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Major achievements of the CRC-ACS

1 July 2015

The Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (CRC-ACS) has been a major feature of the Australian composites landscape for more than two decades. One of Australia’s longest running cooperative research centres, the program wound-up in June 2015.

In its 24 years from 1991, the program was supported by tens of millions of dollars of Australian government funding, as well as contributions of participant organisations valued at well over one hundred million dollars.

CRC-ACS infusion demo for Boeing

Full-scale demonstration of infusion manufacturing was pivotal in Boeing Aerostructures Australia’s 787 bid. Image courtesy CRC-ACS

It has been one of Australia’s most successful CRCs, bringing billions of dollars of benefit to the Australian economy, building an international reputation for excellence and earning recognition for its international leadership in composites technology. The centre reinforced Australia’s place as a successful innovator in composite structures.

Here’s a summary of its major achievements…

  • Supply of manufacturing technology and engineering analysis development in support of Boeing Aerostructures Australia for its Boeing 787 program, worth an estimated $4 billion over 20 years
  • Supply of additional manufacturing and engineering analysis technologies to Boeing Aerostructures Australia, estimated value $6.3 million (estimated in 2006)
  • Transfer of infusion manufacturing technology to ADI Ltd, resulting in the installation of 100 tonnes of composites installed in the RAN Huon Class Minehunter Coastal
  • Securing of more than $19 million of contract and grant income (outside CRC grant) in support of composites development between 1999 and 2010
  • Engagement in the European aerospace industry for nearly two decades, leading to direct participation of European industry in CRC-ACS and millions of dollars in research investment attracted to Australia
  • Deployment of UV curing technology for composites to an Australian SME

    CRC-ACS-BishopAustrans-demo

    Early demonstration manufacture included phenolic resin infusion of nine-seater people mover for Bishop Austrans. Image courtesy CRC-ACS

  • Deployment and licensing of fire resistant surfacing material to an Australian SME
  • Deployment of pipeline repair technology to PETRONAS, and likely further deployment of multiple technologies in support of oil & gas industry advancement
  • Development of design guidelines for the use of sustainable and environmentally beneficial plant fibre composites
  • Successful deployment of an education program, facilitating industry technology uptake through the provision of postgraduate trained engineers
  • Establishment of Advanced Composite Structures Australia Pty Ltd, formed from the staff directly employed by CRC-ACS to 2010 and subsequently

Awards for CRC-ACS and participants

  • 1996 – The Institution of Engineers Australia (Victoria Division) Engineering Excellence Awards, Highly Commended Award (CRC-ACS)
  • 2001 – B-HERT Awards, Outstanding Achievement in Collaborative R&D involving a Co-operative Research Centre (CRC-ACS, Hawker de Havilland, RMIT)
  • 2005 – B-HERT Awards, Best International Collaboration (CRC-ACS, RMIT University and Airbus Deutschland GmbH)

    CRC-ACS demo for auto company

    CRC-ACS demonstration manufacture included a lightweight composite tailgate for a utility vehicle

  • 2005 – CRC Association Award for Excellence in Innovation (CRC-ACS, Hawker de Havilland)
  • 2008 – CRC Star Award (CRC-ACS, Regina Glass Fibre)
  • 2009 – JEC Asia Innovation Award (Regina Glass Fibre, CRC-ACS, Ampelite)
  • 2010 – JEC Innovation Award, EU 6th Framework MOJO Project (12 partners including CRC-ACS)
  • 2012 – JEC Asia Innovation Award (Tractile, IDI Composites, PIC Technology, CRC-ACS)
  • 2013 – CRC Star Award (CRC-ACS, ACS Australia, Supacat, Pacific Engineering Systems International)
  • 2014 – JEC Innovation Award (ACS Australia, PETRONAS Research)
  • 2014 – CRC Association Innovation Award (CRC-ACS, ACS Australia, Merit Technologies, Newcastle University, Pacific Engineering Systems International, PETRONAS Research, Supacat, University of Southern Queensland)

