Henkel worked with several manufacturing technology partners for the automotive roof project, including injection molding press maker Krauss Maffei and automation supplier Dieffenbacher, to develop a turnkey high pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) production line for high-volume mass production of this prototype.

“Laminating techniques such as hand lay-up are very reliant on operator skill and material out-life,” said Larby. “The typical deposition rate is 1 to 2 kg per hour, and while complex shapes are achievable, they frequently come with a high waste factor. Automatic tape laying , while suitable for large flat panels, increases deposition rates to up to 10 to 20 kg/hour. But it offers limited geometry and waste rates rise up to 30 percent.”

Larby sees advanced fiber placement as offering the best option for these reasons:

  • The deposition rate is around 10 to 20 kg/hour.
  • The opportunity for placing the fiber is maximized by multiaxial movement through robotics.
  • The process is suitable for high-volume production of large complex shapes using machine heads with up to 32 tapes.
  • While the initial investment costs are high, the waste factor is lower than ATL.

The development of automation for high-volume applications is contingent on cost reductions gained through process improvements. The match between design, materials and process is critical, and the materials used in these applications must be designed not only for part performance but for automated processing.