Annual Seminar 2022: Advanced Materials and Processes in Novel Sustainable Transport – REVIEW

SAMPE UK and Ireland Chapter, Annual Seminar and Tabletop Exhibition – 28th of April 2021, Hosted by Cranfield University

by Geoff Gould

The seminar was a great success with 58 delegates, 10 presentations and 9 exhibitors. Our preferred timing is February, when this seminar was originally planned, and the calendar is relatively quiet with other composites events.  The Chapter was determined to hold a physical event for members this year, after the restrictions posed by the Covid virus. Therefore, we put a delay contingency on the planning to April, whilst being mindful that JEC Paris was to be held the following week. Hence, we had competition, and numbers were down on our typical one hundred delegates, but the high quality of the event was unaffected, and feedback was positive.

Special thanks go to our financial sponsors: Cranfield University, Neos International, and the University of Nottingham.  We also acknowledge the important contribution from our exhibitors, the names of which are listed at the end of this report. Finally, our thanks go to the SAMPE Events Team Sub-Committee, headed by Jamie Snudden (Airborne) supported by Sophie Cozien-Cazuc (Far UK).

Keynote: Advanced Materials in Sustainable Transport. Alan Banks. Ford and Composites UK

  • Alan is Head of Materials at Ford, and Chairman of Composites UK. The UK produces 1.4m vehicles per year for home and export combined. Industry’s target is to deliver the UK Government’s strategy for electrification (and hence CO2 reduction) and the focus is on lightweight materials.
  • Aluminium is vital for lightweight car manufacture and its use is currently inefficient. Ford is now catching up with JLR in the more efficient use of aluminium, but there is a long way to go. Smelting new Al from bauxite uses high energy and produces high levels of CO2 with the ratio of 20 Tonnes CO2 per Tonne of Al, based on coal-fired power, as in China. There is 100k tonnes of scrap Al per year, and the automotive industry alone requires 500k T per year.
  • Reprocessing scrap Al is much less polluting and is needed to keep pace with demand. Currently, scrap Al is exported for reprocessing, and then re-imported which, due to the double-journey, is highly inefficient and polluting. There is therefore a cost penalty for using recycled Al and the Government must put a levy on high carbon footprint imported materials. 
  • We need to bring reprocessing onshore in UK. This will have additional benefits of job creation and boost the UK economy, estimated at £2.1bn. In the absence of reprocessing, the footprint from newly smelted Al to service the automotive industry alone, is equivalent to 8.25m tonnes CO2 per year.
  • Carbon fibre is essential for achieving light weight vehicles and the demand will escalate. If all vehicles used CF for light weighting (hypothetical), then 40x the current volume of fibre would be needed!  Hydrogen storage tanks is another potential very larger user of CF. Working against the very large energy saving (reduced CO2) provided by CF in use, is the high energy cost of production. (Elsewhere, it is calculated that the embodied carbon in CF is
    30 – 50 kg CO2 per kg CF, i.e., a ratio of say 40:1, compared with Al at 20:1. See above, and Dowty Propellers presentation, Section 8).
  • Possible energy savings in CF production were given as: (i) 0.47T CO2 /T CF from renewable energy (ii) 2.2T CO2 compared with coal fired power (iii) 2.4T CO2 saved with new CF technology from Le Mond. The latter is targeting “carbon-neutral CF production” and has a patented process based on fast oxidation, and a UK plant may come on stream in 2024/25.
  • The importance of automotive-grade steel was also highlighted, with electric arc processing replacing blast furnace processing to significantly reduce CO2 emissions (but the former can only be used for recycling existing scrap “carbon-steel” from the BF process).
  • There is a shortage of glass fibre, and recycling is vital, although virgin fibre production persists because it is perceived as a cheap process. (In Q&A it was mentioned that Strathclyde University is working on recycling glass.).

Yes Commitee: Winner of the SAMPE UK & Ireland Student Competition

The Use of Frictional Tests to Determine Defects in Multi-Layer Composites. Guy Lawrence. The University of Nottingham.

  • Guy was a winner of the “Young Engineers and Students” competition. He is a 2nd year Ph.D. student. Against the background of a large market increase in demand for fibre reinforced composites for aerospace and wind energy in particular, a better understanding of inter-ply properties is required, which is often composites’ “weakest link.”
  • A Double Diaphragm Forming process (DDF) was used for automated pre-forming.  Illustrations of a seat back were shown of how defects can occur when a 2D laminate is shaped into a 3D form. Three types of in-plane defects were shown caused by bridging, wrinkling and fibre buckling. Analysis involves isolating these planar characteristics and measuring their frictional properties. Testing is aimed at both predicting and remedying the defects. Coefficient of friction is normally measured by the Sled Test, but a new test method has been devised – “the overlap friction test” – which measures the force needed to slip / slide the in-plane layers.
  • From the load vs. extension curve, measurements are converted to friction coefficient vs. extension. Static Friction rises at first to a peak, and then reduces to a plateau region as Sliding Friction takes effect. This curve characterises different layups. High inter-ply friction causes defects, especially in automated processes. Ways to modify friction were examined: using liquid resin, powder binders, and inter-layer veils. The importance friction plays in defect formation and failure mode depends on the working load, and the fibre orientation. A useful and much better understanding of the role of friction in defect formation has been achieved.

