Supporting UK Composites

Tooling Identified as Key Development Area

Tooling at Formaplex

Tooling has been identified as one of the key areas for the development of the UK composites supply chain, initially through the Composites Leadership Forum (CLF) Automotive groups’ work with the Automotive Council on light-weighting and more recently through the CLF Aerospace group’s work with the Aerospace Technology Institute.  

As the desire to adopt composite materials increases, suppliers face mounting pressure to deliver at higher volumes with increased speed and quality, reduced failure rates and at an increasingly lower cost. Whilst materials cost is a key factor for any given component, the tooling process can make a significant impact.  This could be down to shortening tooling design and development processes, the life of the tool, production cycle times, integrated assurance, new tooling materials, reduced rejection rates and increased automation to name but a few.

As a result, on the 22nd August the CLF, supported by the GTMA, Composites UK and the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol, hosted a one-day workshop exploring the opportunities in next generation tooling for the composites industry.

The event attracted over 100 attendees including composite component manufacturers representing both automotive and aerospace applications, along with government, academia and a significant presence from the tooling industry.  The workshop certainly attracted a number of new attendees, particularly in the tooling industry, which was a welcome addition.

The day provided a great opportunity for the industry to represent current technologies and future applications as well as provide an environment for networking.  However, the main focus was to identify areas of opportunity for the composite tooling industry in future growth markets and consider potential consortia and funding routes to secure these positions to develop the UK supply chain.  Ideally, the end result will be to secure a unique position in the global market to attract inward investment and grow UK exports.

Following an initial fact-finding workshop three key areas of interest were identified and then discussed in more detail:

  • Additive manufacturing in tool development and production
    • Large scale tooling
    • New / alternative materials
    • Robustness
    • Managing coefficient of thermal expansion
  • Smart tooling
    • Integrated heat / cool abilities
    • Quality assurance / sensor integration
    • Reduced cycle times
  • “Tooling for Composites” cluster
    • Guidance and best practice
    • Support programme
    • UK capabilities resource
    • Collaborations and development programmes
    • Building the supply chain

Going forward the CLF will work with the NCC and the GTMA to pull together both companies and experts in the relevant fields to develop each of these themes.  For more information or to register your interest please contact clf@compositesuk.co.uk.

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