The excellence of Tape-Laying

Since Saab invested in its Automated Tape Layer Machine (ATLM) for composite production, we have seen many positive effects. Lower costs and improved quality are two of them.

Composites have been the name-of-the-game in recent years. New programmes have an increasing composite content and what was previously more of a western world technology, is now a global activity. This means increased competition and you need to work on cutting costs to stay ahead. For Saab, this has meant automation of labour-intensive activities.

In 2005, Saab Aerostructures therefore acquired and installed an Automated Tape Layer Machine (ATLM) from M Torres with a working area covering 30x10x0.75 metres. 

“A composite part is often made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). The material is supplied in very thin sheets, normally 0.1 mm thick, and when put together, these sheets form a composite part. With ATL-machine this procedure is automated,” explains Jan Waara production engineer at Saab.

  

Image: The ATL-process has the possibility to put out up to 70m2 per hour.

 90 % of Ailerons are produced by ATL

The first implemented ATL-part at Saab was the aileron composite boxes for the Airbus A320 family, and today approximately 90 % of the ailerons are produced by ATL. Throughout the years, Saab Aerostructures has made more than 3,000 units.

“One of the most amazing experiences is that not a single aileron has been scrapped since the ATL-introduction. The good thing is that we are also seeing this trend with our other programmes where we apply ATL. Scrap is being taken out of the vocabulary,” says Jan Waara, adding “Another positive effect is that the percentage of waste has been halved. Traditionally, waste was about 20-25 % but with ATL and good programming, it’s below 10 %.”

The ATL-process has the possibility to put out up to 70m2 per hour, but that depends on the size and design of the part. This is compared with manual operation where the value is about 5 to 15m2 per hour. Some manual operations are heavy and include the risk of personal injuries. ATL means those operations are eliminated.

“ATLM is one of the important developments of automation technologies within composites. To remain competitive, we need to have world-class expertise in this area. And we have it,” says Jan Waara.