Session 1: Rail

Futura Rail Bridge Project. Matt Hocking. NCC

  • The origin of the project is the need of Network Rail to replace 2300 footbridges over the next 30 years. Partners in the project are: NCC, COWI (structural engineers), Marks Barfield (architects), Neos International, and DFS Composites. The aim is to design, build, and install one prototype bridge by 2024.
  • Using current conventional materials, it would take 120 years to make 2300 bridges! At a current cost of £4m per bridge, the cost would be £10bn. The problem is that most footbridges are not the same, they are bespoke and must fit the geometry of the individual station and track layout.  Fibre reinforced plastics offer huge advantages:
    • light weight – 67% weight of steel; 14% weight of concrete.
    • non-conductive.
    • long life – 120 years is required.
    • low embodied energy (CO2) – 41% compared with steel, 43% compared with concrete.
    • ease of installation – fitting in one day is required.
    • lower cost – a minimum 50% cost reduction is required.
  • A catalogue of bridge variants has been made and the different geometries have been consolidated into a minimum number of modular designs, for example, specifying horizontal span and pillar height.  A minimum stiffness deflection must be achieved – minimum 50mm deflection for a 12m span.  Various composite constructions have been selected for different sub-components, including glass fibre / carbon fibre, unidirectional, quasi-isotropic, cross-ply, and low FST resin. Current work is focused on FST and durability testing.

VLR Track: A Novel Track System to enable Sustainable and Affordable LRT Implementation. Chris Micaleff. WMG

  • The project is designated CVLR – “Coventry Vehicle Lightweight Railways” and the selected vehicle is the tram. The tram was selected as the greenest transport system, to reduce local emissions and to regenerate the city. The light weight is achieved by a combination of the materials used in the cabin structure, the battery power pack, and the design of the track.
  •  Interestingly, the absence of vehicle tyres significantly reduces urban pollution. It is estimated that tyre wear contributes over 300k tonnes of toxic particulates per year in USA and Europe. The cost of extending tramlines in, for example Birmingham and Manchester, is £70m per km. An estimate for extending a tram network in Coventry using conventional methods, was £100m per km. This project has a cost requirement of just £10m per km maximum.
  • The track cost for fabrication and laying is typically £2m per km, so a radical re-design is necessary. Rail height and rail foundations are critical.  The CVLR new design uses a shallow rail height and stronger but simplified foundations. Ultra-High-Performance Concrete (UHPC), reduces the slab height to just 10cm, greatly reducing the complexity and cost of the earthworks. New fasteners and caps are designed to join the rails.
  • CVLR’s route to market is to complete a 3km demonstration track in Coventry by 2023, with a tram car capacity of twenty people. If successful, Government approval is needed by Act of Parliament to install the complete tram network in the city.

Session 2: Automotive

Making Automotive Composites Circular. Jen Hill. B M Longworth

  • The company is family run and was founded 46 years ago. Formerly a component cleaning company using mainly ultrasonics technology, BML is now more correctly defined as an innovation company. Some years ago, they designed and installed new technology based on super-heated dry steam, “DEECOMP.” All materials can be cleaned in this manner, including plastics and composites. It became apparent that the technology was more than a cleaning process when it was realised that the materials removed were not waste, but valuable.
  • The core speciality of the DEECOMP process is the decompression phase which causes what was described as a “molecular explosion.”  Importantly, composites can be separated into fibre and resin, both of which are reusable. Carbon and glass fibres can be processed, and surprisingly, thermoset resins like epoxy, can be recovered, and be re-used, certainly for paint additives, and other lower grade applications, for which the ecological benefit is clear compared with new oil-based production of raw materials.
  • The recovered materials have very much the appearance of virgin material but should be considered as very valuable alternative materials. The recovered fibres behave and process similar to virgin fibres because the fibre is basically just cleaned, and no (resin) pyrolysis is involved. An illustration was shown of a filament wound hydrogen tank, the carbon fibre of which had been DEECOMP-processed, the fibre unwound onto spools, ready for rewinding.  Some discussion took place regarding whether the fibre size (processing aid) remained in place, or indeed whether the process can be adaptable in this respect – remove / retain.

The future of B M Longworth is not as “recyclers”; they will seek partners with composite fabricators with a large waste problem and sell technology. DEECOMP plant comes in sizes from tabletop to 3000 litres capacity.

Leveraging Biomimicry to Decrease Material Usage and Enhance Performance for Green Composites. Lorenzo Mencattelli. Helicoid Industries.

  • Man-made composites achieve high strength, high stiffness and low density, but suffer from poor impact tolerance. Shellfish and insect cases achieve tensile strength 10x that of their constituent parts and have by “design” high resistance to impact and crushing. These “helicoid” structures have chitin protein fibres aligned in consecutive layers, progressively twisted, at a shallow angle to the through-thickness axis.
  • Helicoid Industries are partners with sixteen universities in a $12m project to understand helicoid structures and adapt the knowledge to fabricated composites. A quasi-isotropic composite was compared with a helicoid layup, using the same fibre and resin systems. The latter had significantly lower impact damage and achieved the same load bearing at lower weight, offering savings in costly raw materials. The helicoid structure showed initial damage at +21% load and 5mm extension but continued to bear load to 20mm extension. Overall, the energy absorption was +57% compared with the QI layup.
  • It is expected that these helicoid structures could be adapted for AFP, although it may require up to a minimum of 10 layers to achieve the effect.
  • The second part of the presentation concerned hybrid structures using organic fibres. Glass fibre composites were compared with flax / glass hybrids. A hybrid structure of 50% / 50% gave +25% tensile strength compared with 100% glass fibres.
  • Potential applications for both of the above novel composites include aerospace (nacelle and flaps), (although qualification issues were not discussed here), battery enclosures, H2 storage tanks, and leading edge rotor blades for wind and rain erosion.

