The never-ending march of technology

The University of Manchester in the UK has launched a new $3.6m centre for research into new composite design and manufacture to find new low-cost ways to make aerospace parts. The technology created will be applicable in Formula 1. The Northwest Composites Centre, a joint venture between the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster and Bolton, will be one of only four establishments in the world using the new Australian-developed Quickstep technology, which creates composite parts using heated liquids rather than the conventional autoclave manufacturing processes. The laminate is compacted by the liquid and trapped air and gas is forced out using vibration. The idea has been developed by the Graham family in Perth in the course of the last 10 years and means that mass production of composite materials is much easier and quicker than with traditional techniques. Work that previously took 24 hours can now be done in less than half an hour and moulds are cheaper. In addition the curing process can be stopped at any point and so new forms of joints and bonds can be created.

There are currently only four production facilities in the world: in Perth, at the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing in Geelong near Melbourne, at Toyota Motor in Nagoya, Japan, and in Manchester. In order to expand production of the machinery Quickstep was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange last September and is now preparing to market the system around the world.

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