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Advances in In-Situ Inspection of Automated Fiber Placement Systems



The advent of Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) systems have aided the rapid manufacturing of composite aerospace structures. One of the challenges that AFP systems present is the uniformity of the deposited prepreg tape layers, which are prone to laps, gaps, overlaps and twists. The current detection modus operandi involves halting fabrication and performing a time consuming visual inspection of each tape layer. Typical AFP systems use a quartz lamp to heat the base layer to make the surface tacky as it deposits another tape layer. The idea was proposed to use the preheated base layer as a through transmission heat source and inspecting the newly added tape layer using a thermographic camera. As a preliminary study of this concept a laboratory proof of concept device was designed and constructed to simulate the through transmission heat source. Using the proof of concept device, we inspected an AFP-built uncured composite specimen with artificial manufacturing defects. This paper will discuss the results of this preliminary study and the implications involved with deploying a fullscale AFP inspection system.

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