UK firm moves to high volume composite manufacture for automotive industry

Leicester based Formax has commissioned a composite manufacture machine that will be dedicated to high volume automotive applications. The multi-axial machine by Karl Mayer Malitronic is part of a €2.5million investment programme by the company to allow carbon fibre and specialty composite reinforcements to be used in higher volume markets.

Formax hope the move will allow automotive OEM's and Tier 1's to design bespoke fabric or preform parts in the fast and cost effective ways demanded by automotive manufacturers. Typical parts are likely to include Class A body panels, body-in-white structures and impact resistant long fibre reinforced parts.

The cut and lay machine can produce in variable widths between 1270mm and 1600mm, and will be dedicated to the production of tailored Non Crimp Fabrics (NCF's) specifically optimised for high volume automotive programmes.

The machine is equipped with 3-axes, is capable of laying ply angles from 20° through to 90° with both in-line and off-line spreading technology to allow engineers to specify larger, lower cost, carbon fibre tows with ply weights as little as 50gsm.

An additional feature of the machine is that it is equipped with electronic pattern cams. This facilitates the creation of fabric specific stitch patterns, which combined with its extensive research into simulating drape, gives the company a unique capability to tailor fabric for specific parts.

Dan Norton, automotive sector manager at Formax said: "Formax has recognised the demand being shown within the automotive industry to include carbon composite structures within their multi-material platforms and with this machine, and its cutting edge spreading technology, we are able to increase fibre throughput whilst maintaining and delivering high manufacturing efficiencies.

"Resin and tooling technology are all advancing at a rapid rate to help deliver the magic 60 second cycle time the automotive industry is pushing for, and we are confident that textile reinforcements can now be added to this list."

Justin Cunningham

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