Composites technology company Cygnet Texkimp [Cheshire, UK] has built a production-scale, high precision Slitter Spooler Rewinder machine for industry trials at its UK-based Innovation Centre.

The technology has been developed to slit and wind continuous thermoset UD (unidirectional) carbon fibre prepreg into tapes, although it is compatible with many other materials.

It is expected to attract interest from manufacturers in the aerospace and high-end automotive industries where high precision slit tapes are used to manufacture critical components using filament winding, ATL (Automatic Tape Laying) and AFP (Automatic Fibre Placement).

Providing access to the technology will allow prepreg convertors and component manufacturers to carry out comprehensive trials using their own materials and specifications. It will also enable Cygnet Texkimp to prove the machine’s world-class capability, including tape width control of 0.1mm and Cpk (Process Capability Index) of 1.33.

“We built the demonstration machine to prove very clearly what this technology can achieve and offer a valuable source of product development in a slit tape market poised for significant growth,” says Cygnet Texkimp Wide Web Product Director Graeme Jones.

Cygnet Texkimp’s slitting technology draws on the company’s depth of experience in handling complex technical fibres to deliver high-accuracy slit tapes consistently and reliably.

“The level of precision we are able to achieve here is second-to-none in the market. That’s really important, particularly for applications using ATL and AFP which rely on accuracy to eliminate gaps and overlaps between tapes to create the most efficient high performance components.”

Prepregs present challenges in handling and processing because of their stickiness or tackiness. Fibres in thermoset prepregs are still pliable within the uncured resin matrix and are therefore prone to dimensional instability if handled incorrectly. This can lead to fibre separation and damage in the form of fraying at the edges of the material, known as material stringers. If left unchecked, these can result in problems further down the process and ultimately jeopardise the quality of the finished part. Cygnet Texkimp’s machine has been developed with design elements including slitting arrangements and tape handling to minimise these challenges.

“Our Slitter Spooler Rewinder is the result of decades of engineering expertise and understanding of material behaviour to create a machine that can run continuously with very minimal fraying, stringers, debris or material scrappage,” says Graeme Jones.

The demonstration machine has been designed to slit four tapes but is scalable to 48 tapes with the addition of modular winding heads. It is also capable of converting wide rolls of poly to be used as the interleaf in the finished prepreg spools.