Automated Stiffener Forming Machine

The Goal: Lower the cost and increase the reliability of the production of composite stiffeners

The Challenge

As the aircraft industry moves from metal to composites, they need to lower the cost of manufacturing the stiffeners used to increase the rigidity of the airframes. A composite stiffener is formed on a mandrel by applying many layers of carbon fiber fabric that have been impregnated with an epoxy resin. Because each layer is applied by hand, this process is both expensive and time consuming.

To reduce the cost and increase the repeatability of the production of stiffeners, Alliant Techsystems developed the Automated Stiffener Forming Machine (ASFM). The basic components of the machine are a carriage to move the feed system over a mandrel (1), feed rollers to hold different types of fabric (2), a tack roller to initially stick the fabric down (3), forming rollers to shape the fabric the rest of the way (4), and a cutter to end each ply (5).

Because of the successful work we’ve done together in the past, Alliant Techsystems enlisted Moore Good Ideas, Inc. to create the automated control system that is the brain of this ingenious machine.