Light weight honeycomb structures lend themselves to important applications in aerospace. These range from aerodynamic and structural components such as wing edges, flaps, rotor blades and engine cowlings, to aircraft interior structures such as overhead luggage bins, compartment liners, bulkheads and the monument structures found in galleys and lavatory areas. Often the honeycomb is formed into a composite ply sandwich with fiberglass face sheets bonded to the honeycomb core. These panels are cut to shape using CNC routers and specially designed cutting tools. However, the quality of the cuts generated even with these special tools leaves much to be desired. The low stiffness of the structure leads to imperfections such as fraying of the cut face sheet edges and the generation of flags along the cut honeycomb edge. These impact the ease of assembly and often require manually intensive reworking to mitigate.

The cutting of honeycomb structures and sandwich panels is challenging due to low stiffness, anisotropic mechanical properties and a high proportion of interrupted cutting due to the air voids that are present. The cutting mechanics are not well understood at this time.

This paper presents findings from the study of cutting of honeycomb sandwich panels using high speed videography and correlates these with results of geometric modeling of the engagement between the cutter and workpiece. The study includes the impact of the trajectory of the tool path through the cell structures on the generation of flagging. It also reports on the effects of two different cutting tool geometries and the introduction of a lead angle on the size and structure of the flags generated. These findings present the case for a research regime similar to the one completed for solid metals, into modeling the mechanics behind machining honeycomb structures. This will help manufacturers using these materials to make better choices in the tools, cutting parameters and machining strategies that they employ in their process planning.

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