Following the fibre

Cygnet Texkimp will showcase its automation technologies at ICS
Cygnet Texkimp will showcase its automation technologies at ICS

Cygnet Texkimp will feature end-to-end fibre handling and downstream converting technologies at the International Composites Summit (ICS), taking place on September 6-7 2023, at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes.

ICS exhibitor Cygnet Texkimp will highlight how its full-lifecycle fibre handling and converting solutions are adding value to the composites industry by increasing processing speeds and production rates, optimising quality and weight of materials and parts, and delivering viable solutions to end-of-life challenges.

The composites technology specialist and custom machine builder will feature its full range of prepreg, coating, slitting, filament winding, creel, recycling, and automation and handling technologies, which are designed to handle and process composites fibres from bobbin to finished part for industries including aerospace and automotive.

“Our mission is to follow the fibre from package to finished part, identifying where we can add value and applying our handling expertise to get the best from the fibre at every stage,” explains Cygnet Texkimp CEO, Luke Vardy. “As a technology partner to the global composites market, we focus on how we can support our customers through the entire downstream converting process with novel techniques that push the boundaries of what has been achieved before.”

All about the fibre

The company’s journey to becoming one of the composites industry’s leading technology partners and most prominent innovators began almost 50 years ago when the Cheshire-based firm was created to manufacture creels for the traditional textile industry. In the 1980s, it went on to develop some of the first ever unrolling creels for early adopters of carbon fibre in the UK military sector and then for the emerging technical textiles market around the world. By the early 2000s, with three decades of fibre handling experience under its belt, the company began to broaden its focus to include downstream processing.

“Our business has evolved with the composites market,” says Vardy. “As a relatively small engineering business of 80 employees, we’re able to adapt quickly and work collaboratively, using our team’s exceptional technical skill to develop the solutions our customers need to secure competitive advantage in a demanding and fast-moving market.

“Our product range has grown considerably, particularly in the last 10 years, but our focus is always to design systems that handle and process the fibre or yarn with ultimate care and minimal contact, to eliminate the potential for damage and protect its integrity. That’s what we’ve always been about.”

Automatic creel loading and unloading solutions
Automatic creel loading and unloading solutions

As the world’s leading independent creel manufacturer, the company also saw the potential to improve the efficiency of its customers’ fibre handling activities using automation.

“We started to see a significant increase in the size of fibre bobbins we were being asked to design creels for, in both the traditional - geotextiles, carpets and flooring, tyre cord - and the composites industries.” explains Vardy. “Larger fibre packages contribute to a more efficient manufacturing operation because they require fewer changeovers, but of course they are harder to lift and manipulate, especially at height. We were being asked to accommodate bobbins weighing up to 350kg and measuring up to one metre in diameter in the design of our creels, and that made the need for automated handling greater than ever before.”

As well as automatic creel loading and unloading solutions, the company has developed systems to wrap, pack and palletise bobbins of fibre, RFID, barcoding and vision systems and AGV systems.

“Just like our fibre converting equipment, each of our automation solutions is designed to enhance the quality of the fibre or product and the efficiency with which it is processed, either by reducing physical handling or improving traceability and in-process checking.”

The move would prove hugely important, with automation and handling solutions now making up around a third of the company’s revenue annually.

Downstream innovation

Meanwhile, the company had also recognised a gap in the market for greater innovation in downstream processing, including the way in which carbon fibres are converted into prepreg and towpreg materials, slit into tapes and wound into parts.

“Many of these techniques have been around for decades with very little fundamental change in terms of design and performance. We felt that by bringing our fibre handling expertise into the downstream converting stage of the process, we could improve speed, efficiency, productivity and, crucially, quality.”

First came the launch of a thermoset prepreg processing line based on traditional, hot-melt techniques. The technology would become pivotal to the company’s new direction, leading to sales of more than 30 prepreg machines in the last decade and making the company one of the largest suppliers of thermoset prepreg technologies in the world.

More innovation followed with the 2021 launch of its Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Composite Line - the world’s first commercially available thermoplastic composite line capable of using standard polymer to create high-grade thermoplastic composite prepregs on an industrial scale. In Spring 2023, the company unveiled its Multi Roll Stack prepreg machine. The short-footprint, energy-efficient machine delivers significant savings in terms of capital investment, running costs and energy requirements when compared to conventional prepreg processing and has been shown to achieve high accuracy, low coat weight materials at market-leading rates.

Further downstream, the company’s high-precision slitter spooler rewinder is being used, predominantly in the aerospace and automotive industries, to slit and wind carbon fibre prepregs into high-accuracy tapes. Once again, the technology draws on Cygnet Texkimp’s experience in handling complex technical fibres to deliver slit tapes consistently and reliably with very minimal fraying, stringers, debris or scrappage and a level of precision that is second-to-none in the market.

More technologies to originate from Cygnet Texkimp’s stable include a series of filament winding solutions, from high-speed, multi-axis and 3D winding machines to its most recent innovation – a high-tension filament winding solution for the manufacture of high-speed e-motors and composite pressure vessels The technology is designed to place fibre at high tension in order to overwrap rotating parts, such as electric motors, providing them with greater dimensional stability at higher speeds by wrapping them in carbon fibre under high tension. This allows the final part to rotate more quickly without expanding and means that more power can be achieved from lighter parts.

Cygnet Texkimp’s ambition to offer a complete end-to-end portfolio of solutions was further realised in its partnership with engineering innovation company, Longworth which was brokered in 2021 and led to Cygnet Texkimp launching a composites recycling solution incorporating the DEECOM Pressolysis materials reclamation technology. Visitors to ICS can hear more about the technology and its aim to address the environmental impact of waste in the global composites manufacturing industry when product director, John Davidson presents an update on the technology at 12:00 on Thursday 7th September on the Centre Stage.

Bringing all these technologies together in one location has been a key project for Cygnet Texkimp, which culminated earlier this year in the opening of its Innovation Centre - a 15,000ft2 development, prototyping and testing space based at the company’s Cheshire headquarters, and equipped with £12 million of its technologies and a team of staff able to demonstrate their capabilities.

“In creating our Innovation Centre, our aim is to support the industrialisation of emerging composites manufacturing technologies, take the guesswork out of process qualifications, and reduce the inherent commercial risk associated with investment in large-scale capital equipment by demonstrating the capabilities of our equipment through secure and bespoke trial programmes,” says Vardy.


Cygnet Texkimp

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