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4th April 2018, Dorset

Norco builds architectural canopies using composite metal

Norco, a leading Dorset-based specialist in GRP/composite mouldings, has completed the construction of three architectural canopies, manufactured using a unique composite metal, that are to be installed on the flagship new One Blackfriars residential development in central London.

The project, commissioned by property developers St George, called for Norco to manufacture the canopies to look like polished metal features. In addition, each canopy roof structure was engineered to stand on a single column at its centre, without any other support or stabilisation. The canopies needed to be lightweight and stiff but also robust enough to withstand the harsh environmental conditions.

The canopies were constructed from a composite glass fibre laminate with a closed cell structural foam core. © Norco

Norco had previous experience of a hard metal-coating product, which consists up to 95% of metal powder and a resin binder, previously used as a hard surface coating for production mould tools. The mixture of metal powder and binder results in a cold liquid metal (composite metal). This metal is sprayable but does not behave in the same way as a traditional paint product. Norco undertook a series of tests to develop a technique for using the metal coating product as a polished surface finish.

Careful consideration had to be given to the application of the product, and the joining of the whole structure in order to create the appearance of a single piece metal structure. The metal finish cannot be easily repaired without leaving visual imperfections in-between the original and new coating applications, the company reports.

The canopies were constructed from a composite glass fibre laminate with a closed cell structural foam core to provide adequate panel stiffness over the large hollow wing shape. A resin infusion process was adopted for the production of the composite panels, providing a high quality, void free laminate without using excessive quantities of resin. Norco refined a staged infusion approach, specifically for the manufacture of the metal coated areas, in order to avoid print through of the composite materials onto the external surface.

“This project was extremely challenging and to see a successful completion with a product the client is thrilled with, is testament to the skill and expertise demonstrated by the whole team. This type of innovative composite structure really highlights the adaptability of composite materials and I am delighted we have also been able to showcase our capabilities and expertise in this field. Congratulations to the team for a job well done,” commented Mark Northey, MD of Norco Holdings.

The lifting and installation of the canopies also presented a particular challenge to the team. Suitable lifting points were required to move the canopies into place on site but were not in keeping with the smooth polished appearance of the structure, thus resulting in an innovative solution to remove them once the canopies were installed.

Norco manufactured the canopies and was also heavily involved in earlier stages of the project. This included the design and engineering of the direct tooling, in addition to undertaking all of the CAD design and modelling for the canopies, and the management of all of the FEA analysis to ensure the canopies were structurally sound.

The One Blackfriars development is made up of a 52-storey tower of a maximum height of 170 m and two smaller buildings of six and four storeys respectively. It includes residential flats, a hotel and retail units, along with a planned public space. Construction began in 2013 and will conclude this year. Of the three canopies manufactured by Norco, one is already in place, with the others due to be installed shortly.  

www.norco.co.uk

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