Third Wave Systems Successfully Models and Optimizes 5 Axis Machined Composite Components

Third Wave Systems Finite Element Modeling of Continuous fiber composite machining. Third Wave Systems modeled the trimming process of 40 ply carbon-epoxy workpiece and predicted post-cut part quality

In 2013, Third Wave Systems (TWS) was awarded a $3 million contract by the United States Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, one of the largest funded projects in the company’s 20-year history. The focus of the project was to expand Third Wave Systems impressive and successful metal-cutting solutions to polymer matrix composite (PMC) materials used on the latest warfighter programs. The Department of Defense Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF), which was designed to transition innovative technologies that resolve operational DoD challenges, allocated funds for the contract.

Developed under the RIF, Third Wave Systems software products reduced machining cycle times by predicting and managing forces and predicting composite behavior. Engineers from Third Wave Systems successfully demonstrated improved production processes for several current warfighter PMC components. The improved processes utilized in-place machining equipment, obtained greatly improved part quality and surface finish, reduced tooling costs by 27 percent and reduced cycle-time on milling operations by 47 percent.

A business case extrapolation was performed using current warfighter programs, estimating that the bottom-line savings that could be achieved using Third Wave Systems demonstrated improvements would be substantial. Using an assumption of 35 percent composite machining cycle-time savings (actual achieved was 47 percent), the business case ROM* result is an estimated $1,989K per aircraft savings (current warfighters are ~35% composite materials).

The…

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