Friday 25 November 2011

National Composites Centre Opens in Bristol

Yesterday saw months of anticipation finally coming to an end as Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills officially opened the National Composites Centre in Bristol.

Attendees of the event were treated to an exhibition of the power of composite technology, showcasing electric cars, aircraft wings and also an innovative robotic fibre placement machine worth £2.5 million.

The centre has been commissioned as a result of £25 million worth of investment from various professional capacities including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the European Regional Development Fund and the South West Regional Development Agency.

The NCC has already secured research projects from incredibly big names in the composite industry such as Rolls Royce and Vestas, but the intention now is to provide a service to innovative SMEs to allow them to carry out their valuable research alongside the major players.

Composite technology research could potentially play a significant role in the growth of the UK economy, due to its use in the High Value Manufacturing business. The fact that composites are so lightweight when compared to more traditional materials like metal means that when used in certain areas of manufacture the overall costs (both monetary and environmental) could actually be reduced. For example a composite wind turbine blade, weighing less than a metal blade, will turn faster in an identical breeze, thus producing more power. Similarly with aircraft bodies – lighter = less fuel required. And as composites are incredible strong, it really seems that there are very few detrimental factors.

The composites industry is seeing a rapid increase in growth, with some sectors enjoying up to 15% a year. The director of the NCC, Peter Chivers, added, “If the UK can be part of that growth, that has to be good for us.”

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