torque-strut on axis 2, and the use of maintenance-free gearboxes and cabling also contribute to the very high levels of reliability. The drive train is optimized to give high torque with the lowest power consumption for economic operation.