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28th November 2017, Birmingham

Advanced Engineering 2017 records rise in attendance

Advanced Engineering 2017, the UK’s largest annual engineering event, closed its doors earlier this month, welcoming 15% more visitors than in 2016. According to Easyfairs, organisers of the show, representatives spanning a huge breadth of engineering and manufacturing applications came together, sparking off an exhibitor booking frenzy for the show’s 2018 edition, 35% higher than the previous year.

“This year was outstanding. The visitors, the conference speakers, the companies who supplied the show floor features and the exhibitors have all contributed to making Advanced Engineering 2017 a success,” commented Alison Willis, industrial divisional director at Easyfairs. “Our new zone, Connected Manufacturing, was hugely popular, with a particularly well-attended open forum, demonstrating the importance of Industry 4.0 to companies of all sizes.”

The two-day open conference had a raft of speakers and topics. © Inside Composites

“And now, we are looking to even more areas of expansion for Advanced Engineering, with the addition of our new Nuclear Engineering zone, addressing nuclear energy build, operation and supply chain. We will be in touch with all exhibitors and visitors in the next few months. We’ll be pulling the stops out even further next year as 2018 is the show’s 10th birthday, and it’s set to be bigger and better than ever.”

The show consisted of five co-locating zones, which were: Aero Engineering; Composites Engineering; Automotive Engineering; Performance Metals Engineering; and Connected Manufacturing, which was new for 2017. The Composites Engineering zone this year featured over 180 exhibitors, presenting their expertise and latest technology and product innovations.

Display highlights

Among innovative show floor features at the exhibition was a hydrogen-powered electric vehicle. Riversimple’s Rasa prototype is reportedly capable of travelling 300 miles on a full tank of hydrogen and was designed to be as ecologically friendly as possible. It incorporates an interior trim made from recycled plastic bottles and lightweight materials such as a carbon-composite chassis.

Urban Land Rover, using composites processing technology from Cristex. © Inside Composites

Caterham car, developed by Marine Concepts, using Scott Bader’s urethane acrylate Crestapol 1260 resin under vacuum infusion for a custom roof, was also on display. Scott Bader’s resin, which comes in two forms – glass reinforced plastic and carbon fibre reinforced plastic – was chosen as an alternative to epoxy resin by the Hampshire based company. “Cost and ease of use of the Crestapol 1260 was a good unique selling point for the product,” said Terry Stubington, Marine Concepts.

Urban Land Rover, using composites processing technology from Cristex, took up a lot of space on the show floor. Carbon fibre parts on this vehicle included: front and rear bumpers, front number plate plinth, number plates, lower splitter, central and side intake grilles, radiator upper grille, diffuser assembly and tailgate trim.

Caterham car, developed by Marine Concepts. © Inside Composites

Also on display was a technology demonstrator for a new type of electric delivery vehicle, Deliver-E, which could make the courier industry greener and more efficient, according to the University of Warwick. Based on the platform of a Renault Twizy, the Deliver-E is a quiet, compact, lightweight electric vehicle made using carbon fibre composites, developed by WMG at the University of Warwick and Warwickshire-based design company Astheimer.

SHD Composite Materials exhibited a sit ski, developed as part of the Sit-Ski project. © Inside Composites

The show floor also featured some innovative products for sports applications. Reap, a Stoke-on-Trent based manufacturer specialising in ultra-high-performance triathlon, time trial and road bikes, showcased its carbon bike. SHD Composite Materials, based in Sleaford, exhibited a sit ski, developed as part of the Sit-Ski project. The components were manufactured by the AMRC, the MTC and the National Composites Centre (NCC). The carting uses a graphene-enhanced prepreg MTC9800, developed by SHD Composite Materials and Applied Graphene Materials. “This novel graphene prepreg provided the optimum performance characteristics for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, High Tech sports project,” commented Garry Scott, NCC.

Czech advanced manufacturing

The two-day open conference, which was newly Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – accredited for this year, by the CPD Certification Service, had a raft of speakers and topics, including talks from the Department of International Trade, Composites UK, GKN, Siemens, Nissan and more.

Whilst a number of speakers represented the UK composites industry, discussing current trends and opportunities for local producers, Martin Macourek, Director, CzechTrade UK, has given an overview of the Czech advanced manufacturing and composites industry, focusing on green innovations and end applications such as aerospace and automotive. Czech Republic is the biggest car producer in CEE, supplying major OEMs, including Skoda, Tatra and Hyundai. The country also has an extensive aerospace supply chain, serving companies like Airbus and AgustaWestland. LA Composite, for example, has been manufacturing composite, sandwich and bonded structures for the aerospace industry for more than 22 years.

