Wednesday, April 27, 2016

News: Latest AMRC project on composite production

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A European research project involving experts from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, has led to new technologies and techniques being used in composite production.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham and a partner in the HVM Catapult (the government's strategic initiative that aims to revitalise the manufacturing industry), the AMRC focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It is a partnership between industry and academia, which has become a model for research centres worldwide.

Nine companies from five countries and four research organisations from different countries, took part in the REFORM project, funded by the European 7th Framework Factory of the Future Programme and sparked by the increasing use of fibre-reinforced composites to replace metals in the transport and construction industries.

The project has cut the energy used in some processes by more than 50% reduced production costs by more than 45 per cent and increased recycling of some consumables and raw materials to around 95%.

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Composites are being used in the aerospace and other transport sectors to reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel efficiency, while the combination of strength and light weight they offer has led to increasing use in the construction of structures like bridges.

However, the manufacturing and assembly processes used to make composite structures are not always as environmentally friendly as they might be and the potential for recycling composites has been limited.

REFORM co-ordinator, Dr Rosemary Gault, from the AMRC, said: "REFORM focused on four areas – forming, machining, assembly and recycling – to make sure gains made in one area did not lead to waste and inefficiency elsewhere.

"The project has created a series of new technologies and techniques that are ready to be introduced by industry and could make a significant contribution to cutting the cost and environmental impact of the growing use of composites."

A state-of-the-art facility allows the AMRC Composite Centre to provide a full range of design, manufacturing, assembly and structural testing services for advanced composite materials.

Laser-assisted tape lay-up systems with advanced control are now being made available to composite manufacturers, water jet machining has been tailored to composites and modular, light weight, reconfigurable composite fixturing and tooling has been developed.

As a result of the research, it is now possible to recycle scrap material and turn it into boards that can be used to make parts, new tooling, replacements for fixtures and for any application where flat boards and assemblies are required.

Meanwhile, work on methods for recycling laminates and fibres succeeded in producing material using up to 80% less energy at about a fifth of the cost of virgin fibre.

AMRC website

Images: AMRC

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