Session 3: New Mobility

Materials and Structures for eVTOL Aircraft. Will Tulloch. Vertical Aerospace.

  • Depending on the flight range, eVTOL aircraft are targeted at three markets: airport transit (25 to 50 miles), inter-city, and inter-island /tourism (60 – 100 miles). Vertical Aerospace was founded in 2016, and the first flight of the prototype VA-X1 was in 2018. Vertical Aerospace was then floated on the NY stock exchange in 2021.
  • Work is now focused on the VA-X4, specification: four passengers, 100 miles range minimum, fully battery-powered, vertical T/O and landing, maximum use of composite materials.  Staff numbers have grown from 70 to 200 to deliver certification by end 2024 and achieve growth to a build rate of 1500 aircraft per year capability.
  • Challenges are weight, cost, loads, and build rate.
    (i) Weight reduction is achieved by maximum utilisation of composites: fibre placement, 3D printing, thermoplastic resins.
    (ii) Cost is addressed by low-cost materials, automation, sustainability (renewable energy and re-cycling).
    (iii) Rate is addressed by design for manufacture, latest manufacturing processes, and collaborations with manufacturers.
  • Short-term needs are availability of parts, both metal and CFRP, and staff.

New Sustainable Propulsion Technologies. James Trevarthen and Emma Bryan. GE Dowty Propellers.

  • The main challenge in aerospace is to meet zero emissions by 2050. There are many means of minimising CO2 pollution:
    (i) sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)
    (ii) hydrogen direct burn
    (iii) hydrogen fuel cell
    (iv) hybrid and electric power packs.
    There is a demand for low noise propellers, which is achieved by greater energy efficiency, and hence lower fuel consumption.  High usage of composites achieves light weighting and enables complex structures. Additive manufacturing enables a further 50% reduction in component weight, more complex structures and reduced scrap.
  • Dowty is making a detailed study of Life Cycle Analysis regarding the sustainability of both parts and processes. LCA is used to drive R&D, in order to optimise design. Embodied carbon (per kg CO2) has been measured in each stage of the blade manufacturing process.
    The highest CO2 emission is embodied in procured raw materials (especially carbon fibre) at 2700 per kg CO2. Next highest (at approximately 75% of the raw materials) is for materials used specifically in the blade-making process per se. Third and equal, at approximately 50% of the raw materials emissions, are both the transportation and manufacturing process energy. Finally, re-cycling offers a negative CO2 emissions profile.
  • The highest embodied carbon material in the raw materials list is carbon fibre at 2250 kg CO2 per blade assembly (6 CF blades plus metal fittings). The blades comprise 60% of the embodied carbon in the complete propeller. This corresponds to an embedded carbon ratio of approximately 45:1 (45 kg CO2 emitted per kg CF produced). It was noted that there is a large range in quoted embodied energies for CF, 183-286 MJ/kg (depending on process efficiency and CF type).  RTM is also high in embodied carbon, but better than that offered by other prepreg moulding processes.
  • For volume production, automated composite manufacture is vital and a process beyond standard AFP is required. The aim is to reduce carbon waste by greater than 50%. The next challenge is to integrate the processes into a single line, and to fully introduce automated inspection.

Session 4: Aerospace

Opportunities for Tooling in the UK. Beene M’Membe. ATI

  • The purpose of ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute) is to assist the development of the UK aerospace industry. It endeavours to be financially self-sufficient by providing contract services, and then re-distributing the revenue received to support emerging ventures. ATI received less than £150k in direct (Government??) grants and distributed £129m in total to a list of 235 SME’s.
  • Amongst other activities, ATI organises Webinar networking meetings, bringing together clients and suppliers where there is technological synergy, and introducing companies who may benefit from formal working partnerships. The next webinar on joining is on 10th May 2022. ATI also publishes cutting edge periodicals, “Accelerating Ambition”, the latest 2022 edition on the topical subject of “Destination Zero.”  
  • ATI admit that tooling is not the most “glamorous” of subjects, but it is an important and neglected field. The aim is to increase the UK capability for tooling R&D, and to bring a supplier base here, as opposed to mainly overseas. Some challenges for improving UK tooling expertise are:
    (i) reducing lead time (ii) costs (iii) early engagement with suppliers (iv) refining business terms to win contracts (v) understanding the requirements for tooling interactions with factories (vi) support to develop innovation. ATI heavily funds developments in the latter area.
  • ATI is preparing a Tooling Directory of suppliers and facilities. Categories include type of tooling <10m and >10m, layup, auto cure, oven cure, press cure. Supplier availability is categorised as Green > 10 suppliers, Amber 5-10 suppliers, Red < 5 suppliers.
  • Priorities for tooling are: (i) the infrastructure and technology to enable large scale tooling developments (ii) advanced materials tooling (iii) multi-functional energy efficient tooling (iv) tooling for H2 tanks (v) advanced modelling and simulation capability for tooling. ATI funds post-TRL6 innovation.
  • The road map for tooling is (i) right first time (ii) reduce costs and lead time (iii) digital integration (iv) reducing environmental impact.

Low Power Curing of composites using Direct Electric Cure. Matthew Collinson. AMRC.