 Research

 1991 – 1997

  • Demonstration of a control surface aircraft component
  • Cure modelling of epoxy composites
  • Spring-in modelling of epoxy composites
  • Textile preforms for composites
  • Failure performance of stitched composite laminates
  • Liquid moulding manufacturing of composites
  • Joining of thin skinned aircraft structures
  • Development of rib stiffened primary aircraft structures
  • Optimisation of rib stiffened panels
  • Analysis of highly loaded joints in composites
  • Repair of composite and stiffened composite structures
  • Manufacture of thermoplastic matrix composites
  • Tooling design for composites manufacture
  • Pultrusion manufacturing technology
  • Lifecycle costing and manufacturability of composites
  • Alternative curing methods for composites
  • Design of wing stringers
  • Design of wing ribs
  • Mechanics and failure criteria of 3D textile composites
  • Analysis and design of advanced technology demonstrators
  • Fire performance of composite structures
  • Improved certification and durability of composites

1997 – 2003

  • Epoxy resin development for pultrusion
  • Prediction of polymer properties from molecular structure
  • Infusion and fire testing of fireproof phenolic resin composites
  • Development of fire resistant surfacing materials
  • Electron beam and UV light curing composites
  • Wear of composite coating materials
  • Manufacture and characterisation of syntactic foam cores
  • Weaving and knitting of composite preforms and 3D preform development
  • Infusion and foam filling of distance fabric composites
  • Pultrusion of civil infrastructure and aerospace composites
  • Direct resin injection pultrusion process development
  • 3D cure simulation of continuously manufactured composites
  • Simulation and manufacture of resin film infusion composites
  • Manufacturing and simulation of stack forming operations in fabrics and prepregs
  • Vacuum Bag Resin Infusion (VBRI) of composite structures – manufacture and simulation
  • Stamp forming and welding assembly of thermoplastic composites
  • Thermoset composite welding (TCW) – welding assembly of thermoplastic surfaced epoxy composites
  • Tow placement for enhanced structural performance
  • Pulforming of composite prepregs
  • Robotic pick and place operations for composites manufacturing
  • Flexible mandrel systems for composite manufacture
  • Low-cost SRIM manufacture of automotive components
  • Optimisation algorithms for composites design
  • Design of aerospace spoiler and rib
  • Structural optimisation incorporating cost optimisation
  • Strength and failure prediction of composite and 3D composite structures
  • Design and demonstration of postbuckling aircraft structures
  • Enhanced joint performance through stitching
  • Resin film infusion manufacture of aerospace structures
  • Validation of bonded, bolted and riveted joint configurations
  • Development of Knowledge Based Engineering (KBE) approaches to composites design and manufacture
  • Simulation of impact performance of composite structures
  • Durability of composites structures exposed to sea water
  • Demonstration manufacture of multiple aircraft structures including infusion manufacturing of aircraft structures, and manufacture of ferry superstructure, train front end, people mover shell

2003 – 2010

  • Development of pultrusion manufacturing, resins and process simulation
  • Prediction of polymer properties from molecular structure
  • Development of composites with nano-additives
  • Development of wood-based and natural fibre based composites
  • Post-forming of thermosetting composites
  • Development of aircraft components with non-crimp fabric-based composites
  • Insertion squeeze flow assembly of composite joints
  • Development of TCW technology for assembly of aircraft structures
  • Mouldable thermoplastic interfaces for high accuracy assembly of aircraft components
  • Development of (KBE) tools for design of composite details
  • Automated repair schedules for manufacturing defects in aerospace composites
  • Failure prediction in thick skinned aerospace composite structures
  • Modelling of defects and damage in aerospace composite structures
  • Modelling and characterisation of high strain rate effects on composites, including impact
  • Composite solutions for highly loaded aircraft components
  • Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) of aircraft structures and components, incorporating assessment of SHM technology readiness
  • Flush repairs of aircraft structures incorporating SHM
  • Battle damage repair of military helicopters
  • Failure prediction in marine composite structures
  • SHM of marine composite structures
  • SHM of composite pressure vessels
  • Fire behaviour and design of maritime composite and aluminium structures
  • Design and development of a shape adaptive composite marine propeller
  • Hybrid metal-composite joints for marine applications
  • Optimisation of sports rowing oars
  • Improved manufacturing efficiency for composite helicopter components
  • Enhanced out-of-autoclave and pre-primer methods for composite helicopter components
  • Assessment of Quickstep method for helicopter parts manufacture
  • Rapid assessment and repair of damaged helicopter composite panels
  • Design and analysis of helicopter components for enhanced crashworthiness

