Sabic, Airborne develop digital composites manufacturing line

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Photo by Sabic The two companies expect to start large-scale production by year-end

Saudi petrochemicals company Sabic has highlighted its “ground-breaking” digital composites manufacturing line during the Paris JEC World 2019 expo, held 12-14 March. 

The new line was developed in collaboration with Dutch composite engineering company Airborne and powered by Siemens and Kuka technologies. 

In a 13 March press release, Sabic said it had successfully completed the pilot phase of the rapid, large-scale laminate manufacturing unit, set up at Airborne’s facility in the Hague, the Netherlands.

The two companies are currently working on the transition to full-scale production, scheduled for the end of the year. 

The new line employs digital technologies such as robotics, to produce up to four thermoplastic composite laminates every minute, totalling up to 1.5 million parts annually. 

The system can run multiple laminate sizes simultaneously, and is equipped with adaptive process controls which allow settings to be modified “almost immediately”, Sabic said. 

Potential applications include cases and covers for consumer electronics, aircraft inserts, automotive components and sports goods.

Despite their extreme strength and ultra-low weight, composite materials require time-consuming, inefficient and expensive processes, explained Gino Francato, global business leader, advanced composites, Sabic.

The new automated line, he added, addresses those limitations and helps the industrialisation process of composites and the mass production of composite parts.

“The good thing about this collaboration is that we work closely together with Sabic, so the material development, automation technology development and the product development go hand in hand”, said Arno van Mourik, chief executive officer of Airborne. 

“With such a holistic approach we can create real breakthroughs in cost efficiency for mass volume applications,” he concluded.


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