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A significant amount of research and industrial effort has been expended on the development of equipment such as automated fibre placement machines to lay-up prepregged reinforcements into structures of relatively simple geometry such as wing skins and spars, and fuselage structures. These structures represent the primary structures that are critical elements of an aircraft and probably make up the largest proportion of composite structures by weight on aircraft such as the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350. However, for these aircraft (and for many other aircraft types where the primary structures are metallic) there is also a very much larger number of secondary and tertiary composite structures in the wing surfaces, engine nacelles, aircraft interior etc., which are geometrically much more complex, cannot be laid up by current AFP equipment and must most often be manufactured by manual lay-up processes. These structures are often off-shored through the supply chain to low cost labour economies. In practice this off-shoring has not always resulted in the predicted level of cost savings, and in any case as the low cost labour economies develop the assumption of low cost labour will inevitably decay, requiring an alternative approach to be taken to cost reduction. This talk will attempt to tease out the reasons for our limited success to date in automating the lay-up of prepreg into very complex parts, identify some blockers that need to be removed - not all of them are technical by any means - and point the way towards a roadmap that can be followed to a successful outcome.
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