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Airtech Europe
Airtech Europe

Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

10th December 2019, Dresden

A shared spirit of discovery in Dresden

The conference attracted over 650 delegates.

The conference attracted over 650 delegates.​

The UK was the partner country for the 2019 Aachen-Dresden-Denkendorf International Textile Conference held in Dresden from November 28-29, which was primarily a showcase for Germany’s highly interlinked research institute network, with composites naturally a key focus.

Given the uncertainty Brexit is causing Europe-wide, the UK’s partnership status for this year’s conference was a welcome gesture from the German organisers.

Professor Chokri Cherif opening the conference.

Professor Chokri Cherif opening the conference.

“Due to the numerous well-established networks between Germany’s research partners and those in the UK, we deliberately chose this partner country at this specific time,” said Professor Chokri Cherif, director of the Institute of Textile Machinery and High Performance Material Technology at TU Dresden. “The goal is to send a visible signal that existing cooperation relationships in research and industry with companies and universities can continue and new collaborations can be created independently of Brexit.”

Chris McNulty, from the Department for International Trade at the British Embassy, welcomed the move.

“As the UK prepares to leave the EU, strengthening partnerships becomes increasingly important and the UK and Germany share the same spirit of scientific discovery,” he said.

Chris McNulty, from the Department for International Trade at the British Embassy addresses delegates.

Chris McNulty, from the Department for International Trade at the British Embassy addresses delegates.

Rolls Royce

From the UK companies side, Ronny Swoboda outlined the continuing lead of Rolls Royce in the further development of gas turbine engines for the civil aerospace, defence and power systems sectors, in which it already has over 50,000 operational. Rolls Royce is also collaborating in the sustainable aviation field to explore radical alternatives such as electrification, which are closely interconnected to attempts to decarbonise the industry.

Swoboda pointed out that since the introduction of the first jet engine, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 80%, they are 50% quieter than ten years ago, and 10 billion tons of CO2 have been avoided through developments since 1990.

Nevertheless, industry goals have been set for 2050 to further reduce their CO2 emissions by 75%, NOX emissions by 90% and engine noise by 50%. At the same time, Rolls Royce is looking to increase both the propulsive and thermal efficiency of its engines, calling for an intense engineering effort.

As part of this, it has been developing hybrid composite and metal parts for engine casings which have highly complex geometries and must operate at temperatures up to 180°C, consisting of an outer ring and vanes made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and titanium. Two different routes have been employed in this development – filament winding followed by either braiding or tailored fibre placement (TFP).

Due to problems with form stability and fibre undulation on braiding constructions, the TFP route has been selected for the new UltraFan system which is scheduled for ground testing in 2021.


The joint presentation of Chris McHugh and Dr Hassan El-Dessouky described the extensive capabilities and ongoing projects at the AMRC in Sheffield, UK, specifically in respect of dry fibre processing.

A recent £3.4 million investment programme has seen the AMRC equipped with all the necessary equipment for taking a multi-material approach to hybrid developments, including a Herzog radial braider served by two Kuka six-axis robots, which is capable of processing all carbons from 48k down to 2K. In addition, the centre has installed a Stäubli 3D weaving machine capable of feeding 3,072 carbon fibre yarns or tapes from its creel, a Dornier P1 2D rapier weaving system and the largest KSL robotic stitching and trimming system in the UK for preform assembly and thickness placement. It also has tailored fibre placement (TFP) and tow spreading technologies.

Chris McHugh and Dr Hassan El-Dessouky of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield.

Chris McHugh and Dr Hassan El-Dessouky of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield.

“There is a lot of scope in combining TFP with weaving for the reinforcement of localised areas, but the important thing is that we have not only invested in the technologies, but also in the specialist technicians who know how to get the best of them,” McHugh said.

Dr El-Dessouky described various ongoing projects at the AMRC involving the creation of complex parts for the automotive and aerospace industries.

Comingled textiles

Mathilde Pulet described the work of ELG Carbon Fibre in the development of thermoplastic and recycled carbon comingled textiles for high volume manufacturing.

The biggest savings in employing recycled carbon fibres, she said, do not come from the material cost itself, but in the improved processability and subsequent increased efficiencies that can be achieved – especially when comingled with thermoplastic fibres in hybridised nonwovens that can be produced by conventional carding and needlepunching.

3D printing

Gerard Turk of Sigmatex described the four-year Breakthrough Aerospace Materials project (BAM), that between 2016 and this year has been working to advance the manufacturing techniques and simulation of 3D textiles in the UK in order to make them commercially available to the aerospace industry,

“The use of 3D textiles is currently held back by a lack of analysis techniques that can accurately predict weave architectures, as well as their consequent processing and structural performance,” he said.

Led by Sigmatex, the BAM project has involved BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce along with a host of smaller companies and three UK universities which are pioneering 3D weaving technology – Nottingham, Manchester and Bristol.

Many aspects of the art of 3D weaving have been explored over the past three years, and new techniques developed which are expected to be of significant benefit going forward.

Further UK presentations at the conference – which attracted around 650 participants and ran four parallel sessions over its two days – were from Manchester and Durham Universities.

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