14 May 2004
14 May 2004
Sunseeker International manufactures some of the world's most prestigious marine craft using a range of composite manufacturing techniques.
Composite plastics are used for the majority of the structures ranging from small components such as doors and hatch covers to hulls and decks in excess of 30 metres.
Many of the smaller more complex structures have been produced using open lay-up techniques requiring a disproportionate labour content to achieve the necessary high structural and cosmetic standards.
Over the last year Composite Integration Ltd has worked closely with Sunseeker to implement and equip a dedicated production facility specifically to manufacture these components ‘in house’ using closed moulding processes.
Light-weight vacuum RTM was chosen as the most suitable method in order that tooling costs could be kept to a minimum and mould handling problems minimised.
Many of the products required have a foam sandwich construction and include cores and inserts to accept additional hardware. Light RTM is particularly good at tolerating such complex laminate structures with the minimum of tool complexity. The primary advantage, however, is the practicality of manufacturing mouldings with two cosmetically acceptable moulded surfaces without expensive and time consuming re-work.
Sunseeker manufactured suitable patterns from which tooling was produced by Composite Integration at their factory in Saltash. Technicians from Sunseeker were trained in the use of the tooling, equipment and materials enabling efficient production to commence shortly after delivery.
As well as supplying design assistance, tooling and process training, Composite Integration also assisted with materials selection and supplied equipment including injection valves, vacuum accessories and a complete two-stage vacuum system necessary for this type of processing. The vacuum system comprised a high flow 650 litre/min rotary vane vacuum pump producing a vacuum level of 100mbar abs for peripheral clamping and a regulated level for cavity vacuum adjustable from atmosphere to 100mbar abs.
As a result of the move to closed moulding, Sunseeker have realised improvements in product quality and significant reductions in product costs resulting in rapid payback times for investment in equipment.
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A team of engineers at the University of Delaware (UD) is developing next-generation smart textiles by creating flexible carbon nanotube composite coatings on a wide range of fibres, including cotton, nylon and wool.