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Global composites experts converge on Melbourne

5 March 2013

2013 composites conference audience

The 2013 Composites Australia and CRC-ACS Conference and Trade Show inspired everyone attending — from local SMEs through to NASA in the USA — with the potential of the entire spectrum of composite materials to deliver innovative, manufacturable and merchantable products to customers in Australia and offshore.

Held in March at Melbourne’s Crown Conference Centre and in its 10th year, the conference attracted presentations on R&D and usage by some of the world’s largest composite users, including Boeing, Airbus and the US space program.

Speakers travelled from seven countries — Japan, USA, France, Spain, New Zealand, Germany and England.

In his introduction the (then) Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade, the Honourable Richard Dalla-Riva MLC, emphasised the importance of the conference and pledged his support for the composites industry, particularly for the lightweighting of automotive applications, as demonstrated by the Australian Carbon Fibre Research Facility under development in Geelong.

Keynote speaker John Vickers of NASA (USA), an engineer and expert in manufacturing and project leader for the joint NASA-Boeing Cryotank Project, shared the amazing journey that has led to the development of ‘out-of-autoclave’ technology for revolutionary lightweight, low-cost hydrogen fuel tanks for heavy-lift launch vehicles used in space exploration.

In his keynote address, Professor Takashi Ishikawa, Director of Nagoya University’s Composite Engineering Research Centre, provided an overview of the Centre’s aeronautical and carbon fibre composites research, including an informative look at VaRTM CF/Epoxy composites and VaRTM prepreg hybrid technology.

Julien Charles of Airbus France described the cutting-edge application of carbon fibre composites in the latest A350XWB aircraft. An incredible 53% of the aircraft’s structural weight is now made from composites. “We will be flight testing the A350XWB a bit later this year,” he said. The future may even lead to multi-storey aircraft from composites.

An outstanding example of innovation success was shared by Phil Maxwell, Group Technical Manager for Composite Materials Engineering (CME), in his presentation on composites in the solar industry. The Melbourne company has developed an electricity and hot water cogeneration system, predominantly for residential use, and is expecting large orders from Asia.

Mr Anurag Bansal, Head of Manufacturing & Process Group, ACCIONA Infraestructuras S.A., inspired the audience with his presentation on the processes used to create two award-winning Spanish pedestrian bridges using composites. He highlighted two very different bridges and innovative solutions: the Almuñecar bridge, which employed resin infusion technology to build a one-piece box girder section; and the Cuenca bridge, manufactured using carbon fibre pre-stressed cables as the load bearing member. This bridge was a first in composite history for a structure of this type — 216 metres long with three equal spans of 72 metres — using CFRP pre-stressed cables.