Prilep, Macedonia, March 2020 – Mikrosam is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a record backlog and deliveries of its most advanced equipment to date for manufacturing composites across several technologies. Deliveries include equipment for production of tow-preg, one of the largest automated lines in the world for compressed hydrogen (CHG) and natural gas (CNG) tanks, and Mikrosam’s modular and upgradeable AFP units, with leading thermoplastic capabilities.
Last year, Mikrosam launched new automation capabilities for filament winding of CHG and CNG tanks with a production line contract for the automotive industry rated at more than 60,000 tanks annually. The complete line will include multi-spindle filament winding (FW) machines integrated with new innovative automation units. Delivery of the first automated cell was shipped in December of last year and is currently installed at the customer in record time.
Such automation includes Mikrosam’s latest and most advanced multi-spindle FW machines for wet and tow-preg winding featuring for very fast and precise winding of glass and carbon fibers. These multi-spindle machines will build tanks between 40L and 350L capacity. In addition to Mikrosam’s automated cut and restart system, double-drive carriage, and high precision tow-preg winding, the equipment features original shaft design for pressure vessels. This system allows for programmed and continuous control of pressure inside the tank liners during each layer of winding. Additionally, during wet winding the resin mixing, delivery to resin bath, and resin deposition on fibers is finely controlled. Together these features ensure not only very fast, but also consistently high quality of winding with optimal material usage for each tank.
Mikrosam has developed the ability to easily scale production via integration of multiple FW units, while ensuring high quality yields of the complete line. To increase production scale and equipment utilization, there’s a sophisticated dynamic load-balancing system which ensures simultaneous winding of 4 or more multi-spindle FW machines. Such a system provides higher overall utilization than simply having more FW machines on the floor. Additionally, such automation is complemented by equipment designed by Mikrosam:
- Liner preparation station
- Visual inspection and buffer station,
- Automated resin mixing and delivery system,
- Continuous curing oven,
- Multi-robot handling system, and
- Cylinder drop-off station and preparation station for testing purposes
All units are fully integrated with a robot-based handling system and a Top-Level Control System (TCON). The robot-based handling units control and measure the weight of the tanks at each stage of the process while TCON – state-of-the-art software developed by Mikrosam – collects details of process parameters at each step of production in a data warehouse even collecting data from 3rd party auxiliary equipment for testing or blow molding. The data is integrated into factory ERP for traceability and quality improvement while giving customers unlimited reporting capabilities.
The growing global demand for CNG and CHG, including automotive, transportation, energy store and fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV) requires cost-efficient and productive solutions with high ROI. The trend allows customers to increase use of advanced composite manufacturing methods to meet such needs. With such deliveries, Mikrosam is known as a high-quality supplier of fast and precise tow-preg winding equipment for advanced applications where customers want increase in productivity and a high ROI on capital investment.
To support the growing demand for FCEVs, earlier this year Mikrosam delivered tow-preg production equipment to a customer in Korea. With custom in-house tow-preg manufacturing, customers can obtain lower cost of CNG/CHG production, more precise control of the tow-preg resin content, ability to customize the width, spool size and properties, and ensure highest quality of every manufactured tow-preg spool. Such benefits will feed into higher flexibility in expanding the use of tow-pregs, not only in winding but also in AFP for pre-forms.
Finally, relaying upon many years in thermoplastic development programs, customers, such as GKN Fokker, University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Materials, and KCTECH (Korea Institute of Carbon Convergence Technology), selected Mikrosam’s AFP units. Designed as an integrated, modular, and upgradeable AFP work-cell, Mikrosam offers one of the most cost-competitive and proven AFP solutions for thermoplastic composites. The system uses multi-material AFP head with a laser heating, precise temperature and angle control, and a closed-loop feedback to achieve proven results for in-situ consolidation. The work-cell is upgradable featuring an automatic head exchange system for new multi-tow AFP or ATL heads, or additional equipment for future providing higher ROI over time.
“Many customers come back to Mikrosam not just for our advanced composites competence, but for our relentless focus on providing solutions to their market goals. After delivering several automated lines, each with something new, Mikrosam has become de-facto reference in FW automation. Nowadays, we are also recognized for our unique AFP solutions which range from R&D to full-scale production,” – stated Dimitar Bogdanoski, Sales Manager at Mikrosam DOO.