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The engineering aspects of automated prepreg layup: History, present and future D.H.-J.A. Lukaszewicz, C. Ward, K.D. Potter PII: DOI: Reference: To appear in: Received Date: Revised Date: Accepted Date: S1359-8368(11)00545-2 10.1016/j.compositesb.2011.12.003 JCOMB 1624 Composites: Part B 8 July 2011 30 November 2011 10 December 2011

Please cite this article as: Lukaszewicz, D.H.-J.A., Ward, C., Potter, K.D., The engineering aspects of automated prepreg layup: History, present and future, Composites: Part B (2011), doi: 10.1016/j.compositesb.2011.12.003

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The engineering aspects of automated prepreg layup: History, present and future
D.H.-J.A. Lukaszewicz (1), C. Ward (2), K.D. Potter (3,*) (1) Research Assistant, ACCIS, University of Bristol, Queens Building, University Walk, BS8 1TR, UK; Email: Dirk.Lukaszewicz@Bristol.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 15331; Fax: +44 (0) 117 927 2771 (2) Research Assistant, ACCIS, University of Bristol, Queens Building, University Walk, BS8 1TR, UK; Email: C.Ward@Bristol.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 15503; Fax: +44 (0) 117 927 2771 (3) Professor in Composites Manufacture, ACCIS, University of Bristol, Queens Building, University Walk, BS8 1TR, UK; Email: K.Potter@Bristol.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 15277; Fax: +44 (0) 117 927 2771 (*): Corresponding author

Abstract
Highly consistent quality and cost-effective manufacture of advanced composites can be achieved through automation. It may therefore open up new markets and applications for composite products in aerospace, automotive, renewable energy, and consumer goods. Automated Tape Laying (ATL) and Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) are the two main technologies used to automate the layup of prepreg. The

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historical development and past research of both technologies is reviewed; with an emphasis on past issues in application and capability as well as their solution, including both thermoset and thermoplastic material layup. It is shown that past developments have moved away from simply emulating manual layup into the now unique layup procedures for ATL, and into the current AFP technology base. The state of the art for both technologies is discussed and current gaps in the understanding of both processes highlighted. From this, future research needs and developments are derived and discussed.

Keywords: E. Lay-up; E. Automation; A. Laminates; A. Prepreg

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1 Introduction
Future aircraft programs, such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350XWB, contain more than 50% by weight of advanced composite components. Consequently the rate and economy of composite manufacture needs to improve to meet the requirements of these and future build programs. Additional areas where advanced composites are of increasing interest are renewable energy and automotive, where advanced composites need to be cost effective in manufacture when compared to their metallic counter-parts. To achieve this automation is one way forward. Automated Tape Laying (ATL) and Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) are the two main technologies that are employed today to manufacture advanced composite laminates from unidirectional prepregs. ATL is employed to deliver wide prepreg tape onto a surface whilst automatically removing the ply backing. Layup speed, tape temperature, speed and tape tension can be controlled during layup. AFP is similar to ATL but utilises a band of narrow prepreg slices, which are collimated on the head and then delivered together. A review of ATL layup was published by Grimshaw [1], however this source covers only a single industrially relevant equipment supplier. Similarly, Evans [2] published a review of AFP systems only pertaining to a single industrial system. Short introductions to different aspects ATL and AFP are also given by strm [3], Campbell [4] and Gutowski [5]. Recently, Sloan [6] has published an industrially focused overview of ATL and AFP.

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Despite this, the authors are not aware of any other independent review of this important area of composite manufacture; indeed even the above reviews were never peer-reviewed publications. Further, while most components are manufactured from thermoset prepreg, most research in the field was directed at thermoplastic layup. Currently, an increasing amount of research is being conducted to improve existing thermoset layup processes, see Figure 1. It shows the result of a literature search on Google Scholar for the number of archivable publications for AFP and ATL. The results were summed over a five-year period to provide meaningful trends. Filament winding with respect to composite manufacture (excluding process relevant to electrical components) is shown in an insert graph as a reference to illustrate the relative shortcomings in terms of scientific publications, and consequently understanding, for ATL and AFP. With this in mind, this paper will review the historic development of ATL and AFP to highlight the development, and also present the current State-of-the-Art (SOA) for both processes. Lastly, current and future research opportunities are discussed. This work will mostly aim to identify the engineering aspects of thermoset prepreg layup, but thermoplastic prepreg is also discussed, where analogies are appropriate. Special emphasis is placed on the impact of current trends in areas such as structural tailoring and out-of-autoclave curing with respect to automated layup.

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2 Automated Tape Laying (ATL)


2.1 Historical developments of ATL
2.1.1 Early developments
Carbon fibres became commercially available from 1966 [7] onwards, and very early on it was realised that prepreg layup could be automated to improve the productivity and consistency of manual layup. ATL systems were conceived from the end of the 1960s onwards [8] and by the middle of the 1970s research systems were developed and in application use. The earliest known reference to an ATL is a patent assigned to Chitwood and Howeth [9] in 1971, describing a method of laminating composite tape onto a rotatable base-plate using Computer Numeric Control (CNC). In 1974 Goldsworthy et al. [10], see Figure 2, described an automated system delivering 76mm wide tape over a curved surface where the head was able to rotate and withhold material to improve the part complexity that could be manufactured using ATL layup. Huber [11] noted that aerospace manufacturers and research institutions built most ATL systems as early as 1975 in-house, and as a result they were normally part of a component centred production system for a given aircraft program, see Figure 3. Layup speeds were given to be 10-20 m/min, however it was argued that this did not affect overall productivity. More importantly, ATL could reduce layup errors and material wastage, which resulted in improved material utilisation. For example, Grimshaw [1] in 2001 calculated the material wastage generation of an ATL layup as a function of part size to be up to

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30% for small parts and decreasing exponentially to 2-4% for larger parts; with similar results having been reported elsewhere [12]. Productivity of manual forming at the beginning of 1980 was stated as ~1kg/h [13,14] and materials wastage rates were 50100 %, due to both the lack of automated ply cutters and optimised consumables and prepregs. Postier [15] reported a comparison between manual and ATL layup, with ATL capable of achieving a 65% reduction in layup time and an additional reduction in material wastage rates for certain components.

