FLEXIBLE AND HYBRID ROBOTIC MANUFACTURING OF COMPOSITE MOULDS FOR LARGE PARTS IN MAIN INDUSTRIAL SECTORS

About the project

The aim of the MOLDAM project is to develop a production system for hybrid manufacturing of moulds of large composite parts in the main industrial sectors. Along 2023 the extrusion-based additive manufacturing system developed in 2022 is being enhanced by adding the capabilities to perform automatically the different post-processes over preforms and deliver final moulds, maximizing the system flexibility. Thus, all the devices, technologies and processes needed to transform preforms into functional moulds are being setup. This includes machining, surface coating, 3D inspection, toolpath planning, joining of mould modules, large extrusions. Optimization of processes, mechanical design, computer vision, CAM, electronics and control and software development are required. By the end of the year, fully functional moulds and a commercially exploitable technology are expected. Grounded on green, digital and circularity basis, the MOLDAM technology will bring economic benefits and a reduced consumption of material and energy contributing to industry reshoring. 

Purpose of the project

The aim of the MOLDAM project is to develop a production system for hybrid manufacturing of moulds of large composite parts in the main industrial sectors. 

Moulds for composites are generally made either by combining machining and welding or by AFP technology. In MOLDAM, preforms of moulds will be manufactured by an extruder integrated onto a robot, using a combination of thermoplastic and composite materials. Extrusion will take place at high deposition rates and high accurate moulds with complex shapes will be fabricated trough combined extrusion and machining. 

The project was launched in 2022 when hardware and software for the extrusion cell was set up. Along 2023 the activity has been focused on the developments associated to the post-processes (e.g. inspection, machining, coating) and the completion of the demonstrators their full assessment. By the end of 2023, the MOLDAM production system will be ready for commercialization. 

Societal impact

In the face of a global increase of demand for moulds the new technology will have an impact on the end-users’ competitiveness thanks to decreased lead times, reduced material and energy consumption, agility against design modifications, design optimization, chances for repair and remanufacturing and low ROI time. A particular advantage will be the feasibility to process high strength materials withstanding up to 180ºC that will bring new clients for moulds fabricated by extrusion. 

Beyond the economic benefits, reduced material consumption thanks to the additive technology and the associated decrease in energy demand by reducing the machining requests will lead to a more sustainable production and the gain of strategic autonomy in Europe. Dissemination material (learning nuggets and other events) will train students and upskill workers in new production technologies grounded on green digital production and circularity basis. All this will also contribute to European manufacturing reshoring. 

Main results & insights

The MOLDAM results in 2023 are 

  • 3D inspection and finish machining heads integrated into the robotic cell for fully automated fabrication of moulds into one single setup 
  • Extrusion and machining specific operations implemented into AdaOne commercial software for automatic programming of toolpaths 
  • Vision software for automated 3D inspection of parts 
  • Machining and inspection variables integrated into the cell digital twin for a fully virtualized environment 
  • Adhesive and mechanical joining solutions to build up moulds from several smaller parts 
  • Track system to enlarge the reach of the robot to near 2m in length for larger moulds 
  • Realistic moulds fabricated, including the MOLDAM demonstrators, one for the aerospace sector (Aernnova) and the other one for wind energy (Suzlon) 

Together with 2022 results this will lead to 3 business lines 

  • Cell for moulds extrusion 
  • Hybrid cells for complete fabrication of the moulds, also large ones 
  • Moulds manufacturing service 

Partners

Participants

LEAD PARTNER

Tecnalia

Core partner

More information

PARTICIPANT

Gurit Manufacturing Solutions

China, TAICANG, Member

PARTICIPANT

Suzlon Energy Blades b.v.

Netherlands, HENGELO, Associate Partner

PARTICIPANT

Internacional De Composites S.A.U

Spain, TOLEDO, LTP