In Mold Process Analytics - The Next Step for Intelligent and Robust Composite Manufacturing
Business Unit Manager – Process Analytics, NETZSCH-Gerätebau GmbH, Selb, Germany
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Current curing processes in composite production are set to predefined cycle times and cannot be adapted without considerable effort. Material, temperature and humidity fluctuations cannot be compensated and there is a risk of waste production. A newly developed sensor provides the possibility to characterize the material behaviour in the invisible and critical curing process in the tool, to communicate with the superordinated machine control and thus to implement dynamic manufacturing processes. This brings robust processes, cost savings and higher productivity.
Composites have already proven their potential as the main material in the mobility of the future. Nevertheless, their use in high-volume applications fails due to the high cost of the raw material and the leak in the robustness of the manufacturing processes. In particular, the uncertainty of the invisible but critical curing processes in tools is in the foreground. A new sensor system for material characterization in the mold and thus process control will change the composite production of the future and thus make a major contribution on the way to large-scale production. This makes processes dynamic and robust, saves process time and increases productivity.
The new sensor is the first of its kind that is able to deal with carbon fibres without the necessity to shield the sensor against the fibres, as it has to be done with commonly used dielectric systems or related measuring techniques. The proof of concept has already been done by the German funded and AVK awarded project “OPTO-Light” with the partners BMW, KraussMaffei, the AZL Aachen and others. Through communication with the process control system, the new sensor technology controlled the process in such a way that an optimal adhesion of dissimilar materials in a cascaded process could be achieved.
Alexander Chaloupka studied physics at the University of Augsburg, Germany. From 2013 to 2016, he was employed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in the “Functional Lightweight Design” group, focussing on the entire composite materials manufacturing workflow. During his tenure, Alexander was responsible for thermophysical, chemical, rheological and online cure monitoring of composites materials and also started his PhD on dielectric analysis. In 2016 Alexander joined NETZSCH Analyzing and Testing, Selb, Germany and has since been working in the R&D department for Dielectric Analysis and also as Business Field Manager for Process Analytics. In May 2018, the content of Alexander’s PhD research and work with his team at NETZSCH was considered to be of “extreme importance” for the future of composites materials manufacturing. This new development was later highlighted in Advanced Science News.