2.1.2 ATL development from the 1980s


To enable ATL to become more widespread the technology was converted into a more generic process. The early 1980s were as such a time of rapid development with multiple competing concepts. To address the issue of higher layup speeds, Eaton [16] and Saveriano [17] introduced a layup system with a lightweight head that dispensed tape over a rotatable surface, similar to the first patent of Chitwood and Howeth [9], at up to 60m/min. At that time most ATL systems were Flat Tape Laminating Machines (FTLM), which could only deliver tape onto a flat tool. Coad, Werner and Dharan [18] by contrast discussed a robotic pick-and-place system to overcome ATLs limitations regarding geometric complexity. To finally address this limitation, Stone [19] introduced a commercial ATL system in 1984 from Cincinnati Milacron (now MagCincinnati) who had acquired a license for a UD-tape layup head from Vought Corp, Dallas, TX. The system was capable of delivering tape over geometries with curvature up to 15 using an ultrasonic

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tracking system, to follow the contour of the mould, making it the first example of a Contour Tape Laminating Machine (CTLM). However, several technical issues still remained, including layup speeds, accurate layup onto complex moulds, and improved reliability and quality. Albus [20] pointed out the limitations that robotic arms had during the middle of the 1980s, which were limited to speeds < 60m/min for layup applications, and that accuracy was key to enabling off-line programming. To alleviate this issue most ATL systems became high-rail gantries resulting in heavy and stiff structures that were associated with very poor machine dynamics [21]. Furthermore, layup systems were still not capable of delivering tape with defined compaction pressure and regular debulking cycles were still necessary. Reliability was likely to be low, for example due to breakage of the ply backing. While layup dexterity had been increased by modifications and additions to the layup head, layup speeds remained fairly low. In 1986, Meier [22] introduced a system that has formed the basis for all modern commercial single-phase ATL systems. Direct layup force control and head normality over curved surfaces was enabled by replacing the previous ultrasonic tracking system with force-controlled Z- and A-axes [23]. However, no mention of tape heating facilities was made and remaining issues were mostly related to layup reliability as a function of out-time of the prepreg and initiation of the first ply, which usually had to adhere to a coated mould or release cloth. Grone, Schnell and Vearil [24] then patented a method to finalise the end of a tape course cut under an oblique angle using a second flexible layup element. This method has since been modified by Torres [25] not only to finalise a tape course, but also to

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start a ply, and in particular to overcome the technical difficulties of first-ply attachment. However, prepreg layup was still limited to fairly simple components and reliabilty was still affected by tack levels and their degradation with out-life due to limited heating. To address the first, Lewis and Romero [26] introduced a layup system combined with significant software capability, to enable layup over a curved surfaces along a natural (the path a tape will take over a surface without friction) or geodesic path. As layup capability had increased to more and more complex geometries at the end of the 1980s, ply alignment increasingly became an issue. The soft rollers employed for layup over complex geometries lead to uneven layup pressure and tape tension on the head. Both of which could result in compressive forces acting on the tape between the layup roller and the tape supply and allowed transverse movement of the ply prior to delivery. To prevent such movement tape was delivered with controlled tension and combined with tightly controlled layup pressure to enable correct alignment of a ply. One such system is shown by Torres [27] which combined means for ply tensioning with layup pressure control. Grimshaw [28] further demonstrated an ATL system having a segmented layup shoe connected to a pressure chamber, enabling accurate layup pressure and improved ply alignment over contoured surfaces. In 1995 this approach was extended to multiple layup elements operating independently from the layup head [29]. The other aim in using layup pressure control was to reduce debulking operations, as it detrimentally affected productivity, but it is unclear whether ATL layup systems at the time were sufficiently capable to achieve this. For example, Olsen and Craig [30] argued that the effective pressure transferred from the head onto the laminate

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was a function of layup speed, and had to be much higher than during vacuum debulking, due to the fact that it is applied over a much shorter time frame. The pressure on the laminate depends on the machine capability, the roller geometry, roller material, and the shape of the mould the material is applied onto. All of the works explored so far were aimed at increasing the manufacturing capability of ATL equipment but the issue of material outlife and changing tack levels remained unresolved. Further, whilst layup systems enabled accurate pressure control during layup it was unclear what the desirable pressure level was, or what it depended on. Disappointingly, actual layup speeds were generally unchanged from the 10-20 m/min previously achieved. A particular issue that remained in this period was the cost of an ATL system, which was given by Goel [31] as ~ US$3.5 M for most basic systems. This meant that ATL had to be highly productive to offset the initial capital expenditure, making its adoption into the commercial aircraft industry a slow process. Krolewski and Gutowski [13,14] and Foley [32] published economic assessments of various manufacturing methods available at the end of the 1980s in terms of productivity and part cost. They showed that automated layup offered no appreciable increase in productivity over manual forming. Considering the additional capital investment for layup systems, the recurring part cost increased for automated layup, however the authors concluded that automation was still desirable due to effects that were not accounted for in their study, including improved reliability, consistency, and reduction of material wastage.

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2.1.3 Development in the 1990s until today


Tape heating was introduced in the 1990s to overcome issues during layup of complex laminates, and also enable tack control for layup of large parts. It is unclear from the literature when heating was first used for thermoset layup, but irradiation heating for thermoplastic layup was in use by 1991 [33]. Benda and Stump [34] discussed the joint development of a component and layup system, where a hot-air heating system was added to an ATL to enable tape attachment onto complex contours. Further changes included the layup roller diameter, which was reduced from 150mm to 50mm to improve dexterity when delivering tape onto contours with > 30 curvature. To enable layup onto such complex geometries some tape tension was required to keep the plies aligned. Lastly, it was mentioned that the effective layup rate was 13m/min, again unchanged from the earliest discussion dating back to 1981. Sarrazin and Springer [35] addressed the question of optimal processing conditions for thermoset tape, in the context of a cure-on-the fly system, to effectively reduce post-curing. Their work proposed a layup system where thermoset tape was heated to 150C and used at speeds ~0.06m/min. It was observed that the thermoset material only reached a limited degree of cure and that post-curing was still a necessity; that layup pressure was independent of the number of plies, and scaled weakly with the roller diameter and ply orientation. Finally the authors concluded that a high layup pressure could result in delamination during layup, as the material is pushed and pulled apart in front of and behind the layup roller compressing the material onto the tool, however their study did not include tack, which could prevent such separation.

