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AIC Autoclave Up and Running at the National Composites Centre

  • Wednesday, 7th December 2011
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

AIC group is putting the finishing touches to making 125 tonnes of their equipment operational for the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol, a project which has taken around seven months.

AIC explain that the equipment includes a large autoclave weighing 90 tonnes, including 30,000 litre water cooling system, a Nitrogen Generating Plant (30t receiver), a small autoclave (17t), a Hot-press hydraulic (10t), a double diaphragm hot drape former (15t), and two curing ovens.

AIC say that the equipment was moved from Airbus’ facility in Filton, while at the same time ensuring the NCC had access to a production autoclave at all times. They say it took four months to re-install the large autoclave which operates at 400oC and a pressure of 200 psi (13.8 bar), the hot press, water cooling system and nitrogen pressurising plant, comprising a 30 tonne receiver, three compressors and a nitrogen generator.

The hot-drape former presented unique challenges removing it from its previous location not least because it uses 2,500 light bulbs as its curing heat source.

AIC’s Project Manager Adrian Kelley said “This whole process has been an exciting adventure. I am particularly pleased, from a project management point of view, that we got it right – right quality at the right time at the right budget. We consistently hit deadlines and worked well in partnership with great teams at the NCC, Airbus and AET Transport. It is a privilege to work on such a prestigious project for a national organisation and a reference point for our industry that will make a real difference to the UK’s manufacturing capability.”

Rob Ludford, the NCC’s Operations Director, commented “AIC recognised the key issue with this project. By working closely with NCC staff they were able to maintain capability and continuity of service to our customers by eliminating downtime across two sites.”

The water cooling system – previously used for cooling the large autoclave and comprising a 30,000 litre tank, a hot well and hundreds of metres of pipe work – now serves both autoclaves and a hydraulic hot press. This installation was further complicated by the need to locate a system previously housed internally to a location outside the building.

NCC’s Chief Executive, Peter Chivers said “Moving a 90 tonne autoclave and a manufacturing infrastructure is a complex and challenging task. AIC played a key role in ensuring the transfer went to plan, and are now helping with the installation of the equipment. Their engineers provided a professional and expert service, and this will enable the NCC to start to deliver a much needed capability.”

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