Cygnet Texkimp Celebrates 50 Years Of Innovation In Fibre Handling And Processing Technology

Composites technology company and custom machine builder Cygnet Texkimp is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The company (originally named Texkimp) was founded in 1974 in Cheshire, UK, by eminent textile engineer Colin Smith and his wife Janet, to manufacture fibre unwinding equipment – creels – for the traditional textile and technical fibre industries.

It went on to become the leading independent creel manufacturer in the world – a position it still holds today – and, in the last five decades, has expanded its portfolio to include a full life cycle of solutions for the composites and technical fibre industries including prepreg, coating, slitting, filament winding, automation, and end-of-life recycling solutions.

“From the very beginning, our work has always been innovative and ambitious,” says Cygnet Texkimp CEO Luke Vardy.

“Without exception, our intention has been to engineer the best technical solutions in the world; to be courageous in our work; to try new and novel ways of doing things in the belief that we can achieve better results for our customers, more efficiently, more accurately, and more reliably than ever before.

“The technical excellence and entrepreneurial instinct shown by our founders and their colleagues 50 years ago are still fundamental to our culture and our approach to engineering today.”

In the early 2000s, a steady increase in the size and weight of fibre bobbins the company was being asked to accommodate into its creel designs meant that existing handling technologies were no longer practical. Unable to find the handling equipment it needed in the market, the company set about designing its own. The move would prove to be a key milestone in the company’s evolution. As well as automatic creel loading and unloading solutions, Cygnet Texkimp has gone on to develop systems to wrap, pack and palletise bobbins of fibre, radiofrequency identification (RFID), barcoding, vision and data capture capability, robotics, and auto guided vehicle (AGV) systems. It has been a hugely successful venture, with automation and handling solutions now making up around a third of the company’s revenue annually.

During the 2009 global recession and a slowdown in the market for large capital equipment, the company worked with a long-term US customer to develop an improved solution to process carbon fibre prepregs. This would be the first of over 30 prepreg processing machines it has delivered in the last 15 years and would herald the birth of a dedicated wide-web engineering team which has been responsible for developing new and unique solutions for coating, slitting, and laminating, as well as prepreg.
Over the next ten years, the company continued to strengthen its position in the fibre processing market with a series of ground-breaking new products providing previously unreachable capability.

Technology highlights
• In 2017, as a result of a successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Manchester, the company unveiled its 3D or Nine-Axis Winder, a robotic 3D winding machine capable of creating complex composite parts.
• 2021 brought the launch of its high-precision Slitter Spooler machine, which is used predominantly in the aerospace and automotive industries to slit and wind carbon fibre prepregs into high-accuracy tapes.
• In the same year, the company unveiled 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.
• Also in 2021, Cygnet Texkimp joined forces with fellow engineering company Longworth to bring to market Longworth’s DEECOM® recycling solution specifically for the composites industry. In 2022 the company unveiled its innovative materials reclaiming and recycling solution to address the environmental impact of waste in global composites, featuring DEECOM®. The solution de-manufactures end-of-life composite materials and parts using pressurised steam in a process called Pressolysis to separate and reclaim constituent elements including high-quality carbon fibre for reuse in the manufacture of new composites or in other industries.
• 2022 also saw the launch of the Multi Axis Winder, a high-speed, large-scale winding machine designed to wind large, continuous, and curved parts for the aerospace industry.
• In early 2023, the company’s state-of-the-art Innovation Centre was officially opened at its UK headquarters in Cheshire, offering a place where customers and partners can witness the true scale and capability of its machines through hands-on trials and the opportunity to develop processes with the support of its expert team.
• Also in 2023, the Multi Roll Stack was introduced as a short-footprint, energy-efficient prepreg processing machine designed to deliver significant savings in terms of capital investment, running costs and energy requirements.

Commitment to collaboration
“The breadth of new and highly innovative technologies we’ve brought to market in the last decade reflects the success of our ongoing programme of collaborative partnerships and our focus on developing solutions driven by market need,” explains Luke Vardy.

“Collaborative partnerships have led to us carving a niche in the high-tension winding market for EV motors and creating a fully automated system to manufacture large volumes of hydrogen pressure vessels at rate, supporting moves by global governments towards zero-emission policies for transport.”

A vision for the future
“With more technologies currently in development and more partnerships set to be announced in the coming months, we’re excited about what our future looks like. But we also want to make sure we grow at a rate that allows us to remain innovative and responsive to the evolving needs of our valued customers, many of which have worked with us for several years, and to continue developing the tailored solutions they require to secure competitive advantage in a demanding and fast-moving market.

“We recognise that our success over the last 50 years has only been possible because of the trust and commitment of our customers and partners and the hard work and dedication of every member of our skilled team, from those who have devoted entire careers to our company, to those who are just starting out here. I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has worked with us over the last 50 years for helping to make us the company we are today.”

Cygnet Texkimp will host a reception to celebrate its 50th anniversary at JEC World, Paris, on Wednesday 6 March 12:00 to 14:00 at Hall 5 Booth L85.