Flanders Make and Lab Motion Systems join forces for machining composites

"Machining parts in composite material requires special attention. The material is not only very specific, being composed of layers and fibres, it often concerns large and flexible surfaces intended for, among others, the aviation industry. As a result, machines must be adapted time and again for machining one single part or a small series, making the machining of composite parts both difficult and expensive. Furthermore, these composite parts all too often become delaminated or defragmented when being drilled or ground if the cutting conditions are not optimal. 

For LAB Motion Systems, a high-tech company from Leuven set up as a spin-off of KULeuven, this was an interesting challenge. They are specialised in developing high-precision air bearings. To develop special centrepieces for machining parts in composites using vibration technology, they set up a partnership with Flanders Make. 

“Delamination of composites is a problem”, says Wim Van de Vijver, CEO of LAB Motion Systems. “Because the layers composing the material become separated, the strength of the component is affected. Impact from drilling or grinding operations can already result in minuscule internal flaws. For critical applications as used in aviation with its very strict quality requirements, this is unacceptable.” 


The research partners realised a process development for vibration-supported machining because vibrations on the right frequency can keep the composite material smoother and machining neat. This is not only better for the material, it also accelerates the machining process and considerably extends the life span of the cutting tool. In this way, machining costs can be lowered. 

The developed test platform is able to optimise the frequency and amplitude of the applied vibrations. It creates optimal conditions for machining different materials, such as drilling composites on titanium. 

Flanders Make can boast comprehensive experience in control engineering. Its researchers played an important part in the development of controller software for the modules of LAB Motion Systems.  For LAB Motion Systems, this technology opens doors towards machining centres: 

“We combined Flanders Make’s knowledge of vibration patterns with our own expertise in high-precision machining. The developed prototype may prove to be a promising solution for application in existing CNC machines. It would then be possible to mount the centrepiece as an additional module. This could generate significant added value for our customers.”

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