To support the manual deposition process of semi-finished fiber-reinforced materials, known as preforming, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen has developed intuitive software for commercially available augmented reality glasses: The system specifies the correct deposition of the semi-finished materials as a virtual representation on the mold and can thus significantly improve the quality and performance of composite production processes.
For the draping operation of semi-finished fiber materials for component manufacturing and repair, information on the position and orientation of the fiber layers has so far been provided in the form of plybooks: Small and medium-sized companies frequently work with printed paper instructions and are highly dependent on the experience of the person performing the work. Larger companies, for example in the aerospace industry, have already turned to laser projection systems which project the position of the semi-finished product onto the mold. These assist the staff to position the semi-finished materials appropriately. However, such laser-based support systems are comparatively expensive and inflexible in their application.
The Fraunhofer IPT has developed an alternative to these two working aids as part of the Fraunhofer"Smart-Lay-Up!” project: Augmented reality software that uses commercially available smart glasses to make the exact alignment and positioning of the semi-finished materials directly visible on the component. The cutting of the semi-finished materials is also supported by projection of target contours. Step-by-step instructions guide the worker through the preforming process and, if required, document the work for quality assurance purposes. This cost-effective system is much more flexible in terms of handling than conventional procedures using paper or laser-based projection systems and is also fully scalable in the production environment, making it suitable for the serial production of FRP products. The software can be easily installed as an app on data glasses and can be adapted for the lay-up task in hand.
The Aachen researchers predict that the new technology will improve the accuracy and traceability of the processing of components made of fiber-reinforced high-performance materials, reduce the error rate and significantly shorten process times. But the acquisition of the smart glasses-based system costs less than a tenth of the costly laser projection systems.
Companies wishing to try out and use the technology can now test the app in a feasibility study with their own production staff and identify individual requirements in collaboration with Fraunhofer IPT employees. Interested companies have the opportunity to witness the capabilities of a demonstrator system within a feasibility study.
For a fixed price of 7,200 € (plus VAT), the researchers present a demonstrator system consisting of a Microsoft HoloLens with the newly developed software on a mobile test stand for hand lay-up on the site of the client. Within the scope of the feasibility study, the products, process and business case of the client are analyzed and a concept for the customized and tailored prototype development and implementation is devised and presented. For further information on the feasibility study, prototype development and implementation, please contact the Fraunhofer IPT.