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Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

13th November 2019, Birmingham

Composites focus for the BTMA

Cygnet Texkimp automatic carbon fibre creeling system. © Inside Composites

Cygnet Texkimp automatic carbon fibre creeling system. © Inside Composites

As efficient textile reinforcement technologies become increasingly critical to the global composites industry, the British Textile Machinery Association (BTMA) now has an annual presence at the Advanced Engineering Show, which has just taken place in Birmingham, UK.

“Advanced textiles composites are being widely used in both structural and non-structural products, where their advantages can include greater strength or durability, lower weight or mass, reduced cost, longer performance life, better performance and lower environmental impact,” said BTMA director Alan Little. “Many of the processes involved in producing woven, nonwoven and knitted textiles for composites are familiar, but only by name. Most composite technologies that have emerged from BTMA members are now far in advance of those traditionally associated with textiles.”

3D robotics

Cygnet Texkimp, for example, has been a pioneer in carbon fibre processing since the 1970s and its prepreg machines provide the flexibility for manufacturers to change parameters quickly and easily. Resin temperature, substrate, time, temperature and pressure can all be changed to suit the material being processed.

A recent Cygnet Texkimp innovation is the 3D Winder – the world’s first robotic 3D winding machine capable of making complex parts with 3D non-linear axes and varying cross sections.

Amba Projex hot melt coating line. © Inside Composites

Amba Projex hot melt coating line. © Inside Composites

A range of robotic winding systems has also been developed to improve the way large packages of fibre are handled. These eliminate contact damage and protect the integrity of the fibre throughout the process, while increasing production speeds and reducing downtime.


The standard and custom-designed composites processing machinery range of Amba Projex covers everything from unwinding creels and spreading elements to hot melt resin film coating and prepreg equipment, with special-purpose equipment for tow-preg and powder application.

With installations in Europe, the USA and Asia, machines are designed to accommodate carbon, aramids, glass and other materials such as flax and hemp, as well as all common resin systems, including solvents, hot melts and epoxies.

Other key BTMA companies supplying technology to the composites sector include Roaches International, the designer of pressure vessels and autoclaves, while Adaptive Control Solution specialises in software and control packages for their full automation. BTMA members like Fibre Extrusion Technologies, Richard Hough and Tatham meanwhile provide advanced technologies for fibre manufacturing and further processing.

Debut exhibitors

Two new BTMA exhibitors at Advanced Engineering 2019 were Optima 3D and VeriVide.

Optima 3D has been making a splash this year, following the introduction of its Optima Series 500 3D weaving machine at ITMA 2019 in June.

The company has designed and developed this next generation weaving machine specifically for the growing 3D composite engineering market and it offers many advanced features over conventional machines in respect of versatility, operation and control, including an entirely redesigned shuttle system. The weft insertion length can be adjusted to suit the specific fabric width, minimising and centralising the overall shuttle movement.

Roaches International autoclave. © Inside Composites

Roaches International autoclave. © Inside Composites

The comprehensive use of digital control systems coupled with Siemens motors and drive systems allows rapid parameter and sequence changes.

“Our vision for designing and creating the new Series 500 was to look with a fresh pair of eyes at 3D weaving machine technology in order to produce a machine that delivers real benefits to our customers – a machine that is simply better by design,” said Managing Director Steve Cooper.

VeriVide is a specialist in visual and colour assessment, as key aspects of quality control.

Despite extensive research, development and marketing support, if a composite textile suffers from metamerism – changing colour under different light sources – or is visually unappealing in its native light environment, sales can often be affected, the company says.

VeriVide products provide standardised viewing conditions, digital evaluation of colour and appearance and optimised lighting for work areas, as a valuable tool in quality assurance for composite manufacturers.

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