DLR opens carbon composite manufacturing laboratory

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The German aerospace research centre DLR has opened a laboratory in Augsburg to advance production methods for carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) structures.

The facility is adjacent to the chemical technology department of the national Fraunhofer research institute, with which DLR wants to "closely co-operate" for the newly formed centre for lightweight design manufacturing technology.

The objective is to develop for the first time a fully automated, robot-based production process for CFRP components, says DLR. This is required as growing demand for carbon-composite parts from the aerospace, automotive, and general engineering industries calls for efficient manufacturing processes at highest quality, the research centre adds.

The core of the facility is a 450m² (4,850ft²) and 7m-high "multifunctional robot cell" equipped with five robotic arms, which can be operated either separately or in combination to handle large assemblies. DLR wants use the cell to validate the extent to which production methods can be automated.

But the facility also features other installations, including a robotic production unit for thermoplastic parts, different ovens for temperatures up to 400°C (750°F), water jet-based cutting equipment, and a robotic quality-assurance laboratory.

The installations have been designed to test production methods on an industrial scale for different manufacturing sectors.

The facility should provide a step toward a "seamless innovation chain from basic research to the finished industrial products", says Johann-Dietrich Wörner, DLR's chief executive.