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2019 Composites Australia Annual Conference

1 July 2019

Delegates arriving from all over Australia to attend the 16th Composites Australia conference were greeted with spectacular views of Sydney Harbour filtered through the lush growth of Wendy’s Secret Garden. Held in Lavender Bay in North Sydney from 2nd to 4th April, this year’s conference was dedicated to people who make things as well as those who provide services to the composites sector. The annual conference is always an ideal platform for our industry to meet, share and exchange knowledge on the latest innovations and expertise in composites manufacturing and technology.

The event opened with Tony Caristo, Managing Director of RPC Technologies which is a leader in the design, engineering and manufacturing of fibre composites and advanced materials. RPC employs over 500 skilled staff and supplies to the defence, infrastructure, renewables, environment, pipe systems, resources, energy and transport sectors. Tony provided a candid view on the major issues affecting procurement practices in Australia.

Tony Caristo MD PRC Technologies, & Leona Reif President Composites Australia

A thriving industry needs to perpetually renew through entrepreneurship and startups. This was the theme of the conference which featured new products and innovative uses of composites. Mark Buchbach, Special Projects Manager with the Toowoomba based Wagners CFT Manufacturing – a company described as “intrepidly entrepreneurial” – presented the details of the recent rebuild of the wharf at Pinkenba (QLD). This extraordinary project is a step-change for composites in infrastructure and involved engineering, manufacturing and installing an entire deck made from FRP deck units, topped with concrete reinforced with FRP rebar. The Omni Tanker journey, presented by Drs Daniel Rogers, Omni’s Managing Director and Luke Djukic, Chief Technical Officer, gave an overview of the company’s project to internationally commercialise a lightweight carbon fibre composites tanker. Manufactured outside Sydney at Smeaton Grange using carbon fibre composites for a seamless polyethylene thermoplastic interior, the tanker has a high degree of chemical resistance (suitable for Class 8 corrosive liquids) as well as food grade compatibility.

Dr Daniel Rodgers, Managing Director, Omnitanker; Michael Sharpe, Director – NSW/ACT AMGC; Dr Luke Djukic, Chief Technical Officer, Omnitanker and Kerryn Caulfield

Other extraordinary presentations of products likely to sustain the sector included a dual address by the indefatigable Alan Steber, General Manager for Steber International and Robert Dane, Founder of Ocius. The unique unmanned surface vessel the, Ocius Bluebottle, was developed for wide area ocean surveillance and once fully commercialised has the potential for high volume production.

David Inggall, Founder of DIDesign shared an account of material choices for his bespoke engineered subsea inspection and intervention mini workhorses for the company’s oil and gas clients. DIDesign’s new generation of remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) feature a myriad of materials including composites and carbon fibrereinforced 3D components.

The Smart Think, one of Australia’s most promising start-ups, has developed composite forming technology to produce lighter, safer and higher-performing ballistic helmets for the global defence market. At 30 years of age, its CEO Tristan Alexander represents the new breed of entrepreneurs cracking local and offshore composites markets with unique and patented technology.

David Busby-Wright’s expertise in composites was forged in the Formula One, defence and mining industries. This experience led him to the position of Senior Designer for Australian Engineering with Weir Minerals – one of the world’s leading mining services engineering firms. David outlined the challenges and opportunities for composites in the Australian mining industry.

The state-of-the-art air vehicle and ground transportation composite development project presented by Dr Rodney Thomson, Engineering Manager at ACS Australia, proved that composites are good for rocket science.

Women in composites – Anita Berim, Sales Manager, Poetters Ind.; Nicola Stanistreet, Pacific Resins; Virginie Murphy, Engineering Manager, RPC Technologies; Kerryn Caulfield, Composites Australia; Leona Reif, FDP Composites; Elizabeth Lane, The Lane Press; Lucy Baker, PATH; Louise Lane

Dr Lucy Baker, Materials Scientist and Director of PATH, outlined the ugly consequences of using the wrong materials for tanks, gas cooling towers and pressure pipelines.

CSIRO’s Dr Jasjeet Kaur, Research Scientist and Dr Shaun Smith, Research Group Leader, Fibre Innovation & Composites Manufacturing, impressed the audience with CSIRO’s irreverent tilt at cracking the carbon fibre code for the world.

Dr Shaun Smith Research Group Leader, Fibre Innovation and Composites, Manufacturing, CSIRO; Dr Jasjeet Kaur, Research Scientist CSIRO and Kerryn Caulfield

Geoff Germon, Founder and Chief Industrial Designer for Talon Technology also had a crack at the carbon fibre business model and the unnecessary obsession with “pretty” applications.

James Ledingham, Design Engineer for Gurit, detailed how his company, along with the team from Western Sydney University, used design, simulation software and their expertise in composite engineering to produce the award-winning ‘Unlimited 2.0’ single-seat solar vehicle. This vehicle won the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – the nine day 2,800 kilometre race across four American states, from Nebraska to Oregon.

James Ledingham, Design Engineer for GURIT; Saamiul Bashar, Team Manager, Western Sydney University; Gerard Laffan, Regional Sector Lead Auto & Ind. PAC Gurit; David Joughin, Gutrit; and Max Mammone, Assistant Team Manager, Western Sydney University

A preconference workshop was presented by the indomitable Dr Rik Heslehurst on the fundamental failure modes of bolted composite structures and the conditions that cause these failure modes.

The audience was also treated to product pitches from Leap Australia (Accurately simulating the performance and manufacturability of composite structures); Potters (Hollow Glass Microspheres); Quin Global (Adhesives in the resin transfer moulding (RTM) process); 3M (Adhesives for the composites industry).

Blaise Visconti, Applications Specialist for Alan Harper Composites travelled from the UK to co-present on reusable vacuum membrane technology. Together with Martin and Stefan Nikolas, of Marky Industries, Blaise shot an automotive part in a remarkable live demonstration to show how the system cuts down on wastage, time and costs by using resin-morphing runners (which leave no trace and need no peel ply) combined with moulded inflow mesh.

Stefan Nikolas demonstrating Alan Harper Composites reusable vacuum membrane technology

Industry comradery was a feature of the conference dinner that was held in the Sunset Room at Luna Park. Needless to say, the uninterrupted twilight views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House were breathtaking.

The Composites Australia annual conference remains a unique event, providing a strategic insight into a wide range of aspects associated with operating and growing a composites business and collaborating with composite companies.

Composites Australia is grateful to all our conference sponsors, presenters and participants for their attendance and generous support.


This article first appeared in:

Connection Magazine

Issue 50: July, 2019

Author: Kerryn Caulfield

For this and more stories, please download the latest copy of our Connection magazine.

Issue 50: July, 2019