Making your concept a reality

CIMApr17filament - mcclean1
CIMApr17filament - mcclean1

Composites in Manufacturing hears how customers can have the opportunity to test wind their products at McClean Anderson’s onsite lab and how the filament winding process can be used for many products: from small fuses to rocket boosters!


Should you utilise composites in manufacturing your product? If you can benefit from higher strength and lower weight products, then filament winding may just be the solution you’re looking for. Filament winding is a fabrication technique where continuous filament or tow, is wound onto a rotating mandrel in a predetermined pattern.

“Unique to McClean Anderson, we provide our customers the exceptional opportunity to ‘prove out their product’ in our onsite technology lab,” begins McClean Anderson’s vice-president of operations, Yvonne Kell. “We literally let you make your concept a reality. When your process requirements have been determined, we custom build your filament winding equipment to your specific needs.”

The advanced filament winding system specialist, builds filament winding machines and auxiliary equipment that it guarantees will stand the test of time. The company’s proprietary software package – SimWind pattern development software and Flexwind machine control – enables a seamless flow from pattern development to machine control, whilst the Windows-based software is user-friendly and intuitive.

When it comes to the types of performance demands placed on McClean Anderson, Kell says that their customers have grown to expect excellent after sales support, fast production speeds, up-time, and personal, as well as online assistance. Unsurprisingly, she feels that composite material products are rapidly gaining ground as preferred materials for construction of military and aerospace products.

“Composite use as primary structural materials in recent years in cutting edge aerospace projects worldwide has secured acceptance as prime materials for aerospace vehicles and so much more. You can filament wind parts as small as a fuse and as large as a rocket. The key benefits with filament winding are that it produces extremely high strength, low weight products when compared to traditional all-metal designed structures.”

It’s what’s inside that counts

Being fairly new to this manufacturing technology, Composites in Manufacturing is interested to know what happens to the mandrel? Can it be left in, in some cases, or is it a disposable core normally used?

“This depends on the application,” Kell explains. “In the case of a tube or cylinder, the mandrel is often coated with a release agent and removed after the part is cured. In the case of a pressure vessel or tank, the mandrel is captured by the winding process and becomes a structural component of the finished part.”

With increasing demands for faster and more efficient production rates, plus the reduction of the more manual layup processes, how much consideration is McClean Anderson giving to the implementation and use of automation?

“We’re constantly working with customers to streamline this process,” she states. “Customer feedback is a very important to making these improvements, whether it be a simple ergonomic improvement or an integration into a fully-automated manufacturing line.”

And along a similar theme, increasingly more companies are placing an importance on the advent of Industry 4.0 and ‘smart tools’. Perhaps McClean Anderson’s SimWind next generation fibre pattern development software for Flexwind control can offer some key productivity benefits?

“SimWind is our proprietary pattern development software,” Kell confirms. “Using a Windows-based operating system to provide the user with a simple yet powerful tool for creating filament winding programs, SimWind contains modules that guide even the most novice user through the pattern creation process. More advanced users will benefit from SimWind’s graphical simulation capabilities and program manipulation features.”

In terms of the main focus areas of McClean Anderson’s current R&D efforts, Kell says the company provides custom built filament winding equipment, auxiliary equipment and laboratory services for companies interested in R&D activities. Indeed, it has several programmes going on from training on general filament winding to assisting material suppliers and customers with new product development.

So, is the manufacturing sector an easy one in which to do business and keep pace with changing trends, pricing and new legislations?

“The current manufacturing industry is a very competitive one,” states Kell. “We’re always working to provide our customers with the highest quality product at the most competitive price. This dedication to our customers has established McClean Anderson as one of the elite names in filament winding equipment. Our Prototype, Education and Technology (PET) Centre is devoted to R&D work and consumer education, and is the essential tool we utilise to keep us at the cutting edge of technology.

“However, the most important asset is our people. They provide the knowledge for innovation and competition. Experience and technology do play a role, but without a dedicated, ambitious staff, experience and technology will not get you far. Having ambitious and hardworking employees is what keeps us competitive and relevant in today’s fast-paced market.”

Rotating and innovating

Has Kell any thoughts on the rise of additive manufacturing (3D printing) and whether the company is concerned that competing technologies may surpass filament winding?

“The mechanical properties of a filament wound part are nearly impossible to duplicate with any other process,” she explains. “As technology advances, the products that require the advanced mechanical properties will only grow. 3D printing actually helps us, as we can use this technology to make mandrels.”

Looking to the future of filament winding machine developments, Kell points to an increase in automation and universal machining.

“We use Kaizen and continuous improvement tools to streamline our internal processes. This has helped to boost our productivity and reduce lead-times. Advancements in the components selected for our machines has helped increase overall machine reliability, while reducing machine downtime.”

It’s time to wind up the story, so in summary, what differentiates McClean Anderson from the competition and why should a customer use the company over its nearest rival?

“Each customer is unique and important to our team,” Kell concludes. “There are no cookie cutter processes. This is why we offer the onsite technology lab that allows the customer to wind a prototype - so we build a totally customised system. Our customers have the peace of mind that their investment in our equipment is the right choice for their company. With 56 years of experience, we can provide the service each customer requires.

“The build quality and components used on our machines are second to none. This, combined with our machines customisation, software and customer support have kept McClean Anderson at the top of the list for filament winding equipment.”

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