With the advanced materials and processes involved in composite manufacturing, it makes sense that suppliers are focusing on smart manufacturing methods to bring these materials and systems to life.
“With composite manufacturing, the need for smart manufacturing is critical to help us ensure product quality and performance in the product,” says Bryan Dods, CEO of The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
Since composite manufacturing is highly variable compared to machining and other traditional processes that composites are replacing across industries, manufacturers are looking to smart manufacturing to help maximize efficiency across the board and strengthen the supply chain.
“There are some aspects of the smart manufacturing principles that can be applied to composite manufacturing that will ensure automotive and other industries of the quality and performance levels of composite product,” Dods says.
Incorporating advanced technologies such as sensors in composite materials is already happening in areas such as aerospace, and IAMCI members are working to combine composites and sensors into more efficient and cost-effective solutions, according to Dods.
The biggest challenge facing the composite materials industry is the ability to scale the technologies that are now available to meet demand.
“As we focus on automotive, our target is to have scale where we can produce for a 100,000-vehicle product and being able to hit cycle times in the order of about three minutes or less, then being able to line up the secured supply chains for the OEMs,” he says. “I think what’s holding the explosion of composites back is having the security of the supply chains that the current automotive OEMs have.”
Overall, the U.S. composite materials market grew by 3.7% last year, with a total value of $8 billion, according to the American Composites Manufacturers Association. By 2022, that total value figure is expected to top $10 billion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.9%.
IACMI is comprised of 155 members and was launched two years ago through Manufacturing USA, a public/private partnership funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that also includes the CESMII (Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute), ARM (Advanced Robotics Manufacturing) and AIM Photonics (American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics). The Institute’s current focus is on advanced composites for vehicle technologies, wind turbines and compressed gas storage, though it is branching out into aerospace, oil and gas, infrastructure and other composite-friendly spaces.
Bryan Dods will share insights on breakthroughs in new materials at Chief Executive’s Smart Manufacturing Summit on May 17 in Seattle. For more information and to register, visit smartmanufacturingsummit.com. To learn more about the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, visit iacmi.org.