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Quickstep and the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM) have initiated a major new R&D programme focusing on the development and analysis of composite components for aerospace and automotive applications.
The new programme builds on an existing research collaboration agreement between Quickstep and the Victorian State Government-backed VCAMM signed in July 2004, and provides for further exploration of two existing R&D projects, as well as funding new material analysis in support of major aerospace manufacturers.
Quickstep’s Managing Director, Mr Nick Noble, said the agreement would enable important research to be carried out to facilitate the ongoing commercialisation of Quickstep’s patented composites manufacturing technology for the global aerospace and automotive sectors.
The most significant component of the research programme will focus on the performance characteristics of composite components manufactured using the Quickstep Process, specifically examining how Quickstep’s unique fluid-based composites curing technique results in apparent improvements in the thermal and adhesion performance of the resulting composite material.
Previous research has established that the rapid heating of composite materials made possible by the Quickstep Process can, in certain cases, result in improvements in resin toughness, impact strength or mechanical properties. The reasons for this are not fully understood, however it is supposed that a positive effect is occurring at micro and molecular levels, resulting in a “better cure”.
Nick Noble said Quickstep continues to receive questions from Boeing, Airbus, and other companies regarding these molecular differences, and what specific effects the Quickstep Process has on composite properties.
“The key focus of this new R&D agreement will be analysing the molecular properties of composite materials manufactured using the Quickstep Process to establish how these improvements are produced,” Mr Noble said. “If the R&D program demonstrates that the Quickstep Process does deliver a fundamental improvement in the material structure at a microscopic level, this could unlock a high-potential market value in the aerospace industry, particularly in the construction of high-value aircraft primary structures,” he continued.
In addition to this new R&D project, continued analysis will also be conducted on thermoset and thermoplastic composite tubes produced using the Quickstep Process to investigate their effectiveness in automotive crash energy management – an area currently attracting strong interest from international researchers.
Previous testing by VCAMM has identified that tubes produced by Quickstep have a high specific crush energy, suggesting they may offer important safety benefits in automobile accidents. Further research will be conducted by VCAMM’s researchers based at Deakin University and the US-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory to evaluate the performance of different fibreglass/thermoplastic structures under high speed crush testing.
VCAMM’s CEO Mr Brad Dunstan said, “Preliminary testing of composite tubes manufactured using the Quickstep Process has shown some exciting results for crash energy management. Gaining a detailed understanding of how and why the Quickstep Process delivers such unique performance in specific energy absorbance will be a key aspect of this project. This process has the potential to revolutionise the way engineers design automotive crash structures.”
The third project to be carried out under the new R&D agreement will involve enhancing Quickstep’s patented melding process, which enables one composite part to be effectively welded to another, without the use of bolts or adhesives and with no physical difference or separating surface remaining between them.
VCAMM’s researchers will be evaluating the melding process with specific focus on aerospace applications, with the aim of developing design guidelines for obtaining the full potential in advanced carbon fibre composites
The $940,000 R&D programme will be jointly funded by Quickstep and VCAMM. Quickstep will provide total funding of $250,000 cash and $130,000 in-kind contributions. VCAMM funding towards delivering the project will be $380,000 in cash and over $180,000 in-kind.
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