The hot drape forming machine from AIC Group.
The hot drape forming machine from AIC Group.

The machine will be used to preform the carbon fibre used to make the wing spars for the manufacturer’s new aircraft.

AIC commissioned a new factory to manufacture machines with a footprint of 10,000 ft2. As the machine was assembled, it was laid out as it will be in Shanghai.

AIC plans to complete most of the commissioning and training for six operators before shipment. The same operators will assist with the assembly and integration within the aerospace manufacturer’s facility.

The process

The forming process takes a flat laminate of tape laid carbon fibre of up to 20 mm thick already pre-impregnated with resin and under a process combining both heat and accurately controlled vacuum, will gently bend the laminate over a heated tool to take the preformed shape ready for the next stage of curing in an autoclave.

The machine can process components of up to 18 m long by 1.5 m wide at temperatures of around 100°C.

This technology has been around for some time but today, components are invariably more complex and require a much greater level of control and machine capability.

The machine is due to be shipped in November and be commissioned for use by March 2014.

Because of its overall size, AIC has significantly re-designed the equipment so that it can be split into smaller parts to facilitate shipping.

The machine and all the related components will require at least 10 large trucks.