Automation, the key to introduction of composite materials in automotive and other high volume markets


Van Wees is fully dedicated to manufacture equipment for the production of UD tapes, Crossply laminates and tailored blanks. Composite materials based on carbon and glass fibers reinforced thermoset and thermoplastic resins.

End of last year, Van Wees has done an intensive study for a Fraunhofer institute in Germany with a TPR600 place­ment robot and has made a large number of tailored blanks in thermoplastic composites. Using our experience with the TPR50 robot for narrow tape placement, we built a placement head which can handle large pieces of UD tapes. This head was placed on a ABB robot.

Both the commercially available and the UD tapes we pro­duced in our R&TC had a width of 300 mm. The ultimate width of the tailored blank roll was 600 millimeters wide.

By placing two UD tapes next to each other and unwinding these tapes in the 0 degree direction on the positioning belt of the machine, we can place a larger piece overlap­ping the two tapes and bridging the tapes.

The UD tape for the second (or following) layer is unwound over the length which corresponds with the angle (f.e. 45 degree) and the ultimate width of the tape (in this case 600 mm). This implicates that the length to be unwound is √2×600 = 848,5 millimeters for 45 and 135 degree orient­ed layer and 600 mm for the 90 degree layer.

The second layer UD tape is cut and positioned at a take­over point where it is picked up by the robot. The piece is held in the robot head by vacuum and transported by the robot to the positioning belt. The second layer is welded on the layer below by hot welding.

After placement and welding, the robot moves back to pick up the following piece and the positioning belt moves to the following position.

Production capacity is largely dependent on the UD tape width and is in the range of 60–330 mtr² / hour for a single TPR600.

From the consolidated Crossply tapes we can cut narrow tapes which can be used for winding profiles (tubes). With the second layer being oriented in a near 0 degree direction and overlapping in the successive layers of the tube, the reinforcement in the near 0 degree direction is made. The principle works, as shown in the photos of a tube which has been made by laser welding.
Tube laser welding