Quickstep Advances with New European Showcase Centre

10 March 2006

Australian advanced materials group Quickstep has signed a key partnership agreement with the University of Manchester, UK for the showcasing of the Company’s technology to European customers.

The agreement enables the creation of the first of several planned strategic international ‘Open Sites’ to demonstrate Quickstep’s technology. Sites are also planned for North America and other strategic international locations.

The establishment of the European Quickstep Centre of Excellence is consistent with Quickstep’s strategic plan to commercialise its unique composite manufacturing technology through in-market demonstrations and prototype manufacture.

Quickstep claim that they have the ability to reduce the processing time of enhanced quality composite materials, favourably disposing it to target customers within the aerospace, automotive and industrial manufacturing sectors.

The UK centre will be housed at the new Northwest Composites Centre (NWCC) at the University of Manchester and will permit interested potential customers to evaluate the process in a low cost, low risk scenario near their existing facilities before committing to full production equipment and licensing contracts.

The agreement with the University of Manchester consists of cash and in-kind contributions by UOM and Quickstep totalling £1.5M ($A3.5M, $US2.6M) during the initial 3 year period. Quickstep’s cash contributions over the 3 years will total £250,000 covering the supply of commercial and technical staff, as well as process equipment. the University of Manchester will provide floor space, technician and overhead support as well as access to the University’s extensive laboratories for testing and analysis of composite materials and structures. Further administrative and marketing support will be provided by the Northern Aerospace Technology Exploitation Centre (NATEC), also based in Manchester.

Quickstep Managing Director Nick Noble said the new centre represented another important milestone in the commercialisation of the Quickstep process. Mr Noble also said that the location in Europe meant that some the world’s biggest aero and auto manufacturing companies, who have expressed very strong interest in Quickstep, are now in close proximity.

“In the past two years, both Boeing and Airbus have announced new aircraft with significantly higher carbon fibre content,” said Mr Noble. “This creates a sizable opportunity for the introduction of a low cost, low investment process for manufacturing composite components. In addition, the European market leads the industry in the use of carbon fibre in sports cars. Quickstep allows them to reach higher volumes than the current autoclave processes. The establishment of this centre, staffed with a Quickstep-employed manager, provides European customers a convenient facility to ‘try before they buy’. The capability the Centre brings is critical to large manufacturers, particularly in the aerospace industry, as it breaks down the significant barriers to the lengthy trialling evaluations necessary to obtain full manufacturing approval.”

Quickstep has appointed Tom Cairnduff to head the operations at the Quickstep Centre. Mr. Cairnduff a 25-year veteran of the aerospace composites industry, with significant experience in the aerospace industry including at Bombardier Shorts (Northern Ireland) and CTRM (Malaysia). A graduate of Ulster University, he also has an extensive background and certifications in nondestructive testing of composites and six-sigma operations.

A fully automated Quickstep pilot plant has been operating at the University of Manchester since early 2005, performing material evaluation and sample aerospace panel fabrication studies under an agreement between Quickstep, NATEC and BAE Systems Aerostructures. The existing QS5 machine has now been formally transferred into the European Quickstep Centre of Excellence.

Northwest Composites Centre Director Dr Richard Day said he was delighted to host the Quickstep Centre at Manchester.

“The Quickstep process fits our mission to demonstrate and bring to fruition cost effective, low energy, low cycle time composite manufacturing processes,” said Dr Day.

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