Hexcel breaks ground on new R&T facility

The new research and technology (R&T) facility at Hexcel's Duxford, U.K., site will focus on leading-edge technologies for the expansion of composites in aerospace and industrial applications.

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Hexcel (Stamford, Conn., USA) hosted a ceremony at its Duxford, U.K., site on Nov. 13 to announce the groundbreaking for a new £6 million research and technology (R&T) facility and additional investments for capacity expansions at the site. These investments will add up to 100 jobs to the Duxford workforce by 2017. The ceremony was attended by Vince Cable, U.K. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, together with Hexcel customers and site employees.

Duxford is Hexcel’s largest center for research into resin systems and adhesives. Hexcel says its innovations in polymer chemistry and material science, together with advanced fibers from Hexcel operations in the United States, were instrumental in Hexcel being awarded its largest ever contract by Airbus to supply all of the carbon fiber prepreg for the A350 XWB primary structures. The site is also Hexcel’s center of excellence for process technology, including product scale-up and research into new process methods for making composite materials, including quality control methods.

Hexcel decided to create a new dedicated facility to house all chemistry functions, to further expand R&T expertise and continue the development of leading-edge technologies that will enable composite materials to penetrate further in aerospace structures and in selected industrial applications for energy, automotive and other industrial markets. Construction of the Innovation Center is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Additional investments at Hexcel Duxford include the expansion of the company's state-of-the-art mixing and filming systems to support large-scale production of the composite materials required for the Airbus A350 XWB program. Resin films produced in Hexcel Duxford are combined with carbon fiber and converted into unidirectional prepreg at Hexcel plants in France, Spain, Germany and the USA.

Hexcel has also announced that it will invest in a new prepreg tower and honeycomb capacity expansions at Duxford. The prepreg tower is expected to be qualified by early 2017 to support the increasing demand for aerospace programs including the A350 XWB. Increased honeycomb capacity is required to meet the growing demand for these lightweight core materials that provide superior stiffness in sandwich constructions. 

At the ceremony, Hexcel senior vice president and CFO Wayne Pensky commented, “We thank the Secretary of State, our customers, and employees for joining us today as we celebrate the groundbreaking for our new R&T facility and significant capacity expansions at our Duxford site. This is the 80th anniversary of the site and as we celebrate the achievements of the past we look forward to our future success and continued growth. These investments demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the Duxford site and will add up to 100 more jobs to our current workforce of 550 employees by 2017.”