FORMAX to emphasize new tech center at Composites Europe

The company's Innovation Centre emphasizes research and development in polymer composites, automation and ceramic composites.

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FORMAX (Leicester, UK), a manufacturer of engineered composite reinforcements, will highlight the capabilities of its new Innovation Centre at the Composites Europe 2015 exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany, Sept. 22-24. This facility is designed to strengthen the company's commitment to developing optimized multiaxial fabrics for the automotive, aerospace, marine, sports and industrial markets, and will also enable it to pursue new business opportunities in automated composites manufacture and non-polymer applications.

Located at the company's UK headquarters, the Innovation Centre is FORMAX's latest investment in its expanding Innovation Department, which is tasked with developing new products and providing technical support to the company's global customer base. Led by Tom James, director of innovation, and now employing six staff, the department has recently restructured into three divisions: Polymer Composites, Automation, and Ceramic Composites.

"The Innovation Centre will enable us to continue to support and grow our core business of composite reinforcements, and also allows us to expand beyond multiaxials," explains Oliver Wessely, FORMAX's managing director. "We see huge opportunities to exploit our technical textiles expertise in the area of preform manufacture and in numerous applications outside of the polymer composites industry."

The Polymer Composites Division will continue FORMAX's research into optimizing multiaxial reinforcements for technically challenging applications. Areas of expertise include testing and characterization of fabric architecture, developing new products based on novel fabric architecture and recycling. The group also provides process simulation support in answer to a growing need of customers. Recent additions to the Innovation Centre include a modified "picture frame" fixture and fabric bend testing equipment to aid in the study of fabric drape, and a fabric permeability test rig that can provide estimates of permeabilities at a given volume fraction for use in predicting resin fill time and dry spots.

Headed by mechanical engineering specialist Christopher Beard, the new Automation Division's activities include fiber pre-processing (including tow spreading), fiber placement for automated net shape 2D preform manufacture, and automated 3D preform manufacture. Equipment includes a carbon fiber testing cell for use in characterization of tow width, spreadability, filament orientation and filament breakage, and a robot for preforming studies. A fabric ply cutting and kitting service is also available.

The Ceramic Composites Division will pursue non-polymer applications for FORMAX's technical textiles. Current projects include the combination of novel, low-cost ceramics with recycled short carbon fibers for use in high-performance, low-cost friction applications, and the carbon fiber reinforcement of concrete, bitumen and gypsum for civil engineering use. The division is led by ceramics expert Dr. Arthur Swarbrick, who recently joined FORMAX from the University of Loughborough.