Composites UK drive to the front

Uploaded 21 Nov @ 14:11pm

During June 2019, Composites UK held its Automotive Sector Showcase at WMG, University of Warwick. Attendees were treated to a variety of presentations from a number of leading automotive OEMs and first tier suppliers, including Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda and GKN, as well as technical and academical presentations by key players, such as the Composites Leadership Forum, Surface Generation, Expert Tooling and Automation, Creative Composites, AMRC and the event hosts, Warwick Manufacturing Group.
‘Winning the Weight Race’ was the title for Henry Sarel-Cooke’s presentation for the Composites Leadership Forum. Providing an automotive sector composites summary, he said: “There are 138 businesses and institutions active in sector, 79 are manufacturing businesses with most coming from motorsport and are SMEs. More than 80% work with pre-preg materials and less than 12 have press capability (existing or planned).
“The breakdown of activities includes 24 specialist and niche vehicle OEMs; 8 bus, truck and off-road vehicle OEMs using composites; two large OEMs using composites; three OEMs with engineering centres in UK; five F1 teams as well as specialist academic departments and research centres”
He also presented GKN Wheels & Structures’ vision to be the ‘go to developer and supplier’ of composite/multi material components within the UK. Offering lightweight and high-performance upgrades of vehicle structures for a commercially viable and competitive cost, working with technology providers to future proof its offering.
Hannah Tew presented AMRC’s Composites Large Scale Programme that focused on identifying, developing and transforming the UK supply chain for high volume manufacturing of composites for automotive applications.
Composite Lightweight Automotive Suspension System (CLASS) was the theme from Alan Banks, Ford Motor Company. Working within the commercial vehicle sector, the aim for his team was to reduce the unloaded weight of the vehicle so that it could carry a greater payload within the allowable gross vehicle limit.
He said: “We aimed an annual volume of 25,000 vehicles requiring a sub 5 minute cycle time that was achieved by compression moulding. A weight reduction of 50% achieved compared to original scope of design, over 1 kg net weight saved. Innovative CAE optimisation and topography was developed to accurately predict design criteria, that was proven with real world data. A single shot compression moulding technique was developed comprising steel and two different types of carbon fibre. However, costs targets were not met due to raw material prices.”
Alasdair Ryder presented Thermoplastic Over Moulding for Automotive Applications for Surface Generation. Using the company’s Production to Functional Specification (PtFS) technology to face a number of challenges for a replacement automotive product designed to improve performance specifically the torsional rigidity of BIW; fit a prescribed volumetric envelope; be affordable and mass neutral; assembled via adhesive bonding.
John Lutton, Sales and Marketing Manager, Creative Composites, looked at Reducing Compression Moulding Cycle Times. Established in 2000, the company has invested in market-leading plant and equipment and is now home to a large and growing team of expert professionals, producing components for some of the world’s most respected brands. Today, it operates from 100,000 ft2 facility and is one of the UK’s most advanced composites manufacturers.
In 2017, Creative Composites invested in the largest compression moulding press in the country, at 3,000 tonnes and 3.6 by 2.5 m capacity to meet current and future needs of the automotive sector. “Compression moulding offers a number of advantages,” explained John Lutton. “As an automated process it has low cycle times, matching the volume requirements of the customers. With good material utilisation it can achieve Class A surface finishes.”
Expert Tooling and Automation is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of industrial automation systems, assembly tooling, automated assembly, special purpose machinery and single and multi-robotic cells, including robotic assembly. Andrew Bools, R&D Programme Manager, provided details of how the company has adopted automated composite assembly not just for the automotive sector but also aerospace, medical, energy, FMCG and other OEMs.
The presentations were rounded off with Aston Martin’s and WMG’s roles in the InterCOMP Project explained by Roland Snell, Senior Manager for Body Structures Innovation and Technology, Aston Martin Lagonda and Rachel Weare, Lead Engineer - Structural Composite Manufacturing, Warwick Manufacturing Group.
InterCOMP (Integrated COmpression Moulding Process) is a 24-month research project co funded by Innovate UK. Here, the WMG primary focus was materials characterisation and process development for continuous carbon fibre reinforced thermoset prepreg materials.
An automated single stage double diaphragm stamp forming process was adopted with existing equipment developed to integrate process steps.

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