Unsurpassed Innovation Award
Description: The CAMX Award winners will be announced during Tuesday's General Session and will present in the theater at 12 pm. All entries will be on display throughout the week in the CAMX Awards Pavilion in the exhibit hall. Thermoplastic composites are an emerging, environmentally friendly alternative to carbon-fiber materials. However, many manufacturers find it challenging to process thermoplastic composites because of their fraying properties leading to weak and irregular edges. To solve this problem, Zünd developed a Heat-Sealing Module - HSM for Zünd digital cutting systems. When mounted on a Zund digital cutter, the module uses hot air to heat-seal the perimeter of a part prior to cutting. Driven by fully digitally controlled process, Zund software commands the module over composite material, sealing fibers around part edges. In a next step, high performance PRT (Power Rotary Tool) cuts material in full, without leaving uncut or loose fibers behind. This enables fully unattended cutting automation. Once the seal & cut operations have completed, processed parts benefit from complete stability and ease of handling. This new tool facilitates and drastically improves clean cutting and handling of dry fiber materials with thermoplastic content, thus overcoming major, industrywide challenges and enabling more widespread use of these materials. With this new tool, Zünd has succeeded in solving a technical challenge with an innovative idea and converting the idea into a mature technical solution that fulfills strict requirements in terms of quality, safety, and compliance. There is a patent pending on this solution to allow Zünd to address the market with this unique solution. There are currently no competitive products available for reliably processing thermoplastic composites.
Collaboration and Partnerships:
Concept and Design: The innovation phase began with intensive materials analysis to understand how to achieve a clean cut with this type of material. There is no tool currently available in the marketplace that cuts and cures in a simultaneous production process. Laser cutting combines cut & seal in a single pass; however, because of the pulsed nature of the laser, all strands of fibers are not cut reliably, even at very low speeds. There were no published documents regarding how the material would cure under heat/in time, so we had to research and understand the energy required to alter/cure the material in a limited, controlled area. A clean cut could be achieved only by altering the physical properties of the presented area to be cut. By first curing the cut path, we could eliminate loose fibers and ensure a clean cut with no frayed edges. To understand the best curing method, we needed to test various heat sources, analyze the reaction of the material, and then evaluate, test, and set temperature versus time parameters. We then had to find a method to integrate a heat source into our current modules. H&S requirements, even for a prototype that would be used solely for proof of concept, had to be researched, understood, and implemented into the prototype unit. We then had to performance-test in order to establish what can be achieved with various parameter changes. We had to create a hardware design that integrated both pneumatic and electronic components in the small available space within the standard Zünd-module footprint to ensure availability for all our customers. Throughout the research and development phase, we made sure our solution would result in a commercially viable product available to all customers in conjunction with a Zünd digital cutting system.