  • The energy embedded in various raw materials was compared:
Carbon fibre183-228
RTM process12
  • Lower energy is possible if CF can be replaced with bio-fibres, and epoxies can be replaced with thermoplastics or bio-resins. RTM is significantly less energy intensive than prepreg moulding.
  •  The NASTRO project has sixteen partners with AMRC as lead partner. Composites are made by Direct Electric Heating. In DEH, copper electrodes are attached at the ends of the layup and make contact with the conducting carbon fibres. An electric current is passed through the carbon fibre to generate heat, and a vacuum is applied. The insulating behaviour of the epoxy resin causes hot spots, where the current takes the path of least resistance, and this results in a degree of non-uniform cure. A plain weave CF fabric was used to replicate a typical commercial fabrication. Satisfactory results are obtained using a UD layup. It may be possible to use sacrificial UD layers on the faces to gain this benefit, even when using a bulk fabric reinforcement. The energy benefit is shown below:
CureEnergy (kWhr)
DEC self-cure0.38
small oven8.88
large oven420
  • Future work includes (i) scale up from lab to industrial (ii) complex components (iii) smaller re-usable electrodes (iv) zoned heating (v) better insulation (vi) low conductivity fibre / resin interface. Finally, an interesting video was shown of a large CFRP component during a de-icing process, using direct electric heating.

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Annual Seminar 2016: Breakthrough Technologies for Advanced Composites Manufacturing

Annual Seminar and SME Table Top Exhibition, 25 February 2016

The SAMPE UK & Ireland Chapter 2016 Seminar & SME Table Top Exhibition was held on Thursday 25 February at The National College for Teaching and Learning, University of Nottingham. This year we decided to feature “Breakthrough Technologies” for Advanced Composites manufacturing. These breakthrough advances do not occur overnight. Long term development programmes for materials and processes have resulted in methods and products offering high performance cost effective solutions.

This year the event was sponsored by TenCate Advanced Composites Ltd and supported by the University of Nottingham. The programme included presentations from key companies such as ACCIS, Eurocarbon, Fokker, GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce and sponsors TenCate Advanced Composites Ltd.

The seminar was well attended by around 100 delegates with 20 companies/institutions exhibiting. The full list of exhibitors is included our report.


Breakthrough Technologies for Advanced Composites Manufacturing, University of Nottingham, 2016.


by Geoff Gould, SAMPE UK and Ireland Chapter.


Thermoplastic Composites in Aerospace, Arnt Offringa, Fokker.

Advances in automated composite preforming by overbraiding technology, Stephen Voskamp, Eurocarbon.

Thermoplastic Composites; Innovation and Value Creation, Nick Tiffin, Tencate Advanced Composites.

Innovations in Composites at Rolls-Royce, James Lee, Rolls-Royce.

Automated layup of sheet prepreg, Michael Elkington, University of Bristol.

Disclaimer: the presentations and reports provided on this webpage are the copyright of the authors. They are provided here with the authors’ permission, and with the view that they would be helpful to members of SAMPE. The content of these reports is the responsibility of the respective authors alone, and SAMPE UK & Ireland takes no responsibility for any factual errors, omissions or content that might be deemed mistaken or misleading.

Annual Seminar 2017: Maximising Composite Value by Innovation

Annual Seminar and SME Table Top Exhibition, 23 February 2017


Maximising Composite Value by Innovation, Cranfield University, 2017.


by Geoff Gould, SAMPE UK and Ireland Chapter.


Solar impulse wings of the future, Richard Thommeret, Solvay.

Out-of-autoclave processing of advanced thermoplastics composites for space fuel tanks and launchers, Conchur O Bradaigh, University of Edinburgh.

Compression moulding with PtFS for automotive applications, Alasdair Ryder, Surface Generation.

Thermoplastic preforms manufactured by automated fibre replacement, Mattia Di Francesco, University of Bristol.

On Forward Composites, Paul Jackson, Forward Composites.

Disclaimer: the presentations and reports provided on this webpage are the copyright of the authors. They are provided here with the authors’ permission, and with the view that they would be helpful to members of SAMPE. The content of these reports is the responsibility of the respective authors alone, and SAMPE UK & Ireland takes no responsibility for any factual errors, omissions or content that might be deemed mistaken or misleading.

Annual Seminar 2018: Intelligent Composite Design and Manufacture, Nottingham

Annual Seminar and SME Table Top Exhibition, 7 February 2018

The SAMPE UK & Ireland Chapter Annual Seminar & SME Table Top Exhibition, was held on 7th February 2018, in Nottingham. The event was sponsored by Gearing Scientific and JR Technology in conjunction with DolphiTech. We acknowledge also the generous support of the University of Nottingham in whose new Advanced Manufacturing Building the event was held.

The programme, a summary review of the event and a number of the seminar presentations are provided below.


Intelligent Composite Design and Manufacture, Nottingham, 2018.

Review of Seminar

by Geoff Gould, SAMPE UK and Ireland Chapter.


Developments in composite drape simulation by the incorporation of AI techniques, Shashitha Kularatna and Carwyn Ward, University of Bristol.

From Scrap to Structure: Changing Perception of waste, Ross Key, Solvay.

PROSEL: An Online Design Tool for High Performance Composites Materials and Process Selection, Andrew Mills, Cranfield University.

Future-proofing UK Composite Manufacturing, Amit Visrolia, NCC.

The EPSRC Future Composites Research Hub, Andy Long, University of Nottingham.

Advanced Automated Tape Laying with Fibre Steering Capability Using Continuous Tow Shearing, Evangelos Zympeloudis, Paul Weaver, Kevin Potter and Byung Chul Kim, University of Bristol.

Disclaimer: the presentations and reports provided on this webpage are the copyright of the authors. They are provided here with the authors’ permission, and with the view that they would be helpful to members of SAMPE. The content of these reports is the responsibility of the respective authors alone, and SAMPE UK & Ireland takes no responsibility for any factual errors, omissions or content that might be deemed mistaken or misleading.

