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7th November 2016, BIrmingham

Wide-ranging collaborations bear fruit

During last week’s Advanced Engineering show in Birmingham, UK, (November 2-3), Will Searle of Axillium Research provided details of the achievements of the Composites Innovation Cluster (CiC).

It was very evident at the show that the venture has been highly successful, with a range of developments from CiC projects highlighted on many of the exhibition stands and profiled constantly over the two-days of presentations.

It was very evident at the show that the venture has been highly successful, with a range of developments from CiC projects highlighted on many of the exhibition stands and profiled constantly over the two-days of presentations.

Speaking ahead of the CiC’s public event at Westminster on November 17th, Searle said that 35 organisations had been involved in 17 projects between 2013-2016, investing some £22 million with the stated aim of creating or protecting over 200 jobs and generating £190 million of business growth.

“The CiC projects will have an anticipated combined impact of adding £100 million annually in additional revenues for the next five years, so we will achieve that target in two years,” he said. “There has been an estimated 82% success rate in R&D and 24 new products, processes or services have been created.”

Big players drawn into becoming involved by the need to develop new short cycle processes and establish dedicated new supply chains have included Bentley, British Aerospace, Dowty Propellers, GE and Jaguar Land Rover.

Among some of the key projects was RITAA, in which Solvay worked with Formaplex, Formax, Krauss Maffei UK and LMAT to establish a high pressure transfer moulding (HP-RTM) at the Solvay site in Heanor, Derbyshire.

The UK-Biocomp project, involving Axon Automotive, Henniker Scentific, NetComposites, Tilsatec and the University of Hetfordshire, has developed high-performance flax-based materials for the manufacture of both thermoset and thermoplastic applications, while Sigmatex and Meggitt partnered to develop a liquid resin infusion process for high temperature composites in the LIRIC project.

There are many other success stories from the CiC, including the formation and rapid growth of Far Composites, based in Nottingham, as a small and cost effective demonstration manufacturing facility, suitable for SMEs wanting to enter the composites industry.

“We were aware that there were a lot of smaller companies in the supply chain doing stuff like metal bashing who were considering moving to composites but found it difficult and daunting,” said director and general manager Lyndon Sanders.

Far’s team has an extensive background in composite material technology, high volume manufacturing design and lean production techniques and has successfully commercialised its patented Axontex carbon fibre chassis technology on a number of vehicles, including the Westfield sports car on display in Birmingham.

“We can make such a structure with all the advantages of carbon at the same cost as an aluminium structure,” Sanders said.

Far Composites has grown from three people to 24 in the past 18 months and is now planning to establish a high volume factory for Axontex.

“I’m unable to say anything about the four most exciting projects we’re currently involved in,” Sanders added. “We will have plenty to talk about at next year’s Advanced Engineering show.”

 

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