Do we need very large composites capability?

Posted on 13 Jun 2014 by The Manufacturer

BIS has asked the National Composites Centre and Southampton University to investigate the need for manufacturing capability in very large composite structures in the UK.

The National Composites Centre (NCC) and Southampton University will investigate the potential demand for very large composite structures – upwards of 50m dimensions – in the oil & gas, construction, rail, energy and marine sectors.

The automotive and aerospace sectors are relatively mature in exploring the benefits of composite materials for lightweighting, durability and because the materials have novel, multifunctional characteristics. Together, these qualities offer lower through life cost than conventional materials.

However, composite structures for automotive and aerospace tend to be much smaller than industries such as marine and oil & gas might require.

NCC and Southampton University propose to form a satelite research hub with the remit of identifying the equipment and skills needed for very large composites manufacturing. This hub would be located in Bristol, near to the existing composites expertise at the NCC.

NCC and Southampton University will call for industry input into this hub and assess industry appetite for supporting government investment this area.

Industry partners will be able to shape the design and specification of the building, the equipment and scope the skills needed in the staff base. They will also be asked to guide research themes.

The need for this investigation was pushed forward to government by the Composites Leadership Forum as part of its work to deliver an update on the 2009 Composites Strategy.

A recent report led by Rear Admiral Bob Stevens titled Transforming the Solent, also urged government to consider the potential of very large composites to boost UK industrial competitiveness.

The composites industry is growing globally at an estimated 6.6% pa and will be worth $35bn in 2019, according to