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Quickstep is set to benefit from a major new research project at the University of Manchester, which has been awarded a £421,000 (A$993,000) project to develop new composite resins that are optimised for manufacture using the Quickstep Process.
A team of international composites experts will come together to conduct the research programme, which is designed to provide a more detailed scientific understanding of the processes that occur during rapid processing of polymer composites so that an optimised resin chemistry can be developed.
The research team involved in the resin development programme has elected to specifically focus on the Quickstep fluid-controlled heat transfer (FHT) processing technology – an area which is currently attracting industrial interest as an alternative to autoclave processing.
Quickstep Managing Director, Mr Nick Noble, said the development of specialised composite resins would represent a quantum leap forward for the Company.
“At the moment, the resins used for FHT processing are designed for more traditional curing cycles such as autoclave,” Mr Noble said. “Therefore, little is known about the kinetics of the FHT curing process and how resins may be developed to further optimise FHT curing cycles. This research programme will provide a better understanding of how the Quickstep Process affects resin chemistry, and will therefore facilitate the development of specialised resins that enhance the mechanical performance of Quickstep-manufactured composite components”.
The research team will include Dr Richard Day, founder and Director of the Northwest Composites Centre (NWCC) in Manchester; Dr Arthur Wilkinson from the NWCC; Dr Bronwyn Fox, a senior lecturer at the Centre for Material & Fibre Innovation at Deakin University in Australia and a member of Quickstep’s Technology Advisory Board; and Dr Kim Alderson, an expert in the field of auxetic materials.
Dr Richard Day, who will head the research programme, said the NWCC had received considerable interest from industry regarding the benefits of FHT processing as an alternative to slower autoclave routes.
“FHT processing provides a more rapid and efficient cure of polymer composites.” Dr Day said. “This has attracted a great deal of interest in the UK, with almost 50 companies having now visited the NWCC to conduct process development and testing. An improved understanding must be gained of the basic mechanisms behind the property changes and of how the service-life properties of the composite components are affected by the high and/or intermittent curing rates utilised in the process. The objective of this research programme is to improve our understanding of the links between resin chemistry and the mechanical performance and durability of the cured composite, with an end aim of developing at least one system that is fully optimised for manufacturing using the Quickstep Process,” he commented. The research programme is expected to commence in March 2008.
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