The overall objective of REFORM is to develop technologies for environmentally-friendly and cost-effective assembly of composite components. This covers a large field, ranging from fixtures used for lay-up and curing to assembly fixtures and jigs. These technologies should:
- Reduce the amount of material used
- Increase recycled content
- Facilitate recycling
- Support production of larger monolithic components (fewer interfaces, joint features, details and fasteners)
- Improve the efficiency of manufacturing and assembly operations (reduced scrap generation, use of energy and chemical processes and thereby associated pollutant reduction).
Assembly concepts can be divided into aligning technologies and fixturing and joining methods. Catalogues of the different options for aligning, joining and fixturing have been produced,with a particular focus on the ecological benefits to be gained. Concepts that lead to scalable, flexible and universal solutions which can be rapidly reconfigured for current and future requirements are immediately attractive. They have the potential to cut lead-time and capital cost at the same time as reducing the amount of dedicated hard tooling with its associated storage and floor space requirements. Their relative merits in terms of eco-efficiency are less obvious so rough estimates of the improvement potential have been used to help identify the most beneficial concepts. In its simplest form, the improvement potential for any given technology depends on how much the original manufacturing method contributes to the ecological foot print of the part (%) and the green benefits that can be realistically achieved by the new method (% reduction).
A practical way to improve ecological performance and reduce costs would be
to find a use for the large amount of uncured waste produced during
composite lay-up. Currently this is either thrown away or sent to be
recycled into the least valuable form of composite material. DVST is
developing methods to turn this waste into higher value material which could
be readily used for fixturing and simple parts. This offers a
cost-effective way to re-use the waste and requires significantly less
energy than is currently used in converting this waste to lower-value materials. There
is an added technological advantage when fixtures and production parts are
made from the same materials as distortions associated with different
coefficients of thermal expansion are avoided.
A first demonstration of this technology was shown shown at the Manufuture conference in Vilnius; here, a scaled-down version of an aerodynamic wing has been produced using recycled material and a jigless fixture.