Kaman looking to cut composite ply development time with FiberSIM

  • 19-Mar-2010 11:12 EDT
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The single-engine, single-seat Kaman K-MAX helicopter features composite rotor blades. Kaman is using Vistagy’s FiberSIM software to reduce the hours required for ply development and layup.

Seeking to streamline its design-to-manufacturing process for large composite helicopter blades, Kaman Helicopters has licensed FiberSIM composites engineering software from Vistagy. By gaining an early understanding of producibility challenges, the Bloomfield, CT-based OEM and provider of rotor blades and major subcontract assemblies, components, and detail parts hopes to ensure a smooth hand-off of composite manufacturing data to the shop floor.

Based upon its research, Kaman estimates that FiberSIM will enable the firm to reduce ply development time from 180 to 40 h, a savings of 78%, and average part layup time from 32 to 20 h, a savings of 38%.

Kaman Helicopters will leverage Vistagy’s composites expertise by employing its professional services organization to help develop and implement best practices for standardizing composites development processes. FiberSIM can be integrated into major 3-D commercial CAD systems to provide functionality specifically for developing products made of advanced composite materials. FiberSIM is being used within a Siemens NX CAD system at Kaman.

After discovering that defining ply flat patterns for each ply in a composite design was too time-consuming, Kaman Helicopters turned to FiberSIM. By implementing FiberSIM, the firm expects to significantly reduce the hours required for ply development and layup, streamline its manufacturing process, and eventually eliminate the use of Mylar patterns. Kaman Helicopters is using the software to define flat patterns as well as generate data to drive its laser projection system.

“Working with composites is extremely time-consuming and tedious,” said Tim Bates, general manager of Kaman Helicopters’ Blade Center of Excellence and Subcontract Product Group. “By adopting FiberSIM, we expect to be able to automate non-value added tasks to achieve significant productivity gains, improve overall part quality and repeatability, and increase our throughput.”

Kaman Helicopters is a subcontractor for complex metallic and composite structures and components for commercial, military, and general aviation aircraft. It also designs and manufactures fuzing devices for the U.S. and allied militaries, and it markets and supports its SH-2G and K-MAX helicopters.

In September 2009, Kaman Helicopters was awarded a five-year contract by Bell Helicopter to build composite helicopter blade skins and skin core assemblies. Kaman is providing 18 different assemblies for H1, 406, 412, 427, 429, 430, and BA609 aircraft. Deliveries to Bell’s Hurst, TX, facility began in late 2009.

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