In recent years there has been a continual advancement in thermoplastic parts. Improvements have come from many different sources, working together to produce, test and improve the whole process of production. The thermoplastic prepreg, machine builders, and process steps have been continually improved to bring about final parts that can be used in aviation.
In this presentation we will specifically look at the automated layup process of high-temperature thermoplastic prepreg, on complex shaped parts. The problems that arise in this process are numerous, but there has been continual advancement in improving the process parameters, machine hardware and methods of control. We have been performing many real layup tests on coupons, small scale parts, and mid-size prototype parts, using PPS, PAEK, PEKK, and PEEK material from most world-known prepreg suppliers. From these results, we discuss the improvements in various process control methods utilized to get much better final parts than it has been expected from the past and how Tier 1 suppliers are using these results for final material selection. Finally, we present briefly how to transition some of those learnings to tool-less manufacturing of TPCs and discuss some limits, capabilities, and future opportunities in expanding this novel approach to new markets for TPC manufacturing.