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Grove [36] (in 1988) proposed a model for the laser assisted heating of thermoplastic tape to enable direct layup and consolidation of thermoplastic materials, however, the focus of thermoplastic layup shifted quickly to AFP. Since the middle of the 1990s to the present day, further developments to ATL have thus been rather limited and were starting to be dominated by productivity requirements. Torres [37] introduced a system that combined at least two rolls of either 75, 150 or 300mm wide material on one ATL head to potentially improve both productivity and layup dexterity, though this can also be considered an AFP layup system. Forest-Lin [38,39] developed a nesting technology for ATL layup, to improve productivity for large parts with small features. Ply patches are pre-cut in a separate operation, stored on a ply-backing, and wound back onto a roll. Forest-Lins system employ two separate head sides to deliver either the continuous ply course or small pre-cut prepreg patches, often referred to a twin (or dual) -phase layup, with conventional layup being singlephase layup. Today, ATL layup has further diversified by returning to the earliest ATL systems using a part centred layup approach, and machines are currently being developed that can address specific layup issues while also yielding very high productivity rates. ATL can be considered a highly productive process for prepreg layup, which is in widespread use in the aerospace and renewable energy industries in particular. Advantages are high layup rates, high mechanical properties due to the use of prepreg, capability to manufacture large parts, capability to handle high areal weight materials, and simplified offline machine programming. Disadvantages are high initial capital

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expenditure, limited geometric complexity capability, and higher material wastage rates than AFP (see 3.1). Despite the potential complexity limitations of ATL manufacture, it has recently received renewed interest due to the high productivity achievable for flat laminates [40]. After layup, flat laminates can be formed into the desired shape by hot drape forming [41], offering a cost competitive manufacturing route for large composite components and material with high prepreg areal weight, however forming may detrimentally affect the mechanical performance of the structure, e.g. due to fibre wrinkling. ATL systems are used for manufacture of a variety of parts, such as tail planes, wing skins [42,43] and the centre wing box of the A380 [43,44]. The main manufacturers of aerospace ATL equipment are MAGCincinnati (USA), MTorres (Spain), and Forest Lin (France), although the latter was recently acquired by MAGCincinnati. GFM (Germany), Mikrosam (Macedonia), Entec (USA) and ATK (USA) supply ATL systems, but do not have a comparable number of installed systems. Ingersoll (USA) currently only supplies AFP systems, but has delivered ATL systems in the past.

2.2 ATL Process description


ATL (and AFP) can be interpreted as a form of additive manufacturing or inverse machining, since the part is built up by adding material, as opposed to material removal during machining [5]. The ATL head handles the prepreg tape, which is typically 75, 150, or 300mm wide and supplied on a cardboard core [12] similar to the prepreg used

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for manual layup. However, the prepreg can be modified for automated layup by changing the backing paper or degree of impregnation. Most commercially available systems store the prepreg material directly in the layup head, and a schematic according to strm [3] is shown in Figure 4, and a picture of ATL head is shown in Figure 5. Due to the mass of both the head and material, as well as the size of the parts typically manufactured, ATL systems are normally mounted on horizontal gantries, Figure 6 [45], or a vertical column system, Figure 7. For most aerospace structures, courses consist of ramps and valleys as well as ply terminations, resulting in complex surface topologies. ATLs are CNC systems that follow predefined paths accurately and reproducibly, allowing the elimination of layup errors that could occur in manual layup. During the layup of each ply, a tape course is placed next to one other with a gap of 0.5-1mm, which is required to accommodate variations in placement due to layup control and tape tolerances. Material tolerances are normally sufficiently small to minimise the impact of gaps on mechanical performance. At the start of a layup sequence, the ATL system attaches a pre-determined length of tape onto the tool using a soft silicone roller. Once the course has been applied, the system accelerates to the layup speed and delivers the remaining material [23-25,28,29]. During layup the material is attached to the tooling using controlled additional force that is transferred through the end-effector. This can be a flexible silicone roller, but more sophisticated methods have also been developed to control the pressure distribution over complex surfaces, such as segmented laying shoes [24,29]. Most ATL systems achieve a maximum linear layup speed of 0.83-1ms-1 and accelerate at 0.5ms-2 and typically deliver a compaction of F = 445N (for 75mm wide thermoset tape [46]) - 1000N (for

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300mm wide thermoset tape), which would translate to a pressure of ~0.1 MPa. By contrast, for thermoplastic material layup, Colton [47] quoted a necessary pressure of 1.4 MPa for APC-2 at 316C, whilst layup pressures up to < 3.6 MPa have been reported elsewhere [48]. The head controls the input tension on the plies and ply backing between the material supply and the layup point during layup. Tension is imparted to avoid tearing of the backing paper, improving the alignment of the plies, and enabling layup into curved geometries. To control the temperature during layup the material can be heated either in front of the layup head or on the layup system in delivery. At the end of the ply course the head decelerates just prior to finishing and cuts the tape automatically, using rotating or pinching blades. The distance between the blade position and the roller contact point is termed the minimal course length, and it is used as a lower bound on the part sizes that can be manufactured - around 100mm for most systems. After severing the tape, the remaining or minimal course length, is delivered to finish the ply course. This entire process is repeated course by course until the ply is finished, the system is stopped by the program, user intervention, or if an automated fault detection system has identified a layup error.

