Rail, Aerospace and Automotive Industries Unite in Composites Research

05 July 2004

The final conference of the COMPOSIT thematic network took place earlier this week in Bristol, UK, to present research findings on the future use of composites in transport.

The partners of the COMPOSIT consortium presented the overall findings of the project in relation to the aerospace, automotive and rail industries, with leading experts from industry and academia sharing their strategic visions for the future use of composite materials in the transport sectors.

The conference was preceded by a tour of Airbus’ facilities which included a tour of their composites processing and testing centre in Filton, Bristol.

The COMPOSIT consortium was headed by four partners, each representing one of the industrial sectors with a vested interest in the project: NewRail for the rail industry, EADS Deutschland for the aerospace industry, Centro Ricerche Fiat for the automotive industry, and SICOMP for the composites industry. Six additional members provided further specialist technical input: D’Appolonia, IKV, INEGI and the Universities of Leuven, Newcastle and Zaragoza

The research was based on the findings from 10 workshops held throughout 2002 and 2003, with each workshop addressing a specific theme or issue relating to the use of composites in transport, including repair, design, crashworthiness and manufacturing, amongst others..

The workshops identified issues of common interest and future research needs were highlighted and prioritised. Centres of excellence that could act as focal points to address these research needs were also identified. In this way, research “clusters” were developed for each workshop theme, thus providing a roadmap for future research direction.

Three industry specific reports, one for each of the aerospace, automotive and rail industries, have also been prepared from the collated findings of the workshops. These reports will be published on the NetComposites site shortly, with further details available in next week’s NetComposites News.

The main emphasis of the conference in Bristol was on the technical barriers that need to be overcome in order to promote the more widespread use of composites in transport, and the identification of the associated research priorities for the future.

The conference also included an “ask the audience” style interactive digital voting session which encouraged the 120 delegates - who represented a healthy mixture from across the composites and transport sectors - to vote on questions specific to the research themes.

Of the research areas identified by COMPOSIT, design and simulation tools and new manufacturing technologies were two areas regarded by the audience as being critical for increasing the use of composites in transport.

Over the next twenty years, the audience regarded the main drivers for the specification of composites in transport applications to be mainly focused upon component cost reduction and reducing vehicle energy consumption and emissions.

Three areas were identified as being the most significant barriers to the more widespread adoption of composites in transport. These were the lack of adequate design and simulation tools, material costs and a lack of training in composite design and manufacturing.

Results showed that vehicle manufacturers were regarded as being the industry grouping that have the leading role to play in increasing the use of composite materials in the three transport sectors.

Advanced textile technologies and nanotechnologies were regarded to be the two main emerging composite technologies expected to make a significant impact over the next 10-20 years.

Joe Carruthers, project co-ordinator, said that the conference was a resounding success and thanked all the participators and speakers involved in the research project over the previous 2 years.

The whole aim of the research was to identify areas that needed more research and guide future projects towards resolving or addressing these areas.

Carruthers hopes that the research findings presented in the reports will be taken into consideration for future research in transport: “The COMPOSIT Thematic Network succeeded in that it united different sectors of the transport industry, and we hope that the project is a catalyst to promote co-operation between the transport sectors in the future”.

The project highlighted the need for information and research to be shared between sectors not least to prevent duplication of efforts in research. “The next step is to ensure that future research on composites in transport is geared towards advancing the issues we have highlighted”.

The COMPOSIT Thematic Network wishes to acknowledge the support provided by the European Commission.

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