American Machinist

Plant automates ply cutting. (General Electric Co. Aircraft Div.)

Plant automates ply cutting Better-quality parts, greater safety, lower cost, and days instead of months for part development are the benefits of switching from manual methods and the use of steel-rule dies to an integrated CNC/DNC CAD/CAM system for cutting thermoset-prepreg plies for composite components at General Electric's aircraft-engine plant in Albuquerque, Payback time for the entire system was 2 1/2 years, according to Michael L. Connolly, manufacturing systems engineer at the plant.

The system comprises two American GFM (Chesapeake, Va) gantry cutting machines (photo), each having a 6- x 32-ft steel table, 40 programmable vacuum sections for material hold-down, automated prepreg dispensing system, paper-label applicator, high-speed ink-jet printer, and an ultrasonic cutting knife, he explained at the recent SME (Dearborn, Mich) Composites in Mfg Conference in Anaheim, Calif. At present, one CNC controls X and Y axes, another the Z and C, the latter maintaining a tangent path with the X and Y. By mid-year, one CNC will control all four axes. Almost all programming is done off-line.

The printer can print on labels or directly on the prepreg or backing paper. …

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