Membership Awards

The following people were awarded long service SAMPE membership pins:

Twenty Five Years: Andrew Mills

Fifteen Years: John Gearing

Ten Years: Paul Stacey

Five Years: David Scholfield; David Inston; Stefanos Giannis; Andrew Sharpe; Adrian Williams; Matthew Such.

Annual Seminar 2019: Sustaining Composites Growth in Adverse Environments

2019 Annual Seminar and SME Table Top Exhibition, 6 June 2019, Edinburgh


09:30 Welcome: Tim Wybrow, Chapter Chair.

09:35 Fabric reinforced thermoplastic composites – challenges and opportunities
Tim Swales, Johns Manville, Colorado, USA.

10:00 Thermoplastic Infusion and In-Situ Polymerisation
Edward McCarthy and Dipa Roy, University of Edinburgh.

10:25 Interfacial bonding in injection over-moulding of thermoplastic composite laminates
Ali Aravand, Queens University Belfast / Noel Bloomfield, Denroy Plastics Bangor, Co. Down.

10:50 Coffee Break

11:20 Highly loaded structures in the sub-sea environment – the challenges of designing tidal turbine blade
Robert Bray, SIMEC Atlantis Energy Ltd., Bristol.

11:45 Connecting Coating Properties to Rain Erosion Performance
Kirsten Dyer, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, Blyth.

12:10 Qualification approach of PVDF composites for high pressure CO2 applications in the Oil & Gas industry
Alexandre Paternoster (Airborne Oil and Gas) and Natalie Jordan (Solvay).

12:35 Development of novel fibre reinforced polymer composite laminate used in Oil & Gas metal pipe repair systems
Michail Kalloudis, Impact Solutions Ltd., Grangemouth.

13:00 Lunch including the Chapter AGM at 13:30.

14:30 Towards closing the loop on glass fibres recycled from end-of-life and waste GRP
James Thomason / Liu Yang, University of Strathclyde.

14:55 Towards stable failure of CFRPs using a bio-inspired crossed lamellar microstructure
Riikka Häsä, Imperial College London – Winner of the 2018 SAMPE Student Seminar.

15:20 Undertanding the Materials we use Through the Life of an Aircraft
Jonathan Oakes, Spirit AeroSystems.

15:55 Seminar Close

16:00 Afternoon refreshments

16:25 Optional visit to the Engineering facilities: University of Edinburgh

Seminar Sponsors

We are very grateful to our generous Seminar Sponsors: TenCate Advanced Composites; Johns Manville; Babcock; Oil & Gas Innovation Centre; Irish Composites Centre; Northern Ireland Advanced Engineering Competence Centre; Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, University of Strathclyde; and the University of Edinburgh.

Membership Awards

The following people were awarded long service SAMPE membership pins:

Forty Years: Maurice Cray

Thirty Five Years: Mike Commander, John Summerscales

Twenty Years: Jim Platts

Fifteen Years: Giuseppe Dell’ Anno, David Bacon, Lee Harper

Ten Years: Jerome Lafarge, Chris McHugh

Five Years: Frazer Barnes, Myriam Yagoubi, Oliver Gaite, Raul Garcia Tapia, Nasim Nagar, Nicholas Verge, Shuaijin Carreyette.

Image courtesy of Edinburgh First, used with permission.

AMRC Composite Centre Virtual Tour

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), hosted a virtual tour of its Composite Centre facilities on 12 May 2021. The event provided an overview of the state-of-the-art Composites Centre capabilities, combined with engineer engagement and a Q&A panel session. The hour long event provides insight into the recent investments in advanced composite processing technologies and enable the virtual visitors access to the world-class facility located in Sheffield. The tour took the attendees to three sites, including Factory of the Future, Foers Braiding and Factory 2050 Press facility.

Watch the recording of the tour:

Annual Seminar 2021: Progressing from the Pandemic – REVIEW

by Geoff Gould

SAMPE UK and Ireland Chapter, Annual Seminar and Tabletop Exhibition – Virtual 10th and 11th March 2021, Hosted by The University of Edinburgh

Due to the restrictions posed by the pandemic it was decided to go ahead as usual with our annual seminar, but in the form of a virtual event. Despite the new communications challenges, we are pleased to report that the seminar was a great success with over 120 registered delegates, 11 presentations and 10 tabletop exhibitors. Our special thanks go to our financial sponsors: Surface Generation, Bright Lite Structures, Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Magazine (M&MT), CNC Robotics Ltd and The University of Edinburgh (UoE). We acknowledge the important participation of all our tabletop exhibitors, the names of which are listed at the end of this report, and who provided pre-recorded short videos of their company’s activities, which were shown in breaks between the presentation sessions. Finally our thanks go to our SAMPE Events Team Sub-Committee headed by Conchúr O’Bradaigh (UoE) for organising the programme, and to Katrina Saridakis and Emily Martin (UoE, Research Institute Services) who provided and supervised the communications software platform which enabled the seamless interaction between delegates, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors.

