National Composites Centre uses first fibre placement machine in the UK

Posted on 13 Mar 2012

The UK’s National Composites Centre (NCC) announced today the first use of its multi-million pound, twin headed, robotic, Automatic Fibre Placement (AFP) machine - the first of its kind in the country.

The machine was first used  by GKN and Airbus in a joint-led research programme focused on the next generation of super-efficient aircraft wings.

The new AFP machine offers many different UK industry sectors the opportunity to consistently and rapidly create more complex, double curved structures with composite materials.

This means the qualities of these materials – being light weight, high strength, flexibility and lack of corrosion – can for the first time be applied to structures such as high performance wing shapes and automotive parts.

NCC chief executive Peter Chivers talked of the benefits the new AFP machine offered: “This first project is an important illustration of the typical opportunity that the NCC provides. We are a great place for companies to work together accessing the latest equipment and drawing on the skills and knowledge of the NCC’s own team of highly qualified and experienced research engineers to add value to the member companies’ own specialist teams.”

Rich Oldfield, technical director at GKN Aerospace commented: “The effectiveness of rapid material deposition techniques such as this AFP technology will be critical if the UK is to lead in achieving the fast, accurate manufacturing turnaround necessary to meet escalating future market demand.”

Head of R&T Business Development and Partnerships for Airbus in the UK Colin Sirett said: “With an order backlog of over 4,400 aircraft and a projected growth of air travel demand of 45% over the next 10 years, research into high volume and low cost manufacturing is essential for Airbus to meet the future market needs.

“As part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres, the NCC provides a powerful partner to develop the necessary technologies,” he added.