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3 Automated Fibre Placement (AFP)


3.1 Historical developments of AFP
3.1.1 Early developments
Quite possibly the first published AFP system has already been introduced in Figure 2. The 1974 Goldsworthy [10] patent described an ATL system but also highlighted the challenge of conforming a tape to a curved surface. To address this the layup head had the ability to slit down the wide tape into 3.2mm slices and then deliver those at individual speeds by keeping the additional material on the head, Figure 8. In reality this would have resulted in technical limitations during material layup and it is unclear whether these issues were resolved, but further developments in this process could not be identified.

3.1.2 Development from the 1990


AFP systems were commercially introduced towards the end of the 1980s, and were described as a logical combination of ATL and Filament winding (FW) [49]; by combining the differential payout capability of FW and the compaction and cut-restart capability of ATL. Several of the lessons learnt during the development of ATL, such as roller design and material guiding were incorporated into these AFP systems and as such they were immediately available from commercial suppliers.

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Evans [50] initially overcame the limitations of Goldsworthys approach by keeping slit tape on separate bobbins, which were also individually driven. Bullock, Kowalski, and Young [51] demonstrated another type of AFP machine together with an offline programming system, and argued that offline programming was essential to AFP productivity as it directly affected machine production time. The AFP system controlled layup speed, pressure, temperature, and tape tension. They also showed that a layup speed of 7m/min would result in a productivity of 5kg/h, which was given to be comparable to ATL. Barth [52] showed an AFP system that made use of cooled creel houses to reduce prepreg tack, thus enabling reliable despooling and improved layup reliability. Additionally, the compression-after impact strength of laminates manufactured by AFP and manual forming was evaluated, showing that mechanical properties of both were comparable. Technical issues that remained unresolved in this period were the tension in the tows, reliability, productivity, and layup accuracy. The tows were typically delivered in a very complex path to the head prior to collimating, which could increase tension in the material and affect layup reliability. Layup accuracy is highly important for AFP because the narrow tape will result in gaps between the material, which are a function of the placement accuracy, and may affect mechanical performance. This had not however been studied in any detail, though later studies showed a significant impact on mechanical performance [53,54]. To enhance productivity, Enders [55] for example introduced an AFP system that could deliver up to 24 tows in a sequence. The system was uniquely tightly integrated into the Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) system to address the earlier note [51]

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regarding AFP productivity. In use on a demonstrator component, a layup rate of up to 30m/min was reported - yielding a productivity of 1.9kg/h and this was compared to a manual layup productivity of 0.7kg/h for the same component. Rather differently, Evans [56] improved productivity by focussing on reliability, such as material changes, tape tolerances and intermittent debulking. More reliable layup over complex geometries was achieved by delivering the tows along a curvilinear path; this is often referred to as steering. Quickly, it was realised that the ability to deliver material in curved fibre orientations added additional design freedom and enabled potential improvements in mechanical performance. Due to the smaller individual tape widths that were used for AFP, smaller steering radii could be achieved than for ATL. Some very interesting results for an industrial application were shown by Measom [57], who reported on the development process of a part with a complex layup. The component had initially been manufactured by FW and manual layup but manufacture with AFP reduced material wastage rates from 62% to 6% and productivity improved by 450% for layup of a single 12.7mm wide tape. However, to improve material delivery the areal weight was doubled, resulting in reduced downtime and further improved productivity. This result was supported by Pasanen [58] who reported a 43% cost reduction for AFP over manual layup. A schematic of an AFP layup head for layup of multiple tows was given by Evans [2], see Figure 9. Whilst the benefits of AFP for complex layups had been successfully demonstrated, the process was still not productive enough to quickly offset the initial capital expenditure with systems costing up to US$6 M [31]. The limitations were now affordability, process reliability, and productivity. Furthermore, the development of

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AFP in this period coincided with the advent of thermoplastic composites for aerospace structural applications, and significant research effort was devoted at developing AFP for thermoplastic layup. As Gruber [59] noted, this was driven by the need to manufacture large spacecraft and submarine structures, that exceeded most autoclaves diameters and required in-situ processing and reduced thermal residual stresses. The earliest approaches for developing thermoplastic layup were reported by Grove [36], Mantell and Springer [60,61], and Sarrazin and Springer [35]. These works identified a trade-off between layup pressure, temperature, and speed. Layup quality, mainly measured by interfacial healing and voidage, was detrimentally affected by layup speed; and as discussed by Bourban [62] the main limiting factor for thermoplastic layup was the amount of time required to heat the material above its melting point. Thus, the maximum layup speed was limited, with works reporting speeds of 3.6mmin-1 [63] to 5mmin-1 [64], resulting in considerably lower layup productivity than thermoset materials. This was further explored by Ranganathan [65], Pitchumani [66,67], and Tierney [68] to predict the optimal processing conditions for reduced void growth, as well as maximising speed and interfacial bonding. Most works used hot gas torches for material heating, but a laser heating was also successfully developed by Funck and Neitzel [69], Rosselli [70], and Pistor [71]. Goodman [72], and Burgess [73], similarly reported a method for curing photoactivated thermoset prepregs on the fly using an electron beam or ultra-violet-light(UV) as a radiation source for faster processing and reduction of residual thermal stresses. Overall however, both thermoplastic and thermoset in-situ processing approaches achieved limited layup speeds, whilst also exhibiting reduced mechanical properties.

