Robotic Approach to Low-Cost Manufacturing of 3D Preforms with Dry Fibres

  • Tahir Sharif

Student thesis: Phd


High-performance fibres such as carbon, glass and kevlar are very promising for aerospace applications because of their high strength, stiffness, impact damage and excellent fatigue life. The high cost of the prepreg materials such as pre-impregnated fibre tape/tow and fabrics, and limitations of existing manufacturing processes are a big challenge for the aerospace industry to meet increasing performance demands. Their benefits can only be achieved by using low cost materials and manufacturing methods. In the past three or four decades, there have been substantial technological developments, which are governed by the new materials and their associated manufacturing techniques. The production of carbon fibre is slow and capital intensive, therefore, carbon manufactures produce higher tow counts (number of filaments) to increase production through-put in order to reduce its cost. In other words, 12k carbon tow is much cheaper than 6k or 3k carbon tow. In many applications finer tows are desirable. In this thesis, a fully automated laser feedback tow splitting line has been developed to split higher tow counts (12k spool) into smaller tow counts (split into 6k spools) in order to produce low cost material. The quality of the split tows has been evaluated by recording the data online during the splitting process. The recorded data was later analysed by statistical tools.A four axis modular gantry robotic system has been developed at the University of Manchester in order to deposit dry fibres in a completely flexible manner. To facilitate robotic preforming, an end-effector and mould have been designed and developed in this research. The tow placement program was written in the CoDeSys software which is then uploaded into the motion controller to perform specific motions. The cross-ply laminates have been manufactured by the proposed robotic system using split 6k (produced by the tow splitting process) and original 12k carbon tows. Mechanical test of both composites (12k and split 6k) are presented.A tufting process has been developed and conducted by the robotic system in order to manufacture 3D preforms. The tufted composite was compared with 3D woven and stitched 2D broadcloth in terms of the tensile and interlaminar shear strength properties. X-ray tomography has been conducted to investigate preform geometrical variations of manufactured composites. In addition, preforming cost models have been developed for robotic fibre placement and 3D weaving.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorVenkata Potluri (Supervisor)


  • Robotic tow placement, Dry fibre, Tow Splitting, Tufting, 3D Weaving, Mechanical testing, Cost Modelling

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