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Dayton-based advanced composites fabricator, Vector Composites, has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAVAIR) Division of the U.S Navy, to compare the properties of Quickstep and autoclave processing.
The work will be carried out on one or more qualified carbon fibre prepreg systems used by the U.S. Navy on helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. The research grant represents the first contract issued by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) specifically focused on evaluating Quickstep’s patented composites manufacturing process for military aircraft.
Quickstep’s Managing Director, Mr Nick Noble, said the contract represents significant progress in bringing Quickstep’s unique Out-of-Autoclave curing process to a highly sophisticated customer base like the U.S. DOD. “This is one of the outcomes we expected when we established our network of Quickstep Centres of Excellence in strategic locations worldwide,” he said. “We are very pleased that the U.S. Navy sees the need for newer processing technologies to lower costs and speed up manufacturing, and considers Quickstep a potential viable solution to that need.”
Vector Composites is a subsidiary of San Diego, California based DR Technologies. Vector was spun off from the National Composite Center (NCC) in 2006 in a sale to DR Technologies. Vector Composites’ operations are located adjacent to the North American Quickstep Center of Excellence (NAQCE) in Dayton, which was established by Quickstep in October 2006. The NAQCE is located in facilities managed by the NCC under a joint operating agreement, and houses a QS20 composites production machine, as well as staff and supporting equipment and facilities.
All test panels for the Phase I effort will be prepared by Vector, with the autoclave panels cured in Vector’s equipment and the Quickstep panels cured in Quickstep’s Dayton machine. An independent lab certified to supply the data to the Navy will perform the physical and mechanical testing.
“We have considerable experience in autoclave fabrication, as well as alternate processes such as press moulding and resin transfer moulding,” said Vector’s Vice President and General Manager Tom Mesing. “Quickstep is an exciting technology that offers the potential to achieve autoclave properties at less time and investment, and having the Quickstep operations next door makes it much easier to demonstrate these advantages to our customers.”
The effort commenced in May 2008 with the final report on this Phase I task due in late 2008. An optional component in the Phase I award may be exercised by NAVAIR to fabricate additional parts for further investigation. Dependent on the success of the Phase I effort, a much larger Phase II contract may be awarded, in which representative components for specific Navy aircraft or helicopters will be fabricated.
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