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Better Lead Times and Better Composite Parts: The Fibersim Laser Projection Data Export Functionality Benefits

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Community Manager

Getting useful downstream data for real-world manufacturing applications is critical to any successful CAD-based design process. Composites engineering is a particularly complex discipline that requires the coordination of stress/analysis engineers, design engineers, and manufacturing engineers to get the job done. Ultimately, delivering accurate flat patterns, automated fiber placement data, laser projection programs, and simulated fiber path data to the engineers is crucial to successfully manufacturing composite parts.Taking it a step further, not only does efficiently obtaining this myriad data allow such parts to be made, but it enables them to be made in a timely manner—which is so important to making businesses competitive as they strive to meet today’s aggressive development schedules.

Fibersim Laser Projection Data Export

This post explores the benefits of Fibersim’s laser projection data export functionality. A complete definition of a composite part’s structure, including a comprehensive catalog of the manufacturing/layup sequence-based components (plies and cores), is stored conveniently in the CAD model, eliminating the need for any additional files. This layup definition can be modified and updated efficiently by the user, and this data can be leveraged by various downstream applications, including industry-leading laser projection systems from Siemens partners such as Assembly Guidance, General Scanning, LAP Laser, LPT, SL Laser and Virtek.

Avoiding Costly Layup Mistakes

Hand-layup of parts is a time-consuming process, but users can rest assured that the laser projection data exported from Fibersim will be accurate to the CAD model’s laminate definition, avoiding any potentially costly layup mistakes. Such accuracy eliminates the “teaching” step often used to record the laser points used for projection; and again, because the export is managed directly from Fibersim, the result is a file immediately ready to feed into the laser projection software. With data management efforts and requirements thus reduced, more resources can be focused on producing parts, rather than dealing with the logistics of electronic data.


Selecting Components for Export

In the example above, we start with a CAD model containing a complete definition of the laminate in Fibersim. The laminate contains plies (both above and below core), core panels themselves, pad-up regions and other reinforcements, and cutouts. Fibersim’s laser projection data export functionality allows users to select which components they would like to export. The form offers a wide variety of options, such as shrinkage, whether to export point normals, ply name information, ply origins, ply directions, and reference markers.


Converting Components Into Points

During export, Fibersim converts each component’s boundary curve into several points. The x-y-z coordinates of these points are exported to the desired laser projection system in the proper format required for immediate reading. For checking purposes, the same laser data file exported by Fibersim can be read back into Fibersim to compare visually with the component boundaries.


Customization of Fibersim Options for Manufacturing

Certain options are critical for manufacturing processes and can be customized as necessary in Fibersim. For example, when attempting to layup a highly-contoured part, often multiple laser heads are required in order to project boundaries on different portions of the tool simultaneously. Not only does Fibersim offer the ability to export reference/calibration point data for proper alignment of the tool with respect to the laser heads, but it also allows users to specify user-defined reference coordinate systems (CAD features) when exporting data. By applying different coordinate systems matching the real-world position of different laser heads, the x-y-z point data of the tessellated component boundaries are effectively transformed to the different heads.

Further, Fibersim’s laser projection data export functionality offers the option to take material build-up into consideration. Projected laser lines for each component in a laminate will necessarily be cast on the top of the previous component after it has been laid up. In order to prevent flicker or blurring of these lines, the focal points need to conform to the topology changes due to previous components’ material build-up on the tool.

Ply Boundaries 

Going back to our example model, the image below shows typical ply boundaries. When selecting the ply in the Fibersim user interface, the selected boundary curves on the CAD tool surface highlight in an orientation-specific color.


When exporting the laser projection data for this ply, Fibersim determines the number of components below each converted boundary point between it and the tool surface. The number of like-material components is multiplied by that material’s uncured thickness. These figures are added up for each unique material, and then the boundary point is offset normal to the surface by that calculated sum.


When reading the laser data file back into Fibersim, the offset becomes visually apparent. The effect during layup is much sharper, more accurately projected lines, ultimately leading to less errors in the 3D positioning of each ply or core component.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for any CAD application is developing good downstream data that can be obtained quickly. Fibersim’s laser projection data export functionality is a perfect example of this: accurate files are generated directly from Fibersim, leading to reduced time for manufacturing preparation. Better layups lead to better-produced composite parts. Fibersim’s laser projection data export functionality is a key piece of this story.