Manufacturing methods: Partnership uses metrology to increase production of right-first-time composite parts

Metrology assisted production process integrates Nikon Metrology Laser Radar into Magestic Systems Inc.'s PCS manufacturing system to improve composite part production quality and throughput.


Despite their generally high cost, composite materials have gained popularity in high-performance products that need to be lightweight but strong enough to take harsh loading conditions, including turbine blades, storage tanks, aviation components (tails, wings, fuselages, propellers), boat hulls, race car bodies, and even baseball bats.

With traditional methods of serial production of composite parts, a variety of factors often prevent manufacturers from keeping geometric deviation within specification. These include the nature of combined composites' substrate, resin, and reinforcement materials, or even the method by which the parts are molded. Low process repeatability generates lengthy manual rework and failed components that end up on the scrap pile.

MSI Trunest1 nest sample

MSI Trunest2 nest sample

MSI's TruNEST I is the first level of a powerful nest management program for cutting applications that require a rectangular layout.


TruNEST II, designed to provide integration between manufacturing and the front office, nests the actual shape of complex parts, creates tool paths, and optimizes cutting sequences automatically.


MSI Trunest3 nest sample

MSI Trunest4 nest sample

TruNEST III will nest complex parts on material of any shape, so irregular shaped remnants that were once thrown away can be nested.


TruNEST IV combines state of the art scanning technology with advanced true shape nesting algorithms.


Nikon Metrology and Magestic Systems, Inc. (MSI) jointly introduce a fabrication solution for increasing production of right-first-time composite parts. Combining the benefits of Nikon Metrology's Laser Radar technology and MSI's Ply Compensation System (PCS), the methodology lets manufacturers put in place an automated metrology assisted production process that delivers parts of predictable quality, while reducing scrap and maintaining accuracy, scalability, and ease of use.

The benefits of the process are said to be two-fold: First, manufacturers can overcome the difficult engineering specifications set in place for composite parts; second, they can achieve success with minimal waste.

"As a full-scale enterprise solution, Magestic Systems' Ply Compensation System provides a unique alternative to the current machining process for composite part fabrication," says Mike Weber, Magestic Systems' vice president of operations and business development. "PCS takes parts that have been produced slightly outside of engineering tolerances, and builds them up by single or multiple composite compensation ply layers into finished parts that satisfy all structural and engineering requirements-the first time through the production process."

Nikon Metrology's Laser Radar system captures composites' nominal geometry deviation, identifying those surface areas on composite parts that need compensation ply treatment. "Within a range of 60m, the contactless Laser Radar system from Nikon Metrology captures the surface geometry of composite parts of any shape and size, without requiring SMR or other targets", explains Francky Demeester, Nikon Metrology vice president of business development for large-scale metrology. "The Laser Radar is fully automatable and programmable, and measures nominal deviation very accurately, both in plane and surface vector intersection modes (PVI and SVI)." PVI measurements have shown an order of magnitude improvement in measurement accuracy over other single-point measurement systems, in particular on composite materials, he says.

Based on the Laser Radar's geometry data and the resulting nominal deviation of the tool surface, MSI's Ply CompensationTMSystem manages the definition and creation of multi-layer compensation plies. After processing this critical step, MSI's TruNEST builds nests of the necessary compensation plies and automatically cuts them out to be laid up. TruLASER View kits the compensation plies while still on the cutting table, and projects the exact location of where on the deficient part they need to be placed, keeping all grain constraints in mind. Following this, the part is then ready to be re-cured to obtain final geometry.

The finished composite part is then measured again with Laser Radar for geometry deviation. By producing composite parts correctly the first time, immediate savings can be noted in the minimization of waste and the maximization of accuracy, part quality, and process efficiency.

- Edited by Renee M. Robbins, managing editor, MBT


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