1. Session 1: Wind Energy

  • Andrew is Senior Director of Manufacturing and Engineering leading a global team of 175 engineers. LMWP has 13 factories with a total of 13,000 staff, and has been manufacturing blades for 25 years. They have produced nearly 0.25 million blades in total, with 13 thousand blades in 2020, mitigating 250 million tonnes of CO2
  • The presentation highlighted the development of blade length from 7 metres to the current longest blade of 107 metres. Originally most wind turbines were on-shore but there is a shift to off-shore installations. The transport difficulties associated with the longest blades require a factory location close to the installation site, hence these factories are now at the coast.
  • There has been an exponential rise in blade length from 20m (1980) to 107m (2020). LMWP is a large user of composite materials with a typical annual consumption of: Reinforcements (130k Tonnes), Resins (95k T), Cores (150k m3). The challenge of blade length is not restricted to transport logistics. The moulds are massive and are completely automated regarding tape-laying positioning, adhesive bonding of joints and closure. An operator can walk up to 5km per shift, in say 15 inspections of the mould, from hub to tip. Blade-handling requires special equipment because the longest blades are heavy (nearly 50T) but they are also delicate. The fast turn-around time is approximately one blade per mould per week. Production rate is driven by the world’s escalating need for transition to zero-carbon energy.
  • For the future, increased tip speeds present a continuing design challenge. Longer blades require stiffer structures using H-glass fibres and carbon fibres in stiffness-critical parts of the blade, but never 100% CF due to cost. Further investment in advanced processes and automation is underway. Design life is of the order of 25 years but end-of-life issues aim for fully recyclable blades, with a probable greater use of thermoplastics.      
  • Shortly after the presentation GE Renewable Energy / LMWP announced publically that Teesside has been selected as the location for a new factory to build the 107m blades with the creation of 750 new direct jobs plus 1500 indirect jobs. We send our congratulations to LMWP.

2.  Session 1: Wind Energy

  • Peter is Chief Engineer for Energy at NCC Bristol with 13 years experience in composites R&D. Energy is a rapidly changing sector with the ambitious target for zero CO2 emissions.  NCC is part of 7 R&D centres focusing on pre-production applied R&D in the development range TRL 4-6. The “Horizon” energy project is a 10 years programme involving many industrial partners, including the fossil fuel giants, Shell and BP.
  • The presentation focused on three main areas: (1) Off-shore wind – Horizon 1 (work underway), (2) Pressure systems – Horizon 2, (3) Off-shore structures – Horizon 3 (10 years duration).
  • Work is underway to define the technologies needed for the manufacture of giant turbines with very long blades in excess of 100m. This wide-ranging project includes design, materials, smart blades, reducing manufacturing waste, and recycling. Right now, more waste is incurred in manufacture than is recovered in recycling.  
  • Giant turbines require proportionately large support structures which in turn require novel designs, including XL Floating Turbines, together with improved anti-corrosion properties for extended lifetime. To date thermo-set resins are used mainly, and NCC advises that these materials still have development potential. Thermoplastic resins show great promise and will facilitate end-of-life, but more work is needed to exploit. To continue the “green theme” NCC is looking at recycled carbon fibres but more confidence is needed in their variability.
  • Pressure systems comprise both cylinders and pipes and whilst originally the containment requirement was for hydrocarbon gas / fuel, development is needed for the transport of H2 and captured CO2. Off-shore H2 pipes need a hydrogen-resistant matrix with thermoplastic repair capabilities.
  • Success in the energy transition industry requires three prerequisites: (1) quantified sustainability (2) robust data and communication (3) mature and reliable delivery.

3Session 2: Sustainability

  • Dipa is a Senior Lecturer at UoE with 23 years’ experience in composites. Her presentation described two projects aimed at enhancing thermoplastic properties: (1) modified acrylic matrix (2) bi-component fibres.
  • Thermoplastics have many useful properties but high viscosity is a major drawback in fabrication. Work focused on ELIUM thermoplastic acrylic matrix which has a useful low viscosity but is amorphous and therefore has attendant poor properties: solvent resistance, creep, thermal mechanical instability and embrittlement.     
  • The effect of adding 5% polyphenylene ether (PPE) was examined .The solvent resistance is excellent using a soak test of 72 hours in acetone: Acrylic 28% weight loss; Modified Acrylic 2% weight loss. This excellent solvent resistance is due to molecular cross-linking with the PPE, which did NOT adversely affect either the thermo-formability /recyclability of the mixed resin, or the viscosity compared with the base-line pure acrylic.
  • The second part of the presentation summarised work on thermoplastic bi-component fibres, a project run in conjunction with I Comp, Limerick. Bi-component fibres were spun with a non-melting core (i.e. a higher and an easy-melting sheath. Polyester (PET) and polyolefins (PO) were studied as the core material, with a sheath of PPE. Composites were made from both 100% self-reinforced bi-component fibres and with added glass fibres: 18% GF / 32% PET core / 50% PPE sheath. An optimum level of composite strength, modulus and toughness is produced from an appropriate blend using conventional thermoplastic processing.

4. Session 2: Sustainability

  • Kevin has a strong automotive background in the luxury car sector (e.g. Aston Martin) and since moving to FAR-UK is involved with a broad range of automotive and aerospace projects. He stressed three prime inter-connected factors which underpin all sustainable composite applications:  (1) Made by Robots – i.e. don’t just consider automation (2) Led by Analysis – from initial design and onwards (3) Circular Economy – make the most of what resource we have.
  • The rapidly changing trend for vehicles is: Standard →Low Weight →Electric. It is important to recognise that in this trend towards a green environment, CO2 emissions often actually increase in manufacture, whereas in use they fall as expected. This is the equation to balance to achieve the required net effect; it is not just about choosing the “best” materials with the highest mechanical properties and operating temperature range. For materials, the factors to balance are Energy Use / Mechanical Performance / Cost. The true cost and environmental impact of a product is given by the total energy in lifetime. Here is where the “circular economy” is important.
  • Kevin advised that the “business model” is more important than Government legislation. The business model starts with the design – for extended use, re-use / re-manufacture, and recycling, with the latter as a last resort.