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3.1.3 Development from the 2000 until today


Grant [8,74,75] described the change in focus for AFP layup from novel processes to addressing issues regarding affordability, process reliability, and productivity, and showed that AFP had mainly been employed in military and space programs until 2000, Table 1. Process reliability was detrimentally affected by splicing (welding of the tape ends) errors at the end of a bobbin, dropped tows, and material changes, which would result in unscheduled downtime and decrease productivity. Torres [76] introduced an automated system for splicing the tows together, and this could improve productivity by reducing down-time for material refilling. Oldani [77] also introduced an automated system to detect layup errors, improving productivity by reducing the time for quality inspection after ply layup. To increase tack levels and further minimise layup errors infrared heating of thermoset tape was introduced by Calawa and Nancarrow [78] to allow faster heating and higher layup temperatures. Furthermore, Hamlyn [79] introduced a system for rapidly exchanging layup heads and tools by keeping a second layup head ready for immediate layup, and this led reduced system downtime. Material delivery was also improved by using systems that either reduced the feed length, or by minimising the amount of redirects and twists in the tow using appropriate guide systems [80]. Despite improvements in raw productivity and reliability, several technical issues remained. Foremost, capital expenditure was still high compared to other manufacturing methods, and offline programming was still un-optimised although layup of curved

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tapes onto a mould and AFP layup control are currently an area of ongoing research [81,82]. The capability to automatically manufacture unsymmetrical laminates that can have locally changing fibre orientations makes AFP a lead technology for future developments in the areas of smart and tailored structures, and their application. The main manufacturers of AFP systems are Automated Dynamics (USA), Accudyne (USA), MAGCincinatti (USA), Coriolis (France), Electroimpact (USA), Foster Miller/ATK (USA), Ingersoll (USA), Mikrosam (Macedonia) and MTorres (Spain). Automated Dynamics, Accudyne, Coriolis and Electroimpact supply their systems on industrial robots and gantries. Cincinnati, Foster Miller, Ingersoll, Mikrosam and MTorres use either column type or horizontal gantries. Robotic layup systems tend to have a lower initial capital expenditure and can be better tailored for specific applications. Gantry layup systems offer improved general productivity and reliability by handling more tows in the head.

3.2 AFP Process description


AFP systems differ from ATL in the width of the material that is laid down with typical material widths of 3.2mm, 6.4mm, and 12.7mm, however AFP will normally deliver several [83] tows in a single sequence, termed bands. A band then forms a course, while a sequence of courses is termed ply. Presently, AFP can deliver up to 32 tows in parallel at linear speeds of up to 1ms-1 [83]. The systems also tend to have higher acceleration in the linear axes with typical values around 2ms-2. Rotational speeds and accelerations are more varied by company and therefore not quoted.

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However, it is important to note that rotational speed and acceleration can have great impact on layup productivity for complex components, and are therefore more relevant to AFP than ATL. The width and number of tows delivered depends strongly on the complexity and local geometry of the part that the course is to be laid over, thus material width and tow count will affect productivity. Each tow is normally driven individually and can be clamped, cut, and restarted, during manufacture [83,84]. This makes it possible to deliver each tow at individual speeds, enabling layup over complex geometries and some tow steering, as Figure 10 shows, and is beneficial for example in structures such as fuselage sections with window cut-outs, or wing skins with numerous pad-ups and valleys. Whilst steering was initially conceived to improve layup over surfaces with double-curvature [10], the individual tow payout may improve productivity and reduced materials wastage rates [13]. An important consideration is the amount of gap between the tows, which is much larger than for ATL and typically scales with the amount steering. This may affect mechanical performance detrimentally and is often countered by transversely offsetting subsequent plies by half a tow-widths. The quality of the on-the-fly cut normally decreases with increasing speed during cutting and secondary operations are therefore still necessary to remove crenulations around a geometric feature. For this reason AFP systems tend to have a lower minimal course length than ATL, typically around 50mm. AFP productivity is typically lower than ATL because it is generally employed for more complex parts. For example, productivity for layup of a complex fuselage

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section is ~8.6kg/h [85], which is about half of current ATL rates. During AFP layup tow tension on the head is negligible or controlled to be very low to enable layup into the convex geometries and features. The composite material for AFP layup can either be impregnated tows or slit prepreg tape. Slit tape is more expensive than impregnated tows but potentially offers advantages with respect to productivity, reliability, and product quality [12]. The slit tape or impregnated tows are normally wound onto cardboard bobbins and supplied with an interleaf film to reduce tack and friction in the material supply. The small diameter of the bobbin can additionally enable accurate tension control during unwinding. Despite the differences in material form and material supply to the layup head, the layup operation during AFP is similar to that of ATL. The prepreg tape or tows are either delivered to the head from a creel cabinet, or stored directly on the head [86]. The first allows the use of simple industrial robots due to the reduced head weight; the latter requires column or gantry type systems, see Figure 11. The material is delivered from the spools to a compaction roller, where additional heat and force are again applied to compact the material in an attempt to eliminate vacuum void removal. AFP systems tend to use flexible rollers to compress the material and reduce voidage, but as previously mentioned for ATL the short contact times may be ineffective to achieve sufficient compaction. To heat the tapes hot torches, Laser, and infrared irradiation techniques are used. Robotic systems improve the affordability of AFP since industrial robots are significantly cheaper than gantry units, and as a result robotic AFP systems are presently cheaper than comparable gantry AFP or ATL systems.

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4 Research Opportunities
4.1 Productivity
Currently, increases in productivity are the overriding goal for both ATL and AFP. Consequently, all potential improvements that are discussed in the following are governed by, or linked to potential productivity increases. Potential improvements are possible through improved software, machine layouts, materials and enhanced layup. The first two are discussed in this section, while the latter two are discussed in following sections. Examples of software improvements can be found in Debout, Chanal and Duc [87], where AFP layup paths were optimised to reduce unnecessary acceleration with reported possible reductions in layup time of 33%. Theoretical productivity drivers have been studied using simple models based on the machine capability. Lukaszewicz, Weaver and Potter [88] and Lukaszewicz [89] have published productivity estimates for a simple flat component for both technologies based on the raw productivity values of the layup systems, see Figure 12 and Figure 13. It is interesting to note that AFP was found to be more productive for all part sizes studied but particularly for small parts. To translate this model into real productivity estimated it needed to be considered that a typical ply course of a primary structural aerospace laminate is 2m long [90]. For typical machine data productivity was thus expected to be around 29.2kg/h for ATL and 41.3kg/h for AFP [89]. This correlated well with laydown-rate estimates for APF from Boeing given to be 45.4kg/h [85], however, actual productivity quoted was given to be

