In a Q&A session, Composites Evolution’s CEO, Gordon Bishop explains how the company is helping its customers seize the opportunities presented by a rapidly growing global composites sector.
One company leading the way in the supply of innovative, sustainable materials to the composites industry is Composites Evolution. Established in 2009, the Chesterfield-based company manufactures and supplies component and tooling prepregs, including its Evopreg EPC epoxy component prepregs and its Evopreg EPT epoxy tooling prepregs. A flexible approach allows the company to offer short lead-times and low minimum order quantities, whilst decades of combined expertise ensure that in-depth technical support is on-hand.
Q) Can you provide any examples where your products have shone above and beyond those of similar competitor offerings?
Our Evopreg EPC component prepreg was used on the Curv AMR-C01 Aston Martin Luxury Home Racing Simulator. To achieve the high-quality surface finish demanded by Curv, Supernatural-x chose to use our Evopreg EPC300 resin system, in combination with 205 and 245g/m² twill fabrics, for a high-quality visual carbon aesthetic.
When used in conjunction with our 650g/m² bulking plies, Supernatural-x was able to achieve a blemish free surface finish straight from the mould. The bucket seat from the simulator was displayed at Advanced Engineering 2021 where it attracted lots of positive attention.
Composites Evolution has unrivalled experience in the development and production of natural fibre prepregs and sustainable composites and have worked closely with Bcomp to combine our high-performance Evopreg resin systems and natural fibre prepregging expertise with their award-winning ampliTex range of flax reinforcements. The result is an exciting new range of Evopreg ampliTex flax-epoxy prepregs, which offer outstanding performance for component and tooling applications.
We’re also seeing an increasing interest in sustainable materials across all sectors - especially in the automotive and motorsport sectors last year. Sustainability is an increasingly important factor for many of our customers – particularly those involved in motorsports and high-performance automotive applications. As you’d expect in these sectors though, sustainability can’t come at the expense of performance – the two must go hand-in-hand. This is something that other prepreggers can struggle with, as natural fibres behave very differently to carbon or glass, for example. At Composites Evolution, we have over ten years’ experience in the development and production of natural fibre prepregs, and that shows in the quality of our materials.
Working together with Bcomp, we can offer an unrivalled package of technical expertise and application know-how. We draw upon this to help customers understand the strengths and weaknesses of natural fibre composites, and to show where and how they can be adopted without the need for significant changes to existing composite component production processes.
Some examples of natural fibres in motorsport applications include a Ginetta GT4 rear wing and supercar bonnet, manufactured by Retrac. Another market showing growth is for coloured flax for use in premium, bespoke and customisable parts within the automotive sector.
Finally, an area where we believe sets us apart from the competition, is our expertise, technical support and ability to be flexible and produce bespoke solutions - or rapidly produce standard materials for immediate last-minute orders.
Q) How much customer hand-holding is involved in your product sales process?
We work closely with our customers to enable them to get the best possible results from our materials. Our technical support team has years of experience in the production of high-quality parts using a variety of processes and is always on-hand to provide assistance. Some customers have a wealth of knowledge and will know exactly what they want, needing only minimal technical support, while others who are maybe making the transition to from more traditional materials or even from carbon-epoxy prepregs to more sustainable composites like our Evopreg ampliTex will require a more hands-on approach.
Q) Which industries are you seeing the most take-up for your products and services?
We see the automotive and motorsport sectors as key customers due to the constant requirement for lightweighting along with a growing interest in sustainability. The electrification of transport clearly presents a huge opportunity, and our Evopreg PFC bio-based fire-retardant prepregs are already being used here for the production of battery enclosures. There are opportunities within aerospace for fire-resistant interiors, but we’re also seeing a rise in general industrial applications and non-industrial decorative items.
Q) What industry accreditations do you hold in order to supply into the various sectors?
We have been ISO 9001:2015 certified for over three years; this gives our customers the confidence that our production, R&D, quality and service level procedures are of the highest standard. Our continued certification demonstrates our commitment to supply the highest quality prepregs to the composites industry. Our ethos of continuous improvement pushes us forward each and every day at all levels within the company.
Q) Is there a concern that less well-developed countries can push unqualified materials into the supply chain?
There is always a concern that lower-grade materials will enter the supply chain. However, the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ usually applies. Our prepregs are the highest quality and are backed up by ISO 9001:2015 procedures and extensive technical support.
Q) Price, delivery and on-time delivery are all givens, but what else do you see as important to serving your customers these days?
A flexible and agile approach to customer requirements is key. Having the ability to adjust production schedules to meet demand and rapidly manufacture, quality assure, despatch and deliver materials allows us to be responsive to our customers’ requirements.
Q) Finally, what differentiates your company from the competition?
Our position in the market as an up-and-coming supplier allows us to be flexible on delivery and responsive to demand. Coupled with our extensive in-house technical support we are committed to helping our customers seize the opportunities presented by the growth of the global composites sector.