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Agile Ultrasonics is focused enabling advancements in composite material manufacturing. Our technology offers a innovative methods of bonding advanced materials from composites while reducing or eliminating several existing steps in composite manufacturing. Several challenges exist with established industry best practices for laminating layers of composite materials. Examples of limitations in today’s manufacturing methodologies can be found in armor plating, aerospace components and automotive panels.
Current methods of laminating composite materials trap air between layers as they are layed-up. The resulting entrapped voids in the final product compromise the structural integrity and can cause the material to fail prematurely. As a result, product design and innovation are affected causing components to be over built to compensate for the inefficiencies. This results in thicker, heavier, more expensive components than necessary.
Current best practices for layering also limit development of 3D composites, use of additives and active elements and embedded technologies. Consider a rotor or propeller blade that requires a combination of rigidity and impact resistance. Today’s manufacturing methods require two components made separately to be bonded together, such as a graphite composite for rigidity and a Kevlar composite for impact resistance. Our technology allows for a single component to be made from varied composites serving multiple purposes (3D) at the point of fabrication. This can reduce or eliminate several steps in manufacturing and result in lighter, stronger, less expensive components. Our process for bonding 3D composites is applicable in space or at sea making it possible to provide a device similar to a 3D printer that to laminate composite materials on demand while deployed in the field.
3D shaping of composites represents another area where our technology is applicable. Today we are processing large flat panels of body and vehicle armor using ultrasonic horns placed side by side. By positioning the horns in an array we can shape individually customized 3D body armor panels at the point of fabrication. This capability extends well beyond current manufacturing capabilities while reducing or eliminating the need for expensive press equipment,
Embedded technologies integrating active elements like piezo electric effects, conduit for fluid transfer and sensors can be effectively layered into composites using our process. For example, sensors that can notify a pilot when a wing component is overloaded or approaching failure can be placed between composite layers rather than surface mounted.
Innovation and efficiency gains are on the horizon. Near term, our prototyping efforts in armor look promising and we believe we’re on track to deliver a layering process that reduces weight of the final composite by up to 10%, meets or exceeds product requirements and saves $ millions in manufacturing cost each year. Those cost savings are reflected through our process of eliminating 99.9% of all air pockets at the point of fabrication. The outcome of this is reduce manufacturing time, labor and material cost. Simultaneously, the method we're using reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for autoclave, bake and press processes commonly used across many critical component industries.