Complex composite designs faster and less wasteful

Structural composites specialist, Carbon ThreeSixty, has installed an in-house Tailored Fibre Placement (TFP) cell which it says will deliver the next generation of complex composite products three times quicker than traditional methods whilst also reducing waste by up to 90%.

The new automated facility – which at present is the only commercially accessible machine of its type in the UK – uses high precision free-form fibre placement to enable greater design freedom, improved repeatability and creates the opportunity for multiple complex design configurations. Intended for high utilisation operation, it can produce up to 100 metric tonnes of composite preforms per year.

Ed Allnutt, managing director of Carbon ThreeSixty, said: “We specialise in the design and out-of-autoclave manufacture of highly stressed novel composite structures. The TFP cell enables the production scale-up of our defence wheel products, whilst significantly contributing to ongoing R&D activity with clients in other sectors. Such challenging structures are inherently complex, and for true weight, stiffness and strength optimisation the reinforcing fibres must be placed to run in specific orientations, so for us TFP was the obvious solution.”

TFP’s automated technology enables the company to accurately position fibres onto a variety of backing materials in the exact orientations required and secure in place with a fine thermoplastic polymer fibre. These bespoke preforms are then placed into precision RTM closed moulds, impregnated with high performance resin and cured, giving rise to a highly engineered end-product.

Allnutt continued: “Thanks to TFP when it comes to shape, the sky’s the limit and we are able to make products that were previously out of reach using traditional preforming methods. Helping our global customers gain access to next generation composite structures will also be quicker compared to traditional labour-intensive routes, which are not only time consuming but less accurate with poorer repeatability.”

But for Carbon ThreeSixty, TFP’s benefit is not just technological.As well as a seamless transition from design office to production, the company claims it is no longer reliant on suppliers for product specific material preforms, instead it can now take raw material to preform.On top of this, the process of taking laminate concept to built preform has been reduced from weeks to hours.The company also predicts its TFP capability will lead to the creation of number of highly skilled STEM jobs.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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