The National Composites Centre (NCC) is the UK’s leading centre of excellence and innovation in composites technology. The NCC provides collaborative, open-access, research, technology and people development, delivering world-class innovation and knowledge transfer for the design, manufacture and application of composites.
The 2009 Composites Strategy enabled the impressive industrial-scale facilities to be built in response to industry demand. The NCC is hosted by the University of Bristol, is part of, and helped create the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC).
Since opening in 2011 the NCC Membership has grown to over 40 companies. The NCC has helped UK industry growth by working with SME’s and Primes across more than 10 sectors. Initially there was a strong presence from the Aerospace sector, but now there is an increasing involvement from Automotive, Rail, Oil & Gas, Marine, Renewables, Materials, Simulation, Tooling and Equipment enterprises.
Initial investment in the NCC was £25m of government (BIS, RDA and ERDF) funding but in response to further industry demand HM Treasury awarded an additional £28m in 2012 to double its size. The extended building opened in the autumn of 2014 and provides extensive new facilities, including a Training and Skills centre, with additional equipment and capability. Continuing Catapult funding has provided the largest publicly available short upstroke press in Europe, for high-rate manufacture of composites parts. The new facilities will further NCC expertise in High Pressure Resin Transfer Moulding (HP RTM) and research with industry will reduce current 6 or 7 hour processes down to just minutes.
The NCC offers product lifecycle capability in composite design. The Design and Simulation (D&S) team at the NCC is composed of three specialist teams allowing complete product development. Specialists with many years of industry experience combine composite design knowledge, perform advanced structural analysis and simulate manufacturing processes. This ensures high quality and reliable designs for existing and new industry grade products are possible.
Conceptual Design offers detailed requirement analysis and proposes improved, optimised and alternative composite designs. Detailed literature reviews outline applicable, proven and novel composite manufacturing techniques and processes. The NCC can reduce part count and light-weighting structures resulting in high performance, competitive designs.
The Structural Analysis team efficiently performs all aspects of structural simulations. Our engineers have professional experience with a broad range of state-of-the-art industry grade software applicable for all engineering sectors. The NCC also offer Product optimisation services so all design criteria are met before manufacturing stage, allowing cost and time savings in later production.
The Manufacturing Processes Simulation team is responsible for ‘virtual manufacturing’ to ensure the manufacture of high performance components. Accurate simulations validate designs and predict materials behaviour throughout composite manufacturing phase, minimising risk, saving prototyping costs and material wastage. Accurate simulation takes the guess-work out of production environment, reassuring process accuracy and repeatability.
Conventionally, composites are hand laid up from plies which is very time consuming and can introduce problems with variability in the finished product. The AFP capability at the NCC can be used to progress expertise in rapid, automated, material deposition - an area with huge potential benefit for future composites manufacture.
The AFP machine at the centre, supplied by Coriolis Composites (France), comprises two robotic arms, each with an AFP head. These arms work independently and cooperatively, rapidly depositing composite fibres in specific directions and to varying thicknesses to create highly accurate and repeatable composite structures.
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