5. Session 3: Automotive

  • Tom is Head of Technology and Applications based in Durham, with an impressive background in automotive with Volvo, BMW and others. Gestamp is a Spanish company with manufacturing in 24 countries, 13 R&D centres, sales of €7.5 bn and 40,000 employees.  They make bodies, mechanisms and chassis. Their core business is steel and hot pressing, but they are also large users of aluminium. 
  • Gestamp has a 3-5 years project to address chassis development for electric vehicles, which includes composite materials. The chassis is a safety-critical structure in which stiffness, strength, durability all affect driveability and safety. These requirements are common to both I.C. engines and electric / battery cars. The battery adds from 250 to 600 kg to the weight of the car. Noise needs addressing – the engines are quieter, so the road noise increases (although composites will mitigate NVH).
  • The light-weighting project to reduce CO2 is in three areas: (1) Innovation and Design (2) Materials Selection (3) Design for Manufacture. Gestamp acknowledge that composites have made significant inroads into automotive design: Luxury Supercars → Luxury volume Cars → more Mainstream, but cost is a limiter to volume use. Composite chassis parts were shown made by compression moulding and over-moulding. Multi-structures and hybrid structures (steel / composite) were shown with 35% and 44% weight saving compared with 100% steel.
  • But the role of metal in bulk electric cars is far from over. Steel continues to give excellent weight / cost performance for volume cars and continues to be the majority material in the total market. Work on the sustainability of aluminium technology, metal corrosion resistance and manufacturing innovation continues in parallel with composites development.  Gestamp focus on whole life cost for the time when electric vehicles become standard at volume.     

6. Session 4: Transportation

  • Mark is Chief Operating Officer for Technology at Artemis. Originally engaged in aerospace, he has automotive experience with both road cars and racing cars with Williams F1. He joined Artemis full-time in Year 2020.
  • Maritime transport contributes 2.5% of total global emissions equivalent to 1000m tonnes CO2 per year. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) legislates that emissions must reduce by 50% by Year 2050. Maritime needs to catch up with aerospace and automotive.
  • Artemis is the lead in the Belfast Maritime Consortium Partners involving a £53m programme with 12 partners, with the aim of producing zero-emissions commercial vessels. The test-case is the first “autonomously controlled, fully submerged, electric hydrofoil” for service as a commercial ferry. (note, “fully submerged” means a ferry which spends all of its time in the water, as opposed to a conventional ferry which discharges, loads and parks on shore).
  • A video was shown of the Artemis eFoiler, a racing composite catamaran which incorporates a number of features used in the hydrofoil. A primary environmental advantage of a hydrofoil is that because it flies over the water, there is very low drag and increased engine performance resulting in up to 90% fuel saving. Since the vessel is lifted up, the use of lightweight composites is essential. The design is based on future-proofed technology and is easily scalable. Other advantages include: a comfortable ride (compared with a bouncing conventional ferry), no wake and hence no bank erosion, and zero emissions using a hydrogen fuel cell.
  • An 11 metre demonstrator will be complete by the end of 2021. Artemis has invested $250k in the project which will produce the first full-size vessel in 2025. The specification is: Length 25-40m; Weight 90-100 tonnes; Speed 35 knots.

7. Session 4: Transportation

  • Elspeth is a Research Fellow and has been at WMG for 10 years. This project grew from the acknowledgement of the sharp decline in the use of public transport, especially since the start of the pandemic, due to the general public’s perceived danger in exposure to the virus from touching much-used surfaces. The grab poles on buses were selected as a most appropriate focus for development.  Composites lend themselves to accommodating additives and have the added advantage of low weight.
  • WMG lead a team including Composite Braiding (Derby), Heath and Safety Executive (HSE), Transport Design international (TDI), and two bio-companies: Bio Cote and Promethean Particles. Braiding was selected as the best method for producing tubes in high volume.
  • Glass fibre / Nylon PA6 was selected for ease of manufacture, cost, and performance. Pre-impregnated tows are wound and then consolidated by rapid vario-thermal moulding. 
  • Two types of anti-microbial chemicals are being investigated. The first contains silver ions and is applied to the surface as a bio-coat. The second contains copper nano-particles which are mixed in with the paint.
  • The anti-microbial efficiency of the composites is being tested at HSE laboratories. The effectiveness against both bacteria and viruses will be tested; most expertise at HSE is with the former.

8. Session 5: Innovating – Part 1

  • Antony has a strong automotive background starting with March Engineering in1985, and later with McLaren and Bentley. He founded BLS in 2015.
  • The fabrication techniques used in earlier production successes with BMW, Zenos, aircraft seats and parts for trucks and buses were summarised. Essentially the breakthrough technology is how best to make a precise complex 3–D shape from a flat panel. The use of recycled short carbon fibres in the skins facilitates fibre slip and enables controlled 3-D contouring. The skins are typically on a PU core and a special spray head delivers up to 7 components including epoxy and PU resins, pigments and mould release agent.
  • This presentation focused on a recent development with Tesco supermarket delivery trucks. The component is the floor of the truck, and must be perfectly flat. Two fundamental criteria must be met: the maximum truck weight is 3.5 tonnes and therefore a standard driving licence can be used. A total of 39 prototype floors have been made, 4.2m x 2.2m. Some small metal fixtures are required and these are easily melt-bonded in to the core. Advantageous drip channels are inserted in the composite floor, which the metal floor does not possess. Robotic trimming and drilling is used.
  • The composite floors save a remarkable 60 kg weight. The trucks are weight-limited, not volume limited. Since the average shopping lot is just 6 kg the payload is greatly increased. Tesco has placed an order for 1500 floors during 2021. Right now the floors are stiffer than the chassis, and springs are used to control the chassis roll movement. The next floors will be thinner and therefore even lighter.

