A cavalcade of composites technology

The latest products, processes and services can all be found at Composites Engineering 2022 held at the NEC on November 2-3 as part of Advanced Engineering UK. Composites in Manufacturing previews some of this year’s exhibitors.

We begin our roundup with fibre processing and converting machinery manufacturer, Cygnet Texkimp (Stand T142). The company specialises in the design and manufacture of downstream processing equipment including filament winding, prepreg, coating and slitting machines. Its high-tension winding solution is the latest development in its filament winding product range which also includes high-speed, multi-axis and 3D winding machines.

Cygnet Texkimp: Filament winding and recycling solutions
Cygnet Texkimp: Filament winding and recycling solutions

Visitors will be able to find out more about the company’s approach to winding fibre at extremely high tension to create composite parts that perform well under intense forces, such as pressure, speed and rotation.

The company will also showcase the fibre reclaiming and recycling solution, DEECOM, which it is developing specifically for the composites market. DEECOM is an innovative technology that uses superheated steam to reclaim composite fibres and resins from wound parts and offers the potential for them to be reused in the manufacture of new parts.

Celebrating 40 years of innovation, PRF Composite Materials (stand V150) will be launching new products, announcing new projects and showcasing its class-leading range of advanced composite materials this year.

PRF: Q.tool innovation
PRF: Q.tool innovation

On the stand, PRF will be showcasing its Q.tool carbon tooling technology (UK patent pending). Selected to be in this year’s Innovation Gallery, Q.tool is a newly designed tooling technology which is said to significantly reduce the time and costs of carbon tool manufacture. Using PRF’s RP800 epoxy tooling prepreg system, the combination of Q.tool’s surface and 1020g/m² bulk plies provides the same weight and thickness as a 1:8:1 system, and offer significant advantages against a 1:5:1 system: up to 50% reduction in labour time; reduced number of debulks to as few as one; improved sustainability and cost savings, with reduced use of plastic consumables, and exceptional drapeability and surface finish.

PRF is also launching a new product at the show: RP570 FR eXpress cure epoxy prepreg system. Formulated for structural components requiring FST properties, RP570 FR is a fire-retardant ultra-fast prepreg system which is cured and demouldable after five minutes at 160°C. This express resin system is principally designed for snap cure press moulding. However, it can equally be used in conventional autoclave moulding and significantly reduces time in the autoclave – up to 50% less – thereby increasing autoclave capacity.

Elsewhere, Connect 2 Cleanrooms (C2C) look forward to exhibiting its range of modular cleanroom solutions on (stand K112). C2C will demonstrate how organisations can convert parts of their existing facilities into classified clean environments.

Its custom-built ISO cleanrooms create controlled manufacturing conditions, facilitating the production of a reliable and consistent product that is predictable in performance. Working to the latest BIM standards, each cleanroom build is project-managed with enhanced levels of coordination, through clash detection and prefabrication.

C2C: Clean room design and build
C2C: Clean room design and build

As an integrated cleanroom services provider, C2C’s consumables and equipment division will also attend the event. Cleanroomshop will be showcasing its range of cleaning and gowning products, such as mopping systems and particle counters, to demonstrate how effective appropriate cleaning protocols can control contamination.

Moving on, Maka (stand R116) will launch its new DC-7H 5-axis CNC at the show. The DC-7H has been developed in response to customers’ demand for a more compact 5-axis machine, with improved ergonomics for the operator, higher speed and efficiency, improved dust protection and higher precision. Maka has created the DC-7H heavy-duty 5-axis CNC featuring a large vertical turnover table, driven by large trunnion-like rotary drives, and two spindles.

Precision and repeatability with these vertical tables is as high as achieved with traditional horizontal tables. Key objectives have been achieved, including: a smaller footprint; increased capacity; faster table changes; increased throughput; improved ergonomics; faster setting and improved dust and waste management.

Maka: More compact 5-axis machining
Maka: More compact 5-axis machining

Maka says machining composites vertically enables dust to be contained and extracted better. Waste can fall into the collector below the table. Additionally, the machine is easier to keep clean and loading is quicker. Being vertical, the DC-7H also provides the potential for robotic loading.

The new machine requires less floor space. Production costs are also reduced without compromising precision, stability, quality or reliability. The heavy-duty DC-7H is designed to maintain precision and quality, and manufacturing resilience long-term.

The DC-7H can machine composite mouldings on five sides, and internally, with a 5-axis 3D usable capacity of either 2,000 or 2,600 x 600 x 400mm.

