“Un-forming” fibre-steered preforms: Towards fast and reliable production of complex composites parts

X C Sun*, Jonathan P Belnoue, Wei-Ting Wang, Byung Chul Kim, Stephen R Hallett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
95 Downloads (Pure)


Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) allows for efficient deposition of composite prepreg materials at large scale in a reliable and reproducible way, while keeping human effort to a minimum. However, the technique is not perfectly suited to manufacturing small/medium parts with complex geometries. Deviation between as-designed and as-manufactured parts is almost inevitable, as is the occurrence of process-induced defects. In this study, an alternative design and manufacturing process is proposed. Instead of depositing composite tapes directly onto the complex mould, a flat tailored preform made from steered fibre tows is created first, and then the flat preform is subsequently formed into a 3D complex shape. The fibre path in the flat tailored preform is derived from a new virtual ‘un-forming’ process of a complex 3D part design with target fibre paths. To demonstrate the process, a small doubly curved composite part was un-formed. Fibre-steered tailored preforms were created using the continuous tow shearing (CTS) technique and then formed into the target shape using double diaphragm forming. The as-manufactured part was compared with the as-designed part as well as a part manufactured from straight fibre prepreg. The results demonstrated the feasibility of the virtual un-forming process and the potential of proposed manufacturing route.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109060
Number of pages10
JournalComposites Science and Technology
Early online date23 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the feasibility study “Virtual un-manufacturing of fibre-steered preforms for complex geometry composites” of the EPSRC (The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, United Kingdom) Future Composites Manufacturing Hub ( EP/P006701/1 ) and the EPSRC platform grant “SIMulation of new manufacturing PROcesses for Composite Structures (SIMPROCS)”, ( EP/P027350/1 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Structural composites
  • Polymer-matrix composites (PMCs)
  • Finite element analysis (FEA)
  • Deformation
  • Automated Fibre Placement


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