Light flight: project aims for thin and firm aerospace components

Cygnet Texkimp has been awarded a £200k grant to develop machinery to manufacture lighter, stronger materials and parts for the international aerospace market.

The grant is part of a government-led initiative to encourage on-shoring of UK manufacturing.

Cheshire-based Cygnet Texkimp was selected as part of a national programme organised by Innovate UK following a competitive tender process. The company will join a consortium of four British specialists who will collaborate in a four-year project to expand the use of composite material in future aircraft.

The programme will be led by Crompton Technology Group (CTG) at its Composite Centre of Excellence in Banbury, Oxfordshire. The consortium also includes the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the National Composites Certification and Evaluation Facility (NCCEF) at Manchester University.

The project is being driven by the need for manufacturers and their suppliers to meet environmental regulations that govern aerospace traffic and deliver more energy efficient aircraft.

“We’re collaborating to raise the profile of UK manufacturing and develop cutting-edge technology to compete globally,” said Luke Vardy, managing director of Cygnet Texkimp. “Our work is exceptionally relevant in an aerospace market that is increasingly focused on fuel efficiency through saving in weight.”

Technologies developed as part of the project will be used to produce composite products including actuators, tie rods and struts.

“Our Composite Centre of Excellence is testament to the demand and drive for carbon fibre in aerospace,” said Stevens Francfort, project manager at CTG, which will initiate the design and manufacture of a range of composite parts. “We are on course to open an incredible amount of possible new applications, which will support the development of a new generation of aircrafts that are more respectful to the environment and comply with stringent FAA regulations.”

Cygnet Texkimp will develop machinery to manufacture carbon fibre composite material, or prepreg, by infusing carbon filament with resin, and lay down these filaments to create the parts that will be used in commercial aeroplanes.

NCC’s role will be to develop analytical models that will be validated through testing performed by NCCEF. The NCCEF will also be responsible for carrying out coupon and component testing.

The project designers are intent on creating carbon fibre composite material that is thinner, lighter and stronger than any other in the market, and aim to do so by minimising the amount of resin used to create it. Key to their success will be the use of new technology designed and built by Cygnet Texkimp that spreads the resin over the fibre.

“The resin is the weakest part of any carbon fibre prepreg, so by improving the process in which it is applied to the fibre, we can get extremely accurate fibre area weight to resin ratios,” said Vardy.