Martin Macourek, Director, CzechTrade UK, has given an overview of the Czech advanced manufacturing and composites industry. © Inside Composites

Tomáš Loubal, Business Development Director, Spolchemie, discussed EnviPOXY, a solution for green thermosetting composites, designed to help manufacturers reduce carbon footprint. “Our mission is to work together in creating of innovative chemicals for a better quality of life,” he said.

Another Czech company exhibiting at the show was Brebeck Composite, a manufacturer of prepreg autoclave carbon glass, aramid and fibre components for customers like BMW Motorsport, Porsche and Audi Sport. According to Richard Lienert, Head of Supply Chain Management, the company with a mainly European customer base is currently looking for more UK customers, and looking to expand into Formula 1 segment.

Graphene is composites

One of the conference sessions was dedicated to exploring the use of graphene, a 2D material, in composites, with end uses mainly found in sports and leisure industries. Antoine Battin, Technical Support Sales Engineer, SHD Composites, discussed the benefits of using graphene, which is ultra-light, tough, 200 times stronger than steel and yet flexible, and graphene/carbon nanotubes, which are easier to process and offer infinity of shapes and functionalisation.

SHD Composites. © Inside Composites

The company started working with the new material in 2013 and since began incorporating it into its materials. Currently in development are MTC9850, a motorsport crash structure material, tooling materials for thermal management and electrically conductive composites.

The company is also currently working with a European prosthetics manufacturer, supplying its MTC9800 unidirectional prepreg for use in prosthetics, and, according to Mr Battin, is recording a strong interest from the market. Other projects include fishing rods, cycle frames, racing yacht foils and protective helmets.

Huge boost

The show floor attracted some of the industry’s biggest names including Airbus; Boeing; Jaguar Land Rover; Hexcel; and Dassault Systèmes, who met and did business across the supply chain, with visitors from a range of engineering specialisms including: automation, design and test engineering, process control, machining and many more.

The show welcomed 15% more visitors than in 2016. © Inside Composites

“The Advanced Engineering show is a fantastic opportunity to support our industry partners in meeting new clients. This year was no exception, and indeed has been the most successful ever, delivering more leads, more contact with suppliers and, as importantly, the ability to meet TenCate’s existing customers and partners,” said John Darlington, exhibitor TenCate’s Global Director Product and Market Strategy.

“What we’re doing is removing the constraints of design in composites. And that’s exactly what the Composites Engineering Show does for our business development – it gives it a huge boost. This has been the best year in terms of quality of enquiries. We have been able to demonstrate our capability to a large number of people. It’s been great for the business,” commented Mark Crouchen, Managing Director of exhibitor Rockwood Composites.

Challenges faced by composites industry

Despite overall positive business atmosphere at the exhibition, the conference programme addressed some of the issues that the current UK composites market is facing. Speakers working predominantly in the sporting goods segment, like Dr Mark Pharaoh, Pyramid Cycle Design, acknowledged that sports and outdoor industries still remain the “low hanging fruit” for adoption of composites, seen as a low risk area, whilst expansion into other sectors is not as dynamic due to a number of constraints.

Richard Brine, Manager - GRP Business Unit, Lionweld Kennedy, said that one of the biggest problems facing the UK composites industry is that it “does a lot of looking at itself, yet nobody else knows what it is”. According to Mr Brine, the industry “must work more collaboratively within itself and with the existing supply chain and learn to become part of it”.

Representatives spanning a huge breadth of engineering and manufacturing applications came together this November. © Inside Composites

Clive Chitiz, Vice President EMEA Region, Plataine, added that the industry is, perhaps, not ready yet to meet the demand. “One of the problems is that no technology can be applicable everywhere, and whilst the costs are going to drive the industry in many years coming, we can’t meet the demand. The automotive industry remains a niche market in terms of adoption of composite technologies, and many companies not yet have the technology for truly mass production,” he said.

He also added that in order to address the existing problems, the government and the industry need a more holistic approach. “The UK doesn’t invest in infrastructure and capital to drive sustainable growth, but instead relies on investing in labour to increase productivity on a temporary basis.”

The next edition of Advanced Engineering will take place from 31 October – 1 November 2018 at the NEC, Birmingham, UK.

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