Along with the faster table change, cycle times can be slashed by using two spindles simultaneously on the same component. The spindles can operate very closely, undertaking different operations at the same time. Tooling and maintenance costs are minimal too.

The finishing touch

Elsewhere, Mirka UK will bring innovative automation to the show on (stand X140) with its robotics line-up, including a range of sanding heads. These products provide automated process solutions that allow customers to manage large volumes efficiently and cost-effectively, while ensuring a consistent high-quality finish and a significant reduction in abrasive usage.

Mirka: Robotic abrasive development
Mirka: Robotic abrasive development

The robotic sanding heads have a compact design that makes it ideal for confined spaces, detail work and sanding of small areas where deflashing or deburring is required. The tool can be fitted to low payload robot arms and comes with a standardised ISO 9409-1-80-6-M8 flange that can also be customised with an adapter.

In addition, the robotic sanding heads can also be adapted to work with universal collaborative robots using a special UR installation kit that includes the Mirka tool, the motor drive cabinet, cabling and the required UR adaptor flange.

Complementing the robotic sanding heads will be Mirka’s two battery-operated cordless polishers: the AROP-B 312NV, with its 3-inch/77mm pad and 12mm orbit non-vacuum tool, and the ARP-B 300NV, with its 3-inch/77mm pad and 0mm orbit non-vacuum device.

The polishers operate at high torque which is critical for polishing effectively. They also have a locking and limiting variable speed trigger on the on/off switch managing the rpm range. This enables the user to control the speed during the polishing process and avoids the risk of burning the surface.

CompoTech: Innovative carbon composite machine tool and automation solutions
CompoTech: Innovative carbon composite machine tool and automation solutions

Alongside the tools on display will be Mirka’s latest abrasive, Mirka Galaxy. This new abrasive has the ability to handle sanding both soft and hard materials as well as various substrates that are prevalent across multiple sectors. It is also the first abrasive to use Mirka’s innovative Multifit hole configuration, which utilises optimal hole placement to allow the largest amount of dust extraction without sacrificing sanding performance. 

CompoTech PLUS (stand N102) develops carbon composite automated process technologies and components. The company applies fresh thinking to finding innovative structural design solutions to improve performance and productivity. In addition to supplying custom made fabricated components, customers are able to use its innovative process technologies under licence, supplied and installed by CompoTech as a complete automated system, with full service and support. 

Successful projects being showcased will include a new design heavy parts handling industrial robot arm manipulator, designed with high strength ILT joint bushings that connect the CFRP wound tubular arm sections. A carbon composite-metal hybrid milling disc tool, which improves machining time by 78% and a carbon epoxy composite tubular telescopic mast system. This versatile, high strength telescopic design is currently used in a marine mast for a concept inflatable wing sail and for mobile police surveillance vehicles.

Head of business development, Dr Humphrey Carter will give a presentation during the show covering the opportunities and advantages for carbon composites in machine tools and industrials applications.

Testing times ahead

Next up is Shimadzu (stand F140), a leading Japanese company involved in the manufacture of precision analytical instrumentation.

Shimadzu: Testing technology
Shimadzu: Testing technology

Born from a rich history in engineering and innovation through extensive investment in R&D, Shimadzu UK will share its knowledge and experience at the show this year. Its specialists will be available to discuss the latest developments in the material testing field, including Shimadzu’s ultra-high cycle fatigue testing machine. The company’s other solutions also include universal testing frames, micro hardness testers, FTIR, UV and EDX spectrometers, high speed video cameras and balances. The Shimadzu team is looking forward to discussing a broad range of applications from a wide array of industries, and how its solutions can prove of benefit.

Fluency (stand W152), the leading marketing and communications experts for the advanced materials and advanced engineering sectors, will promote its services in digital marketing, brand development, press and social media management, along with design services including photography, video, and website creation.

Fluency Marketing: Industry communication
Fluency Marketing: Industry communication

In addition, the company will also offer event services including pop-up stand design, along with larger booth design and build, as well as promotional opportunities such as speaker presentations.

Attending alongside fellow partners of the industry, the company provides support and growth to new start-ups as well as leading brands within the advanced materials and advanced engineering sectors.

Over 300 innovative companies across the Midlands are receiving a funding boost to help new ideas take off thanks to Aerospace Unlocking Potential (UP), a £20m programme designed to help smaller companies develop new technologies and solutions.

The only way is up

The Aerospace UP team will be on the joint Midlands Aerospace Alliance and University of Nottingham stand (N150) with a selection of pioneering companies that are benefiting from the programme, showing how technologies and solutions being developed by the supply chain have the potential to revolutionise the industry.

