New materials at Composites show

The Composites Engineering Show 2011 will be showing some of the latest developments in this exciting sector. Paul Fanning reports.

Hosted as part of the Advanced Engineering UK group of events at the NEC Birmingham on 9 – 10 November 2011, The Composites Engineering Show has doubled in size since the inaugural 2010 event. With a record take up of stands, the event will be the UK's largest and most comprehensive showcase for composites design and manufacturing, and supply chain capability.

This is the UK's only dedicated trade show for the composites industries. A number of new names are featured on the show floor including Euroresins, Evonik, Crompton Technology Group, AMRC, Dynabrade, AH Composites, Alpha/Delta Composites and Huntsman, to name but a few. The presence of more than 160 dedicated composites supply partners on the show floor, including such key sector players as epm:technology, Lola Composites, Norco, Formaplex, Atlas Composites, Composite Materials Ltd, Dassault Systemes supports event organiser Ian Stone's comment that "the outstanding uptake on stands at this year's event demonstrates the industry's appetite for a dedicated 'national' networking, business development, technology solutions & transfer environment that is geared to the UK's diverse composites user industries; from high volume consumer products through to high performance advanced engineered products."

Attendees at the 2011 Composites Engineering Show will benefit from access to some 300 exhibiting organisations throughout the Composites and the co-locating Aerospace, Energy and Plastic Electronics events at Advanced Engineering 2011. Additionally, attendees can sit in on a hugely expanded programme of free to attend industry strategic and technology presentations from key industry stakeholder and supplier groups.

These include the Composites UK-hosted 'composites in industry' sessions with feature sessions on the show floor for energy & renewables, medical & healthcare, transportation, marine, construction, automotive and performance sport & leisure.

Further free to attend show floor programmes in the hall include daily NetComposites-hosted technology sessions and, in the separate Congress auditorium, the two-day parallel UK Composites Industry sector briefing, hosted by CompositesUK and providing a unique visionary and strategic overview of industry trends, the shape and direction of the UK composites industry, developing opportunity streams, challenges, technologies, and skills requirements.

Composites UK is sponsoring the show again in 2011 and is working with the show organisers to ensure another successful UK Composites show. At the show Composites UK will be sponsoring the Industry briefing session, organising industry application forums over the 2 days and presenting a training review. In addition we will be presenting at the Aerospace and Energy forums.

Composites UK members exhibiting at the show will be highlighted in a special feature section in the show guide. An advanced engineering programme initiated by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is also set to be a highlighted theme setter for industry briefings at the show.

The UK is a world leader in many benchmark-setting engineering disciplines of the future, not least of which is composites engineering. A great deal of that leadership derives from a national technology strategy that is not just supportive of work underway today but, as importantly, is prepared to invest in programmes to strengthen UK capabilities and to explore wider fields of application for those capabilities: in short, to establish leadership positions in the advanced engineering disciplines of tomorrow. One great example of this in recent times has been the £10 million i-Composites programme of collaborative research and development co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and 22 programme partners from a variety of market sectors, supply chain positions and scales.

During the year to 31st March 2011, partners in the i-Composites programme pursued research and development programmes across six main, and sometimes overlapping, activity streams in automation, energy reduction, materials, process time reduction, sustainability, and simulation. The overall intention with the i-Composites programme was to accelerate capability maturity across the Technology Readiness Level 3-6 band, from basic research to the point of demonstration using the collaborative nature of the programme to deliver rapid technology capability advances; compressing into 12 months, work that might have otherwise taken years. And although all of the technology developments covered within the programme are rooted firmly in enhancements to current industrial processes, they are still just one step removed from being totally accessible to the composites value chain and hence are providing a very useful starting set of projects for the National Composites Centre (NCC) as they represent the current hot topics in composites within the UK.

Programme partners included GKN Aerospace, leading the project; Bombardier Aerospace with Loop Automation and Kuka; Aircelle; Sigmatex; ACG; EPL Composite Solutions; Frazer Nash; and a dozen more. All have contributed to this powerful expression of UK engineering future-ready excellence, culminating in a presentation to the Composites Grand Challenge in Action event on 20th July 2011 at the newly opened National Composites Centre.

The Technology Strategy Board is now interested in using this Grand Challenge model in other areas of UK industry to stimulate the same sort of coordinated momentum that is evident within the composites sector.

Another aspect of the Advanced Engineering UK 2011 group of events is the bespoke online B2B Meetings Portal.

When pre-registering, attendee groups are asked for a few pieces of information regarding the nature of business – key sectors & key words. Attendee groups receive a link to the portal, enabling search and selection of up to 10 companies that they would like to alert to their presence & request a meeting. The networking portal then alerts each pre-registered attendee from the selected companies with an email containing the requesting party's name and details, stating the request to meet them at the show. The way is then open for attendees to contact one another to meet.

No personal contact details are available (via the portal) and it is the prerogative of the 'contacted' parties to provide back personal contact information, should they accept the meeting request.

Paul Fanning

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