Composites

– a priority growth area

The GTMA Composite Supply Chain Network is currently involved in these key sectors:

  • Automotive
  • Rail
  • Marine
  • Aerospace
  • Wind Energy

But an even greater number of sectors, products and applications can benefit from composites which has grown in importance across all sectors in recent years. Fibreglass was first used by the low volume automotive industry and marine because of the ease of manufacture and its low cost. Then, when carbon fibre came on the scene, Formula 1 motor car manufacturers were quick to take up the process because of its lightness and tremendous strength.

Today most of the current aircraft manufacturers in both civil and defence incorporate composites in their design, because of the significant weight savings and thereby better fuel efficiency and increase in range.

Several GTMA members have grasped the opportunities that this increase in the use of composites has given, often meaning they can move into new sectors, such as wind generation, rail, and even fashion items, because of the aesthetic appearance of composite. Other members are involved in the design and manufacture of composite layup tools and are addressing the challenges in drilling, trimming and machining composites.

In many applications the high-strength to weight ratio of composites and speed of installation makes them ideal for use in structures such as bridges. Network Rail, the Highways Agency and London Underground have all benefited from the fast, simple and low cost installation of composite materials in infrastructure projects. The strength and stiffness of advanced composites makes them ideal for the production of the new generation of wind turbines.

Development work by Bentley has clearly shown that by using composites the weight of the main structural component can be reduced by 60%. Making reductions in vehicle emissions of up to 30% expected by 2015. (source UK Composites Strategy). £390 million industry – and 15% pa growth According to BIS (Department for Business Innovation and Skills), the composite industry is turning over in access of £390m and employing more than 18,000 people, and has been growing at an average of 15% p.a. Since 2000. This is expected to continue for the next 5years at least.

The launch of the NCC (National Composite Centre) based in Bristol with £16m of Government funding to research ways composite structures can be produced cost effectively and quickly, will endorse the importance that the Government places on the composite industry.

The new Apprenticeship programme will make a significant contribution towards remedying the shortage of skilled technicians. The composite sector will be benefit from the additional 35,000 additional advanced apprenticeships available for 19-30 year olds over the next two years.

There will be additional challenges and opportunities when composite products reach the end of their working life. Several companies are removing resin from composite components thereby allowing the carbon fibre to be recycled.

If you would like to join one or more of our Sector Networks, and to be part of their Engineering Supply Chains, please contact GTMA:
+44 (0) 121 392 8994 | admin@gtma.co.uk

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