Aerospace UP: Unlocking innovation funding
Aerospace UP: Unlocking innovation funding

Midlands companies operating in aerospace, planning to enter the sector, or expand into other advanced industries can also discover if they are eligible for funding and expert support from Aerospace UP at the show. Expert support packages cover sustainability, digitalisation, aerospace certification, market opportunities and more.

This year, working with its partner company United Aerospace, CMS (stand V116)

will be showcasing its Kreator large format additive manufacturing system (LFAM). A hybrid machining centre built on its Ares platform, the Kreator permits not only 5-axis CNC machining but also facilitates 45° and 90° printing and warrants the use of many different kinds of materials. Typical applications for this type of system include autoclave-ready tooling, vacuum fixtures, prototype parts and assembly fixtures.

In the same aisle, Zund UK (stand V110) will showcase its Heat-Sealing Module (HSM), a new tool that has been specifically developed to process thermoplastic composites.

Zund: Clean cut composites
Zund: Clean cut composites

Traditionally, when processing thermoplastic composites, the loose fibres are free to move and fray, producing weak and irregular edges. This can cause significant contamination of the production cutting environment. There is also great difficulty in handling cut parts due to the risk of distorting the position of the fibres.

The HSM is a revolutionary tool that has been developed to help process dry fibre composites. It seals the edge of the cut components, massively facilitating the stable handling of parts throughout the process, whilst avoiding cross contamination due to loose fibres and avoids distortion within the handling process, helping to facilitate automation.

With over three decades of global experience, Mikrosam (stand T152) says its engineered-to-order equipment gives high ROI in filament winding, automated fibre and tape placement, prepregs and towpregs, slitting and rewinding and automated lines for pressure vessels. 

The company offers filament winding turnkey solutions for customers and delivers leading automated lines for LPG, CNG, hydrogen and other high-pressure vessels, with capacity of more than one million per year.

Mikrosam’s new generation of filament winding equipment in development has achieved winding speeds exceeding 5m/s with very high fibre tension to produce high-quality tanks in the future.

Belotti (stand W162) will use the show to discuss its latest customer success story, with two new Belotti VEGA 6032 series 5-axis machining centres installed at Aerotron Composites.

Belotti: Stellar CNC machine tools
Belotti: Stellar CNC machine tools

The VEGA CNC machining centres are the result of Belotti’s experience in the production of 5-axis machines for carbon fibre and aluminium milling, designed to meet the production needs of model makers and manufacturers of composite components.

VEGA Series models have a dynamically rigid structure that is ideal for offering a combination of long-term performance, short processing times, flexibility, high quality surface finish, and rigidity. The combination of these assets led Aerotron Composites to purchase Belotti machining centres, configured and accessorised to meet the company's high technical specifications and production needs.

Stability, adherence to strict tolerances, machining accuracy, and temperature control were the demands made by Aerotron Composite for machining helicopter blades from carbon fibre or composite material in general.

Moving on, Compcut, the specialist division designing and developing solutions powered by Sharp & Tappin (stand W150), is returning for its tenth year to the show.

Sharp & Tappin’s PCR 300 router
Sharp & Tappin’s PCR 300 router

Compcut returns to showcase Advanced Composite Saws (ACS) and Precision Composite Routers (PCR). Two machines will be running throughout the two-day event: the Compcut ACS 300 and the PCR 300.

ACS machines are the flagship of Compcut’s cutting solutions, and the ACS 300 continues its legacy with capabilities of precise and diverse cutting within a 300 x 300mm panel space. The exhibit will showcase the PCR 300 as a broad utility that is safe and simple to use, alongside providing fast and precise machining.

Compcut asks those that wish to see them in action to bring a composite material to test at the event. The Compcut Challenge pre-invites visitors to the event to witness a live demonstration on their own materials, to see first-hand the capabilities of the machines’ cut quality and accuracy.

Finally, Matrix Composite Materials Company (stand X150) will once again be exhibiting at the show - and this year it will be celebrating 25 years as a materials supplier. Matrix has partnered with Sicomin since the very start, stocking most of its range of laminating, infusion and hot-press epoxy systems.

Over the years Matrix added a large range of reinforcements in glass and carbon, and in 2021 became an official Hexcel reinforcements distributor. Another large step change came in 2016, when Matrix started working with Armacell and its PET products, and in 2018 it became the sole UK distribution of ArmaPET foams, which are produced from 100% post-consumer recycled water bottles.

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