Hexcel launches £7.4m project to create new carbon fiber fabrics for cutting-edge aircraft parts

NCC members Hexcel, have announced that they will be launching a new Government-backed £7.4 million research and development project, MAXIM, and expanding their manufacturing facility in Leicester.

The four-year Multi AXial Infused Materials (MAXIM) project, backed by the UK Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and match-funded by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, will be responsible for developing progressive, cost-effective materials and manufacturing solutions for large aerospace and automotive composite structures.

Business Minister Richard Harrington said:

“MAXIM is a welcome investment in the Midlands economy and the UK aerospace and automotive sectors, supporting the type of high-skilled jobs we are committed to delivering through our Industrial Strategy.

“This project will build our expertise and reputation in this cutting-edge field, delivering world-leading research and development on the production of new composite materials for large structures. This will enable composite structures such as aircraft wings and car bodies to be manufactured faster, greener and more cost-effectively.”

Most large aerospace composite parts are made from “prepreg” where the carbon fibres and resins have already been combined.  Converting this material into solid parts requires huge pressurised ovens, known as autoclaves. The MAXIM project will explore the manufacture of new carbon fibre fabric forms and resins that can be made into parts without using autoclaves.  The aim is to enable complex metal structures, such as aircraft wings, to be manufactured more cost effectively and at faster production rates from composites.

Composite structures are around 25-30% lighter than metal equivalents, delivering positive environmental benefits.  For example, by making aircraft lighter they will use less fuel and produce fewer CO2 emissions. 

Hexcel is investing in expanding its Leicester plant by installing a state-of-the art machine for carbon non-crimp fabrics development and lab equipment for research into this technology. The NCC will be working closely Hexcal to offer innovative support with material handling and part processing.

NCC Chief Executive, Peter Chivers explained:

“Hexcel is a long standing member of the NCC and we are delighted to be working closely with them on this exciting programme. MAXIM will support the growth of a potentially strategic technology and help build the UK supply chain for novel carbon fabrics and advanced formulated resin systems for infusion of large aircraft structures. This funding provides the opportunity to further develop the UK as the centre of excellence for this infusion based technology.”

Hexcel’s Thierry Merlot, President – Aerospace, Europe/MEA/Asia Pacific said:

“Investment in this project in Leicester will allow Hexcel to advance key Out of Autoclave technologies that can provide a step change in the cost-effective production of composite parts for commercial aircraft and passenger cars. The project will support the development of new materials that the aerospace industry in particular can adopt with confidence to meet the high build rate requirements for future programmes.”

Hexcel Corporation is a leading advanced composites company. It develops, manufactures and markets lightweight, high-performance structural materials including carbon fibres, speciality reinforcements, prepregs and other fibre-reinforced matrix materials, honeycomb, adhesives, engineered core and composite structures for use in commercial aerospace, space and defence and industrial applications.

Discover more about Hexcel here

Publish Dates: 
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 13:30
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