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Composites Industry News

News for 21 January 2008


QinetiQ helps Deliver Operational Capability Improvements to the UK Sea King Mk4 Fleet

21st January 2008 0 comments

QinetiQ, in a partnership with the MOD’s Joint Test and Evaluation Group (known as ATEC – Aircraft Test & Evaluation Centre), has successfully completed a 12-month, £5.25m Carson blades project to increase the capability of the Royal Navy Sea King HC Mk 4 helicopter. The work, carried out for the Sea King Integrated Project Team (SK IPT) in support of an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR), now enables the Sea King HC Mk 4 to be deployed in support of Operation HERIC in Afghanistan – providing much needed capability. The main rotor blades on the aircraft have been replaced by modified Carson composite blades (produced by Carson Helicopter inc) and the tail rotor was replaced by an AgustaWestland 5‑bladed tail rotor system. A rigorous and intensive series of performance evaluation and flight testing was then conducted by ATEC using a QinetiQ-owned Sea King test aircraft. These confirmed initial predictions that the new system generates up to 2000lb increase in maximum hover mass at high altitude plus enable a significant increase in the maximum forward speed. Carson blades first came to the MOD’s attention six years ago during a Sea King maintenance symposium and the SK IPT was keen to investigate the technology further, but funding and other operational commitments did not immediately allow the idea to be developed. Some time later however, the MOD had to look at extending the life and capability of its current medium lift Sea King and Puma helicopters. Funding was made available to investigate Carson’s claims of increased performance and QinetiQ was tasked with conducting a feasibility study. The results confirmed that Carson blades were indeed a cost effective upgrade that delivered real performance improvements, so the MOD moved to bring them into service quickly for use in operational theatres. The project was formally declared as an UOR on the 21st December 2006 and the SK IPT immediately selected QinetiQ to act as the prime contractor responsible for integrating both modifications. The demanding trials programme developed by QinetiQ focused on delivering specific capability enhancements in a staged release and due to the extremely tight timescales QinetiQ used one of its own Sea King trials aircraft for the test programme. This aircraft (XZ575) was extensively instrumented in a short timeframe and deployed via RAF C17 to Gunnisan, Colorado in the USA for an exhaustive flight test programme that maximised the ‘hot and high’ conditions at the trials site. Both Carson Helicopters and AgustaWestland, supported QinetiQ and ATEC throughout and both phases of the service modification and all supporting documentation were delivered on 10th October 2007. “Within the MOD, the Carson blades programme is recognised as being demanding with regard to the short timescales involved and there has been a lot of admiration for the way that QinetiQ has tackled the programme and the amount of hours and effort that have been put in,” commented Lt Cdr Dave Maude from the SK IPT. “Looking from the outside, the amount of work that individuals have put in and their dedication is incredible.” Lt Cdr Maude went on to praise the work of the design instrumentation and manufacture team and squadron engineering. When asked about QinetiQ’s working relationship with other organisations involved in the programme, he stated: “QinetiQ has attained a good working relationship with AgustaWestland and also with the SK IPT, the Combined Helicopter Force (CHF) and Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), who have been involved in all aspects of the programme.” The delivery of the service modification was made just in time to allow 846 Naval Air Squadron to conduct operational training in Cyprus with the newly modified aircraft. At a briefing given to the SK IPT, CINCFLEET, JHC and CHF shortly after the Cyprus deployment Cdr Mario Carretta (CO 846 NAS) confirmed hover performance was found to have increased by 2000lb and a forward speed increase of up to 49 knots had been demonstrated. Cdr Carretta concluded by stating that “846 NAS was eager to deploy the new capability.”

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Sicomp Changes Name

21st January 2008 0 comments

On 01 January Sicomp AB changed its name on 1 January 2008 to Swerea Sicomp AB to further mark the close collaboration within the Swerea group. In connection with their change of name they also have implemented a new graphic profile with a new logotype. Swerea Sicomp has been part of the Swerea Group since 2005, together with Swerea IVF, Swerea KIMAB and Swerea Swecast. All companies have now changed name and graphic profile. Within the Swerea Group, Swerea Sicomp has the responsibility for research and development of composite materials. This includes for example material science, mechanics, process development, testing and education.

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High Modulus to Engineer the Largest all-Composite Motor Yacht

21st January 2008 0 comments

High Modulus has begun the structural engineering design of the largest all-composite motor yacht ever built. The 186ft (57m) vessel will be a vacuum-infused production motor yacht, and will be the first composite motor yacht to break the 500 gross ton threshold. These exciting ‘firsts’ are the work of Christensen Shipyards, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. Christensen have been building fibreglass motor yachts between 47m – 50m (157ft-164ft) for over 20 years, and this new Custom 186 Series will offer similar features to the Custom 160 Series. Despite all Christensen boats to date having been built in Vancouver, these impressive 186ft yachts will be constructed in a brand new, purpose-designed facility on a lakefront in Tennessee. High Modulus is part of an international team that has been brought together to develop this landmark project. The company’s role is to develop all composite structural specifications, and to work with the yard and other consultants to ensure the challenging objectives are met. In particular, High Modulus will liaise with Flag and Class officers, as well as noise and vibration consultants, to deliver a yacht that meets noise and class requirements within a high-performance yet practical structural solution. Tooling will start in early 2008 and the first boat, for current Christensen yacht owner John Rosatti, is due to launch in 2011.

