Research to Business
Offer: 687

Controlled handling system for textile semi-finished product

New suction gripper system with sensorial feedback enables controlled allocation and holding of air-permeable textile layers for industrial production.

The test facility at the institute shows the handling of a carbon fiber blank for an ECFK rear diffuser with the new suction pads. (Image: Fabian Ballier / KIT)

The mass production of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) currently involves considerable effort. One of the main causes is the insufficiently automated handling of the air-permeable, bendable textile blanks made of carbon fibers, which serve as the starting material in addition to the plastic matrix.

State of the Art

With conventional low-pressure surface suction devices, which suck in the flat semi-finished products by means of negative pressure, the gripping and depositing of individual, defined layers with air-permeable materials can only be controlled to a limited extent. Under certain circumstances, several layers of the carbon blanks are simultaneously sucked in by the suction volume flow. In practice, this suction effect is interrupted by intermediate layers of air-impermeable paper (backing paper). The preparation of these textile-paper stacks and the handling in the production process are costly and cause unnecessary paper waste.

Technology

Against this background, scientists at the wbk Institute of Production Technology at KIT have developed a gripping system that improves the automated handling of textile blanks within CFRP production. For this purpose, the suction surface of a low-pressure surface suction device is equipped with ring-shaped sensor electrodes that can be used to determine the contact forces between the suction surface and the conductive textile blank on the basis of resistance measurements. At the same time, the associated control device controls the volume flow and operating pressure of the suction pad according to the situation. The sensory feedback allows a controlled allocation of a defined number of layers, in particular the separation from the blank stack, as well as controlled depositing with a minimum of air consumption. With additional lifting actuators and suspension, the suction grippers can also be used for draping the fibers in the preforming process.

Advantages

Suction grippers of the new design operate more reliably and are more energy-efficient. A pixel construction allows flexible design of the gripper systems. In addition, it is possible to determine whether the gripper is reliably sucking up a semi-finished product and how many layers it is holding. This enables process monitoring for high-risk handling tasks. 

Options for companies

The new design allows intelligent and controlled handling of carbon fibers with prospects for transfer to non-conductive textiles. KIT is looking for suppliers of gripping technologies for further development as well as manufacturing companies for the application of the technology.

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Your contact person for this offer

Dr. Rainer K├Ârber
Innovation Manager
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Innovation and Relations Management (IRM)
Phone: +49 721 608-25587
Email: rainer.koerber@kit.edu
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