Spinning a high-tech yarn in Yorkshire
Posted on 09 May 2021 and read 541 times
Fabric producer Antich & Sons (Huddersfield) Ltd
has achieved a step change in its manufacturing capability to produce finished 3-D multi-layer woven preforms for advanced composites used in aerospace and automotive through a pioneering project with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre
However, while the 3-D weaving of carbon fibre is a cost-effective method for producing high-quality damage-tolerant large-scale and high-thickness laminates for use with liquid resin injection processes to make lightweight composite materials, creating composite preforms suitable for resin transfer moulding requires several additional processes.
Antich & Sons’ ‘advanced ’capability is the result of FabForm, a three-year project — undertaken with the AMRC and funded by Innovate UK — that focused on developing the additional methods needed to create stabilised near-net-shape preforms (of variable thickness) that: allow for efficient use of material within a component; ensure the correct size and shape to drop into moulds used for the injection of composite matrix resin; facilitate an easier and more robust handling and transport.
Andy Smith, Antich & Sons’ head of R&D, said: “The variable thickness, stabilisation and trimming methods developed for 3-D woven materials in FabForm allow a significant step up the value chain, taking Antich from a weaver of fabric to a manufacturer of advanced composite preforms ready for the next step in the manufacturing process. In the past, it was not easy preparing 3-D woven preforms for moulding operations — and they were also liable to deterioration when handled and cut.
“We therefore felt it was crucial that, as a weaver, we developed the technology that would allow us to supply finished, stable preforms that can be easily used by end users.”
Chris McHugh, the dry fibre development manager at the AMRC Composite Centre, said: “The collaboration between the AMRC and Antich & Sons has advanced 3-D weaving preforming capabilities for UK manufacturing. The outputs from the project have the potential to generate significant new business and strong exports for the UK, in cross sector high-value manufacturing applications, including those in automotive and aerospace.
“FabForm has been an excellent first step in using key technologies such as thickness tapering, stabilisation, and edge trimming that mechanically convert 3-D fabric into a usable preform for a composite moulding operation.”