In Situ Consolidation of Thermoplastic Prepreg by Generating Harmonic Oscillations on the Consolidation Roller
Automation technologies such as Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) or Automated Tape Laying (ATL) are widely used in the aerospace industry today. However, these processes can still be further improved for higher productivity. Fiber-reinforced plastics allow the production of components with extremely high specific strength and stiffness. Regarding the automated manufacturing processes, the thermoplastic tape placement offers efficiency improvements compared to the nowadays more commonly used thermoset tape placement, especially through the substitution of the expensive and time-consuming autoclave process. The consolidation of thermoplastic Prepregs is achieved with an elastic or rigid roller according to the current state of the art. The Prepregs must be consolidated precisely on the substrate or on top of each other. The most important process parameters for high-quality laminate structure with low porosity are the control of heat source, consolidation force, consolidation roll speed, and tape tension. The efficiency of the AFP process can generally be improved by increasing the speed of the consolidation roller. By increasing the speed of the consolidation roller, porosity is increased and mechanical properties of the laminate are reduced significantly due to the short contact time between consolidation roller and Prepregs. This study investigates a process that can reduce these challenges by increasing the contact time and force duration of the consolidation roller on the Prepregs. The consolidation roller in this study is additionally to be driven by the harmonic oscillations. The new method allows the consolidation roller to oscillate forward and backward during the fiber placement process. This creates another force vector in addition to the compressive force of the consolidation roller and increases the bonding strength between the layers.