  9. Session 5: Innovating – Part 2

AFP Pre-forming for Improved Impact Tolerance. Rutger Kok, University of Edinburgh.

  • Rutger won 1st prize in the 2020 student seminar presentation (virtual) and was invited to present today. Second prize was awarded to Jasmine Bone, University of Surrey.
  • Out-of-plane impact damage (ID) often limits the increased use of composites, especially in aerospace. The three normal remedies: 3-D weaving, Z-pinning, stitching, are difficult to introduce and often reduce in-plane ID. Rutger introduced “Interlaced Composites” using Automated Fibre Placement (AFP).
  • In a multi-directional composite some of the mechanical benefits of the anisotropy do not fully translate. AFP is easily modified to leave gaps between the tows; then fibre layers in different orientations are introduced, before the gaps are then filled with 0° fibre, and then the process repeats. Quasi-isotropic and 0 /+60 / -60 lay-ups were studied. Interlacing had the desired effect with only a small reduction in strength, modulus and in-plane ID, which shows interlacing to be a much superior process to the three normal remedies.
  • Modelling of the lay-ups shows no easily identified repeating patterns, so care is taken to select a “typical” section of composite for testing. Numerical modelling was explained and the model was shown to be in good agreement with test results for strain effects, strain failure and mode of failure.

10. Session 6: Innovating – Part 2

  • Alasdair is a mechanical engineer formerly with Advanced Composites Group but for the past 5 years he has been a Director of SG, which has 25 employees. SG’s business is in making and selling process equipment for plastics and FRP for enhancing product performance. They service right across the different markets with predominantly export sales. Their special expertise is in localised and rapid thermal control.
  • The equipment comprises three parts: Control Panel; Tool Base; Zoned Tool Face. The latter is the only bespoke part, tailored to the geometry and nature of the component. The zoned, independently temperature controlled, tool face enables, for example, the uniform cure of a variable cross-section thermo-set part. In this presentation SG focused on the use of their technology in the uniform thermal control of thermoplastics, in both injection moulding (IM) and thermoplastic over-moulding (TPO).
  • AR explained the fabrication of an aerospace component using thermoplastic bulk moulding compound (BMC) in which the long chopped fibres offer a bridge in performance between IM and conventional compression moulding. There are two challenges to uniformity: the high resin viscosity (melt 350°C to 420°C) and the fact that the material is initially thermally insulating.  Localised thermal control mitigates these problems, facilitates mould- filling and elevates the properties of the composite.
  • A separate project was described to evaluate the effect in the TPO process of improved thermal control of melt temperature (and related pressure) on joint strength. Bindatex tapes were injection over-moulded by SG using three different tools: flat pack, spiral pack and joint pack, and the panels were tested at Nottingham University which showed the high integrity of the joint.
  • AR ended by describing current work on “wearable technology” which means, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). These products are used for a whole range of applications including the arts / design, electronic interactive games, and in the industrial market for on-the-job training. A huge growth in the combined market is forecast which demands thinner optics, reduced mass and very low warp. SG’s technology addresses these requirements very well, in addition to accommodating component complexity and scale-up. Thermo-sets will be used for prototyping and thermoplastics will be used for volume.

11. Session 6: Innovating – Part 2

  • David is a chemical engineer and is Head of Materials and Processing at Lilium GmbH which he co-founded in 2015 and which has 600 employees. His has an aerospace background including a former senior position with EPIC Aircraft in USA.
  • Lilium is addressing the challenges of a world increasingly urbanised, congested and polluted. Some 29% of emissions derive from transport. There is expected to be large growth in the need for green air travel. Having considered all options for aircraft type (fixed / rotary wing) and flight range, Lilium selected a short-haul regional fixed wing aircraft with electric / zero emissions power, low noise, and with the capability for vertical take-off and landing, i.e. eVTOL.
  •  A video was shown of a flying 5–seater prototype, range 300km, speed 300 km/hr. Conventional ailerons make the aircraft highly manoeuvrable. Safety is paramount, and successful design, rapid prototype development, and volume production rely on a number of key features: ease of inspection, which facilitates quality control, automation, and an established public data base. Automated processes, as currently used for automotive are envisaged.     


Sharp & Tappin / Compcut.             Langzauner.                                     Bindatex.

Composites UK.                                 Tygavac Advanced Materials.       LMAT.

Creative Composites.                        CCP Gransden.                                MSC Software.

M C Wright and Son.

Kindly sponsored by

Annual Seminar 2020: The Sky Is Not The Limit: Composites Technologies For Cross-Sector Applications

Annual Seminar and SME Table Top Exhibition, 13 February 2020

SAMPE UK & Ireland chapter organises an annual technical seminar, where a large number of industry professionals from OEMs, their Suppliers (T1, T2, materials etc.) as well as SMEs are present. There is an almost equal number of delegates and researchers from universities. The seminar, aligned to a particular theme, has 8-10 technical talks detailing the latest innovations and trends in various areas such as Composites Manufacturing Technology, Advances in Design Practices, Materials and Processes, Additive Manufacturing, Market Applications etc. In general, speakers have exemplary experience either in industry or in academia. The seminar also has a table-top exhibition to showcase novel, innovative products and services as well as student posters to highlight the latest academic research.