Quality Monitoring of Composites Fabrication in an Industry 4.0 Ecosystem
Compared to the automated production cycle times of large, complex components made from other materials, automated composites fabrication rates have begun to close the gap. Automated fiber placement (AFP), vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM), press forming of thermoplastic composites, continuous fiber-reinforced 3D printing and other automation have drastically cut value-added production time. Production is accelerating all the more through Industry 4.0 data infrastructure, which enables design and engineering systems to simulate production and to directly transmit “as-planned” data to the fabrication floor. A missing link in this data ecosystem has been in-process quality monitoring of composites fabrication, still largely conducted by manual inspection or by limited automatic inspection technology. This paper will discuss the technology and mechanisms needed to extend Industry 4.0 data infrastructure to quality monitoring efforts on automated composites fabrication floors. Laser projection and machine vision technologies have advanced to serve as both a data-delivery and a data-collection node in an Industry 4.0 environment. They communicate 3D information meaningfully from CAD/CAM files to the physical 3D space of manufacturing work cell and tool surfaces; generate "as-built" data and images; and feed analyzed data back to the work cell to guide corrective actions and upstream to design and engineering systems for closed-loop process improvement. The full integration of these technologies, including recent enhancements to their functionality, onto a transparent platform for real-time data generation and communication enable composites fabrication to realize the cost savings and quality improvement expectations of Industry 4.0.
Moderate (Working Knowledge of Technical Content)