NLR’s Fieldlab for Automated Composites and Metal Manufacturing and Maintenance (ACM3) provides a unique combination of state-of-the-art equipment and human expertise in the Netherlands and abroad.

The purpose of ACM3 is to support companies during the development of lightweight systems and products made out of composite and/or metal materials.

The support from ACM3  is available in all phases of the product development process: from conceptual study and material selection, to the detailed design phase and the manufacturing of the conceived concepts. Also maintenance and repair solutions and full scale prototyping are also part of the activities of the fieldlab.

The fieldlab for Automated Composites and Metal Manufacturing and Maintenance (ACM3) consists of the following units:

Bert Thuis leads the NLR’s Structures Technology department and serves as the ‘ambassador’ for ACM3. He emphasizes that the fieldlab is particularly keen in engaging SMEs. “Small, innovative companies can use our facilities to turn their ideas into reality. We make our equipment and expertise available, while the companies contribute their own specific product requirements.” Thuis says.

The facilities of the ACM3 fieldlab, and the knowledge of its experts, are used in various industries, including the aerospace, automotive, maritime, medical and energy sectors (particularly hydrogen and wind energy).

ACM3 is accessible in various ways. The available equipment has been listed in a user-friendly menu to provide quick insight into the facilities and their operation. This allows companies to discover at a glance what they can do at ACM3, with the support of an NLR operator if necessary. Users can receive training, to ensure that their personnel is properly qualified when actual serial production starts at the customer site.

One recent achievement illustrating the potential of ACM3 is the design and manufacturing of an structurally-integrated antenna within the ACASIAS (Advanced Concepts for Aero‑Structures with Integrated Antennas and Sensors) H2020 EU project.

As part of the project, in the ACM3 fieldlab NLR and the ACASIAS partners have developed new composite structures with integrated Antennas. The ACASIAS fuselage panel is made with a fibre placement machine, using carbon fibre prepreg. NLR has now optimised the process for the manufacturing of thin stiffeners. In the middle of the panel, glass fibre prepreg is used to create a transparent skin for the internal antennas; by doing so, antennas can be placed on the inside instead of on the top of an aircraft, reducing the total drag of the aircraft.

The fieldlab has now become so well-known and accessible that even private users are keen to benefit from its facilities. One example is designer Marleen Kaptein, who uses ACM3 equipment to manufacture her unusual chairs.

Among the companies who already used the ACM3 Fieldlab for their developments are: Ampyx Power, Correlian, Fokker Landing Gear, Fontys Hogeschool Engineering, Label/Breed, Kaptein Roodnat, Omron Europe. PAL-V, TNO, TU Delft, VABO Composites, Windesheim.

For more information about ACM3, please contact Bert Thuis