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Manchester Composites Facility will Boost Aerospace Industry

20 May 2009

A new £8.2m Composites Certification and Evaluation Centre has been announced at The University of Manchester.

The facility will be part of the Northwest Composites Centre, which was launched in 2006 to carry out cutting edge research into composite materials for aerospace composite design and manufacture to be used in the construction of lighter, more fuel efficient aircraft.

The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is to invest £4.7 million in a new facility to support companies in the aerospace supply chain. It will be supported by £2.5 million of academic commitment and resources from the University. The remainder of the funding will come from the private sector.

The facility has been recognised by the National Composites Network as filling a gap in UK infrastructure.

It will provide expertise and evaluation techniques to support companies of all sizes in the development of new composite products and manufacturing processes. It will also provide companies with an evidence base to demonstrate the quality of their products to improve their chances of winning orders and increasing product sales.

There is a current move within the region’s major aerospace companies to require suppliers to provide supporting evidence of product capability, rather than carrying out acceptance tests themselves on delivery.

However, a study of the region’s capabilities and opportunities in composites, compiled by the Northwest Aerospace Alliance in 2006, identified access to testing and evaluation support as a critical bottleneck to the invention of new composite products and the successful winning of orders.

This facility is intended to address this through providing data regarding composite quality to improve the success rate of regional companies winning contracts, designing data and ‘rules’ to facilitate the development of new products and providing data to certify the quality of composite parts, processes or repair strategies.

Professor Paul Hogg, Executive Director of the Northwest Composites Centre and Professor of Composite Materials, said: “The creation of the Composites Certification and Evaluation Facility provides a unique combination of world class test and evaluation facilities with the intellectual support of a world class university research base.

“Local companies will now be able to enjoy an unrivalled service generating basic data and advice on composite materials that will support design, materials selection, manufacturing and repair strategies and aerospace qualification. This will in turn allow companies to be creative in their use and selection of composites, securing their position in an increasingly competitive global industry on the basis of quality and innovation.”

Mark Hughes, NWDA Executive Director of Economic Development, said: “Aerospace is a priority growth sector for the Northwest, with over 800 aerospace companies based in the region that contribute £7 billion a year to the Northwest economy. This project, which supports the objectives of the Northwest Science Strategy, will assist aerospace supply chain companies in developing new products and speed up the testing and evaluation process, placing them in a stronger position to win new business.”






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