Composite machine manufacturer Mikrosam delivered a fully automated filament winding line for CNG tanks to automotive supplier Magna’s Austria plant. According to the Macedonian company, this high-volume production cell was invented for manufacturing a cost-effective, lightweight CNG tank module. Using filament winding technology and application of composite materials produced an alternative propulsion system that would result in reduction of car weight up to 50%, as well as 40% lower fuel expenses, claims Mikrosam.
The filament-winding technology also has the potential, when used in high volume, to reduce manufacturing cost of composite pressure tanks needed for both compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen—for years an impediment to the introduction of high-pressure gaseous fuels for automotive use. The current price of such tanks is, of course, many times that of incumbent stamped-steel or blow-molded plastic gasoline tanks.
The fully integrated solution consists of multi-spindle filament winding machines with Mikrosam cut-and-restart patented solution for automated cut and restart of the fibers tape during winding process; automatic handling operations of the liners or winded tanks and cured tanks between numerous equipment units in the production process; and sophisticated curing oven that matches curing requirements of different resin systems.
The machine is equipped with two winding carriages: one carriage for winding of main composite structure and one carriage for winding of outer protective layer, so that full continuous production of the CNG tanks is realized on the same machine in a single winding cycle. In total, there are 24 servomotor-controlled axes integrated in the filament winding machine itself, which, according to Mikrosam, makes it probably one of the most advanced winding machines in the world built to date.
What makes this production line unique, says the company, is the flexibility to change the production cycle from one tank size to another. When this is required, all programs, and mechanical and electrical parts, are automatically adjusted to the different CNG tanks sizes that are necessary to be produced.
The opportunity to make these changes, as well as adjust the capacity of each single equipment station, quickly increases productivity of the overall production line, reports Mikrosam.