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Fully Digitalised Carbon Defect Inspection System to Boost Manufacturing

Digitalised Carbon Defect Inspection System
Photo Credit: Swinburne University of Technology

Swinburne University of Technology’s Factory of the Future, in Australia, is boosted by the installation of a world-first, fully digitalised inspection system that will detect defects in carbon fibre composite production.

The system will be reportedly integrated into the University’s Industry 4.0 Testlab for 3D printing of carbon fibre composites in 2020.

It has the capacity to reduce costs and manufacturing time.

What are Carbon Fibres?

Carbon fibres are tiny threads of carbon that, when bound together with a polymer, are used to create strong, lightweight materials in aircraft, satellite, civil engineering, and automotive components.

The fibres are rigid and chemically resistant with a high strength and heat tolerance, which makes them ideal for the development of high-performance parts.

About the System

  • DrapeWatch, the collaborative robotic system, has been installed as part of a partnership between the University; the University of Stuttgart; their industry on-campus research facility, ARENA2036; and a German composite technology and engineering company.
  • It is composed of a vision-sensing system and a probe to study the defects and send back data.
  • In order to demonstrate how DrapeWatch can identify gaps, misalignments and other irregularities, the researchers are using a representative ‘double-dome’ geometry.
  • This complex shape, made of two conjoined domes, is commonly used in engineering for moulding tests because the curvature can produce defects to test the system’s precision.
  • The robot is used to control a vision-sensing system, which allows the outermost layer to be inspected, as well as an additional probe to study internal defects and send back data.
  • The German company’s clever innovation is in the artificial intelligence algorithms that analyse this data.
  • Carbon fibre composite manufacturing can be a slow and expensive process. The early detection of defects using DrapeWatch will reduce unnecessary costs and waste.
  • The collaborative robot is designed to work in partnership with human beings, eliminating the need for fencing or safety features as it stops when it senses close human movement.

Contributing to Industry 4.0

The Factory of the Future, which is a hub to connect manufacturing businesses to staff, students and the community, is connected with the University’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute.

The facility enables Australian manufacturers to have access to cutting edge technology that contributes to the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), which is the rapid advancement of digital technologies to enhance products and machines in the physical world.

The Institute’s Director explained that the manufacturing process inspection is a pillar of Industry 4.0 because it gives the ability to measure, monitor and inspect the process, collect that data and then use it to enhance process improvement and flexible manufacturing processes.

The technology is strategically aligned with Swinburne’s university-wide Industry 4.0 strategy.

Who are Involved?

The German company’s Founder and Managing Partner shared that the project creates ongoing benefits for industry research.

Swinburne has a research partnership with the University of Stuttgart, which enables the institutions to combine their expertise in advanced manufacturing.

This shared commitment to technological innovation and productivity has been ongoing since 2017 and has since contributed extensively to Swinburne’s promotion of Industry 4.0.

The University of Stuttgart is one of the leading technically-focused universities in Germany and has a strong international reputation for research and innovation.

ARENA2036 is the industry on-campus model for research at the University of Stuttgart.

Swinburne joined ARENA2036 as a full partner in November 2018, to collaborate in high-tech manufacturing research and development.

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