Loop Technology exhibited at The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) recently, alongside Fanuc who invited the company to exhibit as part of its stand.
Loop Technology unveiled the new iteration of FibreFORM, its award-winning composite ply pick and place tool used to automate the layup of large-scale preforms. The new design includes a significant reduction in energy consumption to improve its accessibility.
The arctic-camouflage-wrapped module of FibreFORM was mounted on a Fanuc R-2000iC/210F robot. The pair drew the attention of aerospace manufacturers and suppliers from across the world. Visitors learned how FibreFORM could pick up a large ply and place it into a 3D mould tool to build a preform stack. They watched a demonstration of its dexterity as it transformed into concave and convex shapes, and its flexibility when coupled with 6-axis motion.
FibreFORM targets ply deposition rates of 200kg material per hour for processes that require millimetric accuracy and repeatability. The innovation provides the Aerospace industry a step change in high-volume, high-accuracy preforming capability. It received formal recognition last year, winning Composite UK’s 2021 Innovation in Composite Manufacture Award.
“This was our first time exhibiting at The Farnborough International Airshow, and it was great to showcase our latest FibreFORM design in action alongside our friends at FANUC who have been supporting some of our recent projects in the Aerospace industry,” said Adam White, technical sales engineer at Loop Technology.
The module displayed is under development as part of ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development), a UK industry consortium led by GKN Aerospace which aims to accelerate the development of composite material and process technologies for the next generation of energy efficient aircraft and future mobility. The improvements made include a step-change reduction in energy consumption, a lighter construction, and a smaller profile to achieve the same pick area; increasing its efficiency and accelerating its accessibility into other industries.
“FibreFORM can be integrated into a full turnkey system utilising a deployment platform such as a FANUC M-2000iA series robot to deploy a 2m wide and 5m long FibreFORM,” stated White. “The model we showcased at the Airshow was 1.5m wide, but was only a single unit. With the right deployment system, it’s possible to extend it into a machine that can pick pieces of ply that are 20m long for aircraft wings for example, and even longer is possible.”
Added Oliver Selby, robotics business development manager at Fanuc UK: "As with other industries we serve, having a good selection of partners to work alongside who can provide full solutions to meet customers’ requirements is paramount to our strategy. The niche solutions in composite manufacturing that Loop Technology provide is one area that FANUC is committed to exploring further. The technology and adaptiveness in application that Loop exhibit as a solutions partner is fantastic, and partners well with the FANUC technology offering.”