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8.6kg/h, a knockdown of 80%. This shows that theoretical productivity can be well estimated, but the translation into real productivity is still unresolved. More recently, Ward, Lukaszewicz and Potter [91] have studied the AFP layup of a small complex component with symmetric layup on a flat bottom side and contoured topside. By comparing the relative layup time between the two sides the productivity reduction due to part complexity was estimated to be 29% to 51% for this component due to acceleration and deceleration during layup. This large productivity reduction can further be explained by the fact that layup machines only spend a fraction of the time on actual layup. For the speed and acceleration data given in Section 2.2 for ATL, and 3.2 for AFP, the layup time for an 8m long course is 4s and 2.5s respectively including time for acceleration and deceleration. However, time for starting a new ply, including ply cutting, turning and repositioning is ~9s for ATL and ~7s for AFP due to the lack of cutting operations [89]. This shows that that even during layup of simple components the ratio between productive time and secondary operations is unfavourable. In addition, quality inspection and layup errors will result in further productivity reductions. This downtime of layup machines, due to material refilling, error correction or cleaning is significant, up to 50% for AFP [77]. Further increases in layup speed are thus unlikely to yield any further productivity increases [88,89] since current productivity is already largely constrained by part design, secondary operations and down-time. Addressing any of these productivity constraints should easily yield increases in productivity. To enhance the predictive capability of existing software approaches, a better understanding of the part complexity is required. It is likely that

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small geometric features heavily impact layup time. This can only be resolved during the design phase to achieve higher productivity. Lastly, AFP is currently limited to low areal weight prepregs, which restricts its use to aerospace applications. Since prepregs in renewable energy industries and others tend to have higher areal weights, up to 1600gsm and more, future AFP systems need to be able to deliver these materials. To address this novel cutting methods are required, possibly laser cutting.

4.2 Steering and Control


Shirinzadeh and co-workers [81,82,91-93] give an excellent overview of the relevant work relevant to path planning for AFP and ATL. To match the material to a mould a point-cloud is typically generated that the control system will aim to follow. The placement accuracy depends on the density of this cloud with a higher density leading to more accurate layup. However, as discussed by Debout, Chanal and Duc [87] this will also lead to unnecessary acceleration and deceleration as the control system follows the defined layup path. Optimising the layup program or identifying suitable starting points can alleviate this problem. The available degree of steering in AFP and ATL layup is often reported to be the smallest possible radius fibres can be laid into without significant defect development, such as detachment from the tool and ply wrinkling. There are, in principle three main tow steering defects, tow buckling, tow pull-up and tow misalignment, see Figure 14.

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Twisted tows can also occur but are less common. Tow buckling occurs on the inside radius of a tow if compressive forces are too high, similarly tow pull-up occurs on the outside of a tow due to excessive tensile forces. Lastly, tow misalignment is the result of variability in the layup system, layup control or prepreg material. Wiehn and Hale [94] reported the successful layup of AFP tows into radii as small as 50.8cm compared to 610cm for ATL layup of 150 mm wide tape. Moon, Johnson, and Hale [95] reported that the number of defects is a function of the smallest steering radius. Recently, a model for the defect development during layup of a curved tape was reported by Beakou et. al. [96], however their model was not directly validated by the experimental results. A possible explanation could be the effect of viscoelastic material behaviour, which was not included in the model. This, and the importance of material tack are discussed in section 4.4. The interaction between material properties and processing conditions needs to be studied further to gain a more detailed understanding of limitations of steering during layup. A combination of experimental and modelling approaches is required to explain the changes in the tow or tape during steering. Further, current steering approaches aim to incrementally form a radius by forcing the tape to follow the head rotation whilst being attached to the substrate and different steering approaches, such as shearing of the tape [97] need to be explored. Other steering defects include tow gaps, steering overlaps, and gaps, see Figure 15, but the impact of these defects on the mechanical performance of laminates has not been extensively studied. Wang and Gutowksi [21] presented a theoretical approach to reduce laps and gaps during thermoplastic layup by allowing the plies to flow transversely during layup, to simplify layup accuracy requirements for thermoplastic

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layup. There is continued interest in this topic due to the higher number of gaps during AFP layup and the relative difficulty of placing tows with the required tolerances. Blom et. al. [53] explored the mechanical performance of AFP laminates using numerical modelling, and results showed significant strength reductions, up to 32%, and stiffness reductions arising from tow drop areas, see Figure 16 and Figure 17. By contrast, Croft et. al. [54] conducted a number of mechanical tests on AFP laminates containing all the aforementioned defects and found significantly lower (3-15%) strength reductions than previously predicted, see Table 2. This may be explained with defect reduction and fibre rearrangement during autoclave curing and is as such not a demonstration of the robustness of AFP but rather autoclave curing. The impact of AFP layup on mechanical performance as well as its reduction thus warrants further research. In particular, approaches are required that aim to capture the translation of initial layup defects, laps and gaps into the final cured component.

4.3 Processing conditions during layup


The exact conditions during layup may have a significant impact on the mechanical performance of the final laminate. To this end Lukaszewicz, Weaver and Potter [98], and Lukaszewicz et.al. [99], conducted layup trials on industrial equipment to correlate the voidage in an uncured laminate to the processing conditions, such as layup speed, temperature or pressure. In an additional study Lukaszewicz and Potter [100] showed that the variability in the prepreg material was too high to allow simple development of strong analytical models. It has been shown that this was aggravated by

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the additional variability in the layup control [89], which had an additional impact on analytical layup quality models. Mechanical testing on laminates manufactured using a wide range of layup conditions and subsequent oven cure showed a change in mechanical performance of up 50% for the ILSS and compressive strength due to layup conditions alone [101], see Figure 18 and Figure 19. Further work in this area will be required to establish the impact of different layup conditions on the microstructural features of laminates, such as the fibre volume fraction and the void content. To overcome the limitations due to inaccurate layup control, Lukaszewicz and Potter [88] have introduced a small research layup system, that can be used to manufacture small test coupons using automated layup. Experimental results from such a system could then be used to evaluate models that link the deformation of plies during layup to microstructural features, such as voidage.

