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composites, composites manufacturing, FRP, glass fiber reinforced polymer, GFRP

CW photo | Scott Francis

Norco (Poole, Dorset, U.K.), a manufacturer of large composite structures and glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) moldings, got its start building boats, including the Sunseeker luxury motor yacht. While the company continues in its core competency of producing large glass fiber reinforced composite structures, over time it has expanded to include a range of bespoke products under the Norco Composites arm of its company. As a whole, Norco manufactures products for a variety of markets including renewable energy, civil engineering, marine and aerospace. 

The company has six different sites and has capabilities for project engineering, molds and tooling, resin infusion, wet layup, prepreg manufacturing, kitting and machining, autoclave and out-of-autoclave curing, and painting and finishing. 

composites, composites manufacturing, FRP, glass fiber reinforced polymer, GFRP

Norco specializes in creating large composites structures including boat hulls, radomes. CW photo | Scott Francis

composites, composites manufacturing, FRP, glass fiber reinforced polymer, GFRP

Industrial turbine engine transportation shell manufactured for Siemens. CW photo | Scott Francis

With such a range of capabilities, Norco has the ability to operate quite nimbly and be rather innovative. One example is an industrial turbine engine cover the company created for Siemens (Erlangen, Germany). The protective shell is designed for the transportation and storage of industrial gas generator engines used to run gas power stations. Siemens had the need to replace an ABS plastic/aluminum cover that was failing. The company tasked design company Assystem (Paris, France) and Norco with constructing a replacement covering based on an upturned boat hull. The covering needed to be durable to stand up to the rigors of air transport.

Norco manufactured a composite tool from a CNC pattern — a male mold that controls the internal geometry of the cover and allows for repeatability. The cover is constructed from a double skin of epoxy prepreg glass fiber with a PVC foam core and is cured in an oven under vacuum.

The cover is fully fitted out by Norco’s assembly team with lifting points, hatches, signs and a seal around the base, which the company also manufactures. A dehumidifier is installed, allowing the unit to also serve as a container for long term storage. The finished cover offers a 30% weight reduction vs the ABS plastic design and provides improved stiffness and damage tolerance. Norco has produced 16 units to date, which are currently in service.

composites, composites manufacturing, FRP, glass fiber reinforced polymer, GFRP

Norco’s training center offers training in hand laminating, finishing, infusion and prepreg.  CW photo | Scott Francis

Norco continues to expand and is adding another facility due to general growth and new work for the defense sector. The company is also invested in workforce development and has a training center dedicated to an apprenticeship program where the apprentices are trained over a 6-month period in hand laminating, finishing, infusion and prepreg. After the initial 6-month training stage is complete, the apprentices will progress into the production shop floor for a further 30 months. (Learn more).