2010 – 2015

  • Extruded and injection moulded short plant fibre composite
  • Plant fibre composite design guidelines for engineers
  • Plant oil sourced bioresins for replacement of phenolic resins
  • Development and pre-certification testing of non structural TCW attachment of aircraft brackets to composite components
  • Development and pre-certification testing of structural TCW assembly of aircraft fuselage structures
  • Lightweight repair clamp technology and design methodology for repair of leaking and corrosion-weakened pipelines
  • Memory foam seating systems for improved occupant crash safety
  • Simulation tools for designing and analysis of helicopter crashworthiness (metal and composite)
  • Development of fire protection panels for oil & gas industry infrastructure
  • Development and validation of fire simulation tools, and development of design methodology
  • Development of in-field repair quality assessment and certification methodology for bonded composite aircraft repair
  • Rapid repair design software for aircraft structure repair
  • Certification testing and analysis tools development for bonded repair of primary composite aircraft structure
  • Polymer liner insertion and assembly methodology for high corrosion environment protection of steel pipelines
  • Development and validation of design software for pipeline overwrap repair
  • Development of carbon epoxy underwater curing repair prepreg
  • Development and validation of acousto-ultrasonic SHM systems for defence aircraft
  • Development and validation of operation software and field trial of fibre optic sensor SHM for composite pipeline repairs

Commercialisation and utilisation

  • Implementation of composite aircraft component manufacturing technologies in production: RTM, resin infusion, diaphragm stack forming, cocuring, flexible tooling, pulforming
  • Implementation of aircraft composite design and analysis methods for production articles: postbuckling design, failure analysis, automated ply stack optimisation, diaphragm stack forming simulation, spring-in estimation, impact and bird strike simulation
  • Implementation of defence maritime manufacturing technologies: resin infusion
  • Implementation of civil infrastructure manufacturing technologies: pultrusion
  • Implementation of new materials technology: UV curing composite prepreg, fire resistant surfacing material, extrusion and injection moulding grade natural fibre composites (in licensing negotiation)
  • Implementation of oil & gas composites technologies: lightweight repair clamp (field trial stage), optical fibre SHM of repair (field trial stage)

Education and training

  • 148 PhD and Masters students, with 110 expected completions by June 2015
  • 50% of postgraduate first employment in industry
  • 36 international interns (4-6 month stay, estimated 80% achieving degree requirements for Diploma thesis or equivalent)
  • 73 engineering vacation students (achieving degree requirements of professional development)
  • Delivery of 86 professional development courses
  • Co-establishment of Australia’s major composites conference series, run annually from 2005

SME engagement

  • 10 SME companies as CRC-ACS Participants
  • An additional 15 SMEs as Contributory, Supporting or Associate Members
  • 16 contract development projects with SMEs in 2003-10 funding period
  • 7 SME participants engaged across all 8 CRC-ACS projects 2010-2015

Spin-off companies

  • Advanced Composite Structures Australia Pty Ltd established in 2008 as a wholly owned subsidiary of CRC-ACS (now independent), to provide composites consulting and development services to the international market

Inventions (Patents)

  • Method of Manufacturing Composite Sandwich Structures
  • Welding Techniques for Polymer or Polymer Composite Components
  • Method and Apparatus for Welding of Polymer Composite Components
  • Fire Retardant