4.4 Material research


Prepreg materials have historically been developed with mechanical performance in mind and were then simply adapted for automated layup by developing specific ply backing films, or slitting prepreg tape for AFP layup. Despite this, research on the use of thermoplastic tape has illustrated the importance of tape uniformity, porosity and interface properties on the quality of the final product in in-situ layup [102,103] and this can be applied to thermoset layup. An improved understanding of the translation of the initial prepreg microstructure into the final part is thus required. Material variability needs to be reduced to achieve uniform properties at the slit-tape level, which is

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typically only 3.2 or 6.4mm wide. In most cases the dimensional and physical tolerances between manual and automated layup are the same and only the backing and tack specification are changed [24,50,56], which consequently leads to unreliable layup. For example, Figure 20 shows an image of slit tape for AFP layup with fuzzy edges. This would lead to unscheduled downtime for AFP layup and could result in excessive voidage in the dry fuzzy areas. To avoid this, slit tape needs to be prepared in the future with high degrees of impregnation. Figure 21 shows a defect in a roll of ATL tape. This area would need to be removed and laid outside of the part. Removing materials wastage during layup is very time consuming and naturally has an excessively detrimental effect on productivity. The most promising method of improving the uniformity of the final prepreg is an improvement of the uniformity of the resin film that is used during hot-melt processing. Further, computerised optical fault detection is required to ensure that prepregging defects are detected during manufacture. Another aspect of the prepreg layup process is the material tack. Ahn et.al [104] used a compression-tension test on a stack of prepregs to measure the energy of separation, which was linked to tack. They observed that prepreg tack was a bulk property as well as surface-sensitive with viscoelastic behaviour that depended on material as well as operating conditions. Later, this approach was extended to material aging as well. It was observed that prepreg tack correlated with the glass transition temperature and instantaneous temperature which was linked to both the increase in wetting area as well as the change in resin viscosity [105]. More recently, this topic has found new attention due to the impact tack can have on productivity, process reliability and tow steering. Dubois, Le Cam and Bakou [106] used a probe tack test to measure

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various parameters influencing on a modern, high toughness prepreg. They observed an increase in tack force with increasing hold-time, contact force, deformation rate and humidity, while tack decreased with increasing temperature and outlife. However, all the works previously explored use low deformation rates during testing, which differ by one or two orders of magnitude from the deformation rates found during high-speed layup. Crossley, Schubel and Warrior [107] thus introduced a novel tack test which enabled testing at higher deformation rates. Their work demonstrated a non-linear behaviour of prepreg tack as a function of layup temperature and speed of deformation which should help to understand the development of defects during layup further.

4.5 Layup modelling and simulation


This section will not address existing Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software, but rather discuss a more fundamental understanding of the effects of layup on thermoset prepreg. This is important as currently, models for the layup of thermoset prepreg that enable modelling of defects and their development do not exist. Depending on the pressure, temperature, and contact time of the roller, some flow can occur between the plies during layup, which may reduce interply-voidage and improve laminate quality prior to cure [102]. Currently this interaction is not well understood and further improvements in this area should be made. Lukaszewicz and Potter [108] recently proposed a model for the compaction of thermoset prepreg during

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layup, which can be used to describe this interaction and to enable direct layup at high quality, effectively reducing debulking instances [34]. Again, it has been demonstrated, that an understanding of this interaction can improve ILSS and compressive strength by 50% [101]. Other aspects of the layup process that could be captured by modelling are the development of wrinkles and bridging at geometric features, however it is likely that these issues are not only related to the material and the processing conditions, but also to the choice of system. As an example, flexible rollers are commonly used to conform difficult ramps, but by using flexible rollers some chatter during layup inevitably occurs which may then lead to wrinkling or bridging. Potential solutions to this would either use a layup roller with tailored stiffnesses or uncouple the necessary flexibility of the layup system from the layup element. Further, bridging over concave features or crowning over convex features is often observed. Both may lead to wrinkling in the final part, which can severely affect mechanical properties. If machine control is inaccurate both types of defects can be linked to the amount of material that is available on the head. However, even if it is assumed that material delivery is accurately controlled these defects can occur due to the interpolation of geometric features in the CNC program. Approaches are therefore necessary to ensure that the interpolation and axis control result in the correct amount of material being available at any point during layup.

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4.6 Functional integration


Returning to Figure 1, it is important to note that automated layup derives its possible increases in productivity not only from automation of the manual operations, but also from combining several serial tasks into a single or parallel operation. Future layup systems will thus likely target automation and integration of more functions onto the head, as well as higher productivity by controlling more tows, having less downtime, or allowing the layup of high prepreg areal weight materials. Additional functions feasible for integration on the manufacturing process are tooling preparation and online inspection systems [109]. Systems that allow inline quality control by optical means are already in use or in development, for example by Ingersoll. Multiple robot interaction and synchronisation, improved layup kinematics, and optimised CNC post-processing can deliver further gains in productivity for both ATL and AFP. Synchronisation of multiple robots can greatly improve the layup of large parts as several robots can work on different part areas and different stages of a ply sequence. Adding more and more features to a single layup system will inevitably result in reduced per task performance. The most promising approach is therefore the combination of multiple robots into a single work-cell, where the robots either cooperate to achieve tasks quicker, for example through reducing unproductive travel of the individual units, or by equipping each robot for a specific task which can be carried out more efficiently.

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5 Summary
ATL and AFP are finding more wide-spread adoption in a number of industries due to potential reliability and economic improvements. ATL has been developed since the 1970s as an automated version of manual tape laying and offers high productivity and reliability for simple or low complexity components. It is in particular highly productive for large simple flat components, and able to handle high areal weight materials with few modifications. Future developments in renewable energy, for example rotor blade manufacture, will likely rely on ATL layup of low-cost, high-arealweight prepreg. Overall, potential productivity gains for ATL are limited, due to the robust nature and long history of the technique. AFP improves on ATL layup by allowing direct layup of more complex components. In addition, material wastage rates are reduced and productivity for aerospace components may be higher due to the unique cut, clamp, and restart capability per tow. Since the 1980s AFP has become a relatively mature process, which also has greater potential for future improvements. Productivity improvements can be expected from improved programming, reduction of secondary operations, reduction of down-time and multiple robot interaction. Currently, AFP seems more suitable for typical aerospace components and materials and modifications are necessary to enable layup of wider and higher areal weight materials. The automated layup systems we see today were developed by industrial machine companies with either none or limited background in the composite industry. Currently these companies are developing their composite expertise and tend to look for material

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solutions to address constraints in the manufacturing system. Material suppliers have historically worked with composite users employing manual layup and have limited or no expertise in the industrial machine industry and tend to look for machine modifications to address current constraints. The design approaches and software packages used by end-users to design components are often derived from manual layup and/or are insufficiently integrated with the layup machines. This results in unnecessary constraints on the machine and its capability. By addressing the topics and future targets outlined within this paper, the academic community will have an important role in the future of composites and automated composite layup.

Acknowledgements
Studentship funding for D.H.-J.A. Lukaszewicz from Airbus Operations Ltd. is gratefully acknowledged. The authors would like to thank Dr. K. Hazra, Dr. J. Etches (University of Bristol) and M. Buckley (Airbus Operations Ltd.) for helpful discussions.

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[102] Lamontia MA, Gruber MB, Tierney JJ, Gillespie Jr. JW, Jensen BJ, Cano RJ. In situ thermoplastic ATP needs flat tapes and tows with few voids. 30th International SAMPE Europe Conference. Paris, France, 2009. [103] Khan MA, Mitschang P, Schledjewski R. Identification of Some Optimal Parameters to Achieve Higher Laminate Quality through Tape Placement Process. Adv Polym Tech. 2010;29(2):98-111. [104] Ahn KJ, Seferis JC, Pelton T, Wilhelm M. Analysis and characterization of prepreg tack. Polym Comp. 1992;13(3):197-206. [105] Ahn KJ, Peterson L, Seferis JC, Nowacki D, Zachmann HG. Prepreg aging in relation to tack. J Appl Polym Sci. 1992;45(3):399-406. [106] Dubois O, Le Cam JB, Bakou A. Experimental analysis of prepreg tack. Exp Mech. 2009. [107] Crossley RJ, Schubel PJ, Warrior NA. The experimental characterisation and investigation of prepreg tack. Proceedings of ICCM-18. Edinburgh, 2009. [108] Lukaszewicz DH-JA, Potter KD. Through-thickness compression response of uncured prepreg during manufacture by automated layup. Proc IMechE, Part B: J Engineering Manufacture. 2011; DOI: 10.1177/0954405411411817. [109] Bannister M. Challenges for composites into the next millennium - a reinforcement perspective. Compos Part A - Appl S. 2001;32(7):901-10. [110] Lukaszewicz DH-JA, Potter K. Modelling of automated layup processes for improved efficiency and sustainability. In: Sampe Setec. Leiden, Netherlands: 2011.

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Figure 1: Overview of annual publications on ATL and AFP, with Filament winding added in an insert graph as reference.

Figure 2: Drawing of an ATL delivering slit tape over a curved surface [10].

Figure 3: Drawing of an early composite components manufacturing system from [11]. The material is moved from left to right and material is applied to a mould using a bespoke tape layup head.

Figure 4: Schematic of an ATL layup head, according to strm [3].

Figure 5: Picture of an ATL layup head with relevant functional groups labelled. The prepreg material supply is not shown.

Figure 6: Example of a gantry type ATL laying onto a female tool [45].

Figure 7: Column Type ATL laying 300mm wide tape onto a vertical tool.

Figure 8: Integrated slitting unit with individual tow pay-out from [10]. This can be interpreted as the first AFP concept.

Figure 9: Schematic of an AFP head [2].

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Figure 10: AFP layup of steered tows on a flat mould [53].

Figure 11: Ingersoll gantry-type AFP laying into a female mould [77].

Figure 12: Theoretical productivity comparison for ATL and AFP layup of a flat laminate as a function of part size, from [89].

Figure 13: Theoretical productivity comparison for ATL and AFP layup of a flat laminate as a function of maximum layup speed, from [89].

Figure 14: Overview of the most common tow steering defect.

Figure 15: Illustration of Laps and Gaps during AFP layup.

Figure 16: Effect of tow drop angle T0 and to drop area on the stiffness reduction of a panel with steered tows, from [53].

Figure 17: Effect of tow drop angle T0 and to drop area on the strength reduction of a panel with steered tows, from [53].

Figure 18: ILSS for a laminate manufactured at different layup temperatures and subsequently oven-cured [110].

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Figure 19: Void content, measured by light microscopy, for the ILSS samples from Figure 18, from [110].

Figure 20: Example of fuzzy edges at the edge of a roll of slit tape.

Figure 21: Example of a common defect in ATL grade prepreg.

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Table 1: Overview of AFP applications in 2000, from [75]. AFP was mostly used for military applications.

Table 2: Overview of the effect of various layup defects on the tensile, compressive, inplane shear, open-hole tension (OHT) and open-hole compression (OHC) strength of AFP laminates, according to [54].

Aircraft program F-18 E/F C-17 Globemaster Bell Agusta 609 V-22 Osprey Premier I Hawker Horizon F22 Raptor Sea Launch

Components made by AFP Inlet Duct, Aft Center Side Skins, Stabilator Skins Fan Cowl Doors, Landing Gear Pods Fuselage Panels Aft fuselage, Side Skins, Drag Angle, Sponsons, Grips Fuselage Sections Fuselage Sections Stabilator Pivot Shaft Payload Fairing

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