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Hybrid vacuum-robotic forming of reinforced composite laminates

Elkington, Michael P; Mistry, Preetum J; Johnson, Michael S; Ou, Hengan

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Michael P Elkington

Preetum J Mistry

Associate Professor


A methodology is presented to implement robotic actuators into diaphragm forming of composite laminates. This Hybrid Vacuum-Robotic (HyVR) process is specifically targeted to prevent ‘bridging’ type defects. Examples are presented of successfully forming laminates with deep concave features that would otherwise be impossible by diaphragm forming. The robotically controlled end effectors apply localised pressure to concave regions during the diaphragm forming process. This force application is analogous to the incremental sheet forming process. A generalised methodology is presented which can be applied to develop a bespoke HyVR process for a specific mould. It can then inform what type of end effector should be used and how to apply it within the HyVR process. A key development included in this methodology is the use of the robot to ‘pin’ the laminate to the mould, preventing any unwanted movement. This process could enable automated production of more complex components using diaphragm forming, taking advantage of its lower tooling and equipment costs.


Elkington, M. P., Mistry, P. J., Johnson, M. S., & Ou, H. (2023). Hybrid vacuum-robotic forming of reinforced composite laminates. Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, 42(11-12), 611-623.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 27, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 27, 2022
Publication Date 2023-06
Deposit Date Nov 16, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 17, 2022
Journal Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites
Print ISSN 0731-6844
Electronic ISSN 1530-7964
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 11-12
Pages 611-623
Keywords Materials Chemistry; Polymers and Plastics; Mechanical Engineering; Mechanics of Materials; Ceramics and Composites
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