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Quickstep Commences Aircraft Parts Manufacturing at Australian Headquarters

21st January 2008 0 comments

Quickstep has started aircraft parts manufacturing at its Australian headquarters located in Fremantle, Western Australia. Quickstep said that, while specific details of the manufacturing contract are confidential, they have responsibility for all aspects of the production engineering, tooling, manufacture and inspection of the composite aircraft components. It is expected that the parts will be certificated by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in the first half of the 2008 calendar year, and will be installed and flying shortly afterward. The parts will be manufactured using AGATE qualified carbon/epoxy materials from Toray Composites (America) Inc. and Rohacell foam cores from Evonik Röhm GmbH. Quickstep’s Managing Director, Mr Nick Noble, said the commencement of aircraft parts manufacturing in Australia was a watershed event for the Company. “Our Fremantle headquarters are being re-engineered into a world-class aerospace manufacturing facility and we are now officially open for business – representing a major achievement for the Company,” he said. “It has necessarily been a lengthy procedure to prepare Quickstep for aerospace manufacturing, so we are delighted to have our first production contract underway in Australia, and will now look towards further enhancing our Fremantle facility to build a full scale aerospace manufacturing operation before the end of 2008.” As part of the Company’s efforts to prepare the Fremantle site for aerospace parts manufacturing, Quickstep has utilised part of the funds raised through the $17 million ($AU) capital raising completed in November 2007, to purchase a range of new state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment that they hope will position the site as a world-class aerospace manufacturing facility. The hub of the Fremantle site’s capability is a new CATIA Computer Aided Design (CAD) system, which allows direct data transfer to and from customers, and which has been fully integrated into Quickstep’s production engineering and inspection systems. The CATIA system is used by aerospace giants including Boeing, Airbus and Eurocopter, as well as many automotive companies. In addition, a Leica Laser Tracker was delivered to the facility last week from Switzerland, providing Quickstep with the latest technology to measure and inspect patterns, tooling and manufactured parts and compare them against the CAD master geometry. A number of additional items are currently on order, including three autoclaves, a Breton five axis machining centre, and a range of other smaller pieces of plant and equipment. The autoclaves will be used to complement the Quickstep Process, and will include two 10m long x 3m diameter vessels used for manufacturing a combination of carbon composite tooling and production parts. A smaller 5m long x 2.4m diameter unit will be used to manufacture specialised silicon diaphragms for the Quickstep Process and advanced composite manufacture. The autoclaves are due to be delivered in June 2008. The Breton five axis machining centre will have a working envelope of 4.5m x 2.5m x 1.5m, and is believed to be one of the most accurate of its kind in Western Australia. It will enable in-house manufacture of patterns and tooling vital to composite manufacture and provide the capability to machine highly complex geometries demanded by aerospace and automotive applications. This machine will be delivered to Quickstep in the third quarter of 2008. “This new machinery will cement Quickstep’s Fremantle headquarters as a fully equipped, world class aerospace manufacturing centre,” Mr Noble said.

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Private Plus Fund, Heicop and Management Take Over Lightweight Structures BV

21st January 2008 0 comments

The investment funds Private Plus Fund and Heicop, together with the management team, has acquired all shares in Lightweight Structures B.V. from TNO Bedrijven B.V.. Lightweight Structures specialises in developing, engineering and producing composite structures. It concentrates on markets where weight-savings is an important criterion in addition to durability, safety and performance. The company has years of experience. Lightweight Structures, then still called Centrum voor Lichtgewicht Constructies, saw the light of day in 1996. This cooperative association between TNO and Delft University of Technology became independent as a company with TNO Bedrijven as its sole shareholder in 2005. Aldert Verheus, Lightweight Structures CEO, says: “With the accession of Private Plus Fund and Heicop we can be sure of two well-endowed parties who will support our growth strategy. We want to pursue our strategy through acquisitions, amongst other things, in order thereby to make optimum use of opportunities we see in the worldwide market for composite structures. We particularly have expansion of engineering into production in mind here””. Patrick Polak, Managing Partner of Private Plus Fund, says: “Lightweight structures based on composites are for many operators a solution to improving performance, cost-saving and reducing emissions. We feel that these three aspects can only increase in importance together with the trend in prices for fossil fuels and the increasing importance of socially responsible trading. We therefore see every opportunity for value creation””.

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NIAR to Gain Research Space at New Jabara Training Centre

21st January 2008 0 comments

Sedgwick County recently approved a $54 million bond issue for a new National centre for Aviation Training at Jabara Airport in Wichita., which will house additional space for WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research. The centre will focus on high-tech training curriculums in aviation and manufacturing, including aviation technology maintenance (A&P), avionics, mechanical engineering technology, composites, non-destructive testing and advanced manufacturing. Upon completion of the 211,000 square foot facility in early 2010, NIAR’s CAD/CAM, composites and advanced joining laboratories will occupy a significant amount of space in the new facility to perform research and training in collaboration with WATC. NIAR will also expand its non-destructive inspection capabilities. The Composites and Advanced Materials Lab will have access to more than 7,500 square feet of space for composites lay-up research. These facilities will include a large lay-up and repair area, a clean room and a new autoclave. Some of NIAR’s current Composites Lab employees will be stationed at the new facility. “Both WATC and NIAR recognized the advantages when this was first proposed. The partnership results in the ability to offer training on the latest technologies from NIAR’s research. This benefits local industry by helping them stay progressive and competitive,” said Tom Aldag, NIAR director of research and development. Aldag and NIAR executive director John Tomblin collaborated with Sedgwick County and WATC personnel to plan for the facility to provide the best training and research environment for the aviation industry, employees and students. “The National Center for Aviation Training will be a valuable asset to the Wichita aviation industry,” said Tomblin. “We’re excited to be part of this unique partnership of training and research that will benefit not only WATC and NIAR, but especially local aviation companies and the community.”

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Techfab Changes Name and Expands C-Grid Product Line

21st January 2008 0 comments

TechFab has officially changed its name to Chomarat North America and has also added two new products to its C-Grid product line.

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Knight & Carver Wind Group Partners with Investment Firm

21st January 2008 0 comments

Knight & Carver Wind Group, Inc. has secured a $12 million investment from Global Environment Fund, a leading environmental private equity investment firm. According to Knight & Carver President/CEO Sampson A. Brown, the company will use the capital to assure its leadership position in wind turbine blade inspection, repair and maintenance services throughout the United States. Knight & Carver provides its services to wind farm operators throughout the U.S., Latin America, Canada and Europe. “This is an extraordinary step forward for our company and our employees,” said Mr. Brown. “We are grateful for the commitment Global Environment Fund has made to ensure our continuing efforts to grow Knight & Carver into a leader in the wind energy industry.”

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Boeing Shifts Schedule for 787 First Flight

21st January 2008 0 comments

The first flight of the 787 has been moved from the end of the first quarter of this year to around the end of the second quarter to provide additional time to complete assembly of the first airplane. Deliveries are now expected to begin in early 2009, rather than late 2008. “”The fundamental design and technologies of the 787 remain sound,”” said Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “”However, we continue to be challenged by start-up issues in our factory and in our extended global supply-chain.”” Carson said that while solid progress has been made on the assembly of Airplane #1, the rate at which jobs are being completed has not improved sufficiently to maintain the current schedule. “”Our revised schedule is based upon updated assessments from the 787 management team of the progress we have made and the lessons we have learned to date. This includes our experience on the factory floor completing production work on the airplane that was originally intended to be done by our suppliers,”” Carson said. Over the next few weeks, Boeing will be working with its customers and suppliers to assess the specific impacts of the schedule change on the 787’s flight test program and entry into service. This effort will include an assessment of supplier progress in meeting their commitments to deliver more complete assemblies on subsequent airplanes. “”We are deeply disappointed by what this delay means for our customers, and we are committed to working closely with them as we assess the impact on our delivery schedules,”” Carson said. Under 787 Vice President and General Manager Pat Shanahan, who assumed leadership of the 787 program last October, Boeing has provided additional resources to more effectively manage the 787 global supply chain. The company has assembled a team of experienced executives, business managers and planning specialists that will be based at the supplier partners, as well as in its own final assembly facility. “”We have brought together the right skills and leadership from around the company to ensure a successful start-up of our global production system,”” said Shanahan. “”We have put the people, structure and processes in place to execute our plan and we will take additional steps to strengthen our team if needed. We have made significant progress in reducing parts shortages, improving fastener availability and achieving static and systems test milestones. We are focused on getting the 787 flying, certified and delivered to our customers.”” Boeing and Geneva-based PrivatAir today also agreed an order for one Boeing 787-8 VIP airplane, a purchase-right exercise from PrivatAir’s initial 787 order in 2006. “”The ever-increasing demand from charter customers for long-range, large-cabin aircraft shows no sign of abating, and PrivatAir is strategically placed to provide its customers with the widest range of travel options,”” said Greg Thomas, CEO of PrivatAir. “”This latest order will further expand the capabilities of PrivatAir’s fleet, enabling our passengers to travel further, faster and in greater comfort.””

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