The future of composites

04 December 2009

NPL's Graham Sims

NPL's Graham Sims helped to draft the UK's Composites Strategy which forms part of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills’ £22 million investment in composite materials.At the end of last month, Lord Mandelson launched a £22 million initiative to support the UK composites industry.

This initiative includes a new Centre on Manufacturing Technology and a £6 million grand challenge competition from the Technology Strategy Board on Affordable Composites Manufacturing aimed at developing cost-effective and rapid manufacturing techniques.

The UK Composites Strategy was developed by the Inter-Agency Composites Group led by the BIS Manufacturing and Materials Unit and other BIS sector groups, the Technology Strategy Board, UK Trade & Investment, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Regional Development Agencies, British Composites Society (IoM3), Composites UK and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

As a member of this group, NPL's Graham Sims attended the strategy launch and has been heavily involved over several months of meetings, workshops and drafting of the full strategy.

Sims also co-wrote the paper Technology Needs to Support the Advanced Composites in the UK. This paper acknowledges and encourages NPL’s leading role on composites standardisation and metrology, including the convenorship of the main international standards committee ISO TC61/SC13/WG2 and the leadership of TWA5-Polymer Composites in the VAMAS G14 pre-normative initiative.

The initiative is in keeping with NPL’s work on Technology Strategy Board projects such as ACLAIM and IMAJINE. NPL also leads international work in cure monitoring that involves drafting a new major ISO standard (6721-11) applicable to equipment currently producing thousands of incorrect results for all plastics. Other manufacturing issues have also been highlighted around ensuring higher rate and quality manufacturing, especially at larger scales.

The CoDA software based on NPL research and now commercialised supports the skills agenda that the strategy also highlights.

At the launch of the strategy, Lord Mandelson outlined the motivation for investing in composites:
"Any modern economy is built on the ability to exploit the opportunities on offer by new and existing high value markets – such as composites. Our approach is now to back areas of the economy which have the biggest potential to create wealth and jobs and take advantage of the skills of our people. Today’s new strategy will help us to exploit the potential of composite materials which could help us lower carbon emissions, make cost savings by making things which last longer and boost our position globally making the UK the place to produce and develop composites."

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