Automated fiber placement (AFP) is a repeatable, cost-effective composite structure fabrication method that is widely used by both military and commercial aerospace programs.
AFP machines use strips of composite material impregnated with a resin commonly referred to as tows, which are deposited onto a tool to form plies, creating a composite structure. While AFP machines are designed and programmed for proper placement and fabrication accuracy, potential problems inherent to composite production do occur and necessitate interruptions in production for arduous manual inspection of fibers.
NCDMM was awarded the effort through a DMS&T program with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to develop an automated inspection system for AFP capable of attaining accurate rates of defect detection and improving high-speed AFP operations.
After extending invitations to a select group of existing Alliance Partners to participate in a competitive process, the NCDMM chose Ingersoll Machine Tools for the development of an on-tool inspection system and ATK for the beta site implementation testing of the system during AFP production.
The Automated Composite Structure Inspection System (ACSIS), developed by Ingersoll Machine Tools and proven in ATK’s production environment of F-35 Joint Striker nacelles, achieved an impressive defect detection rate of up to 99.7% in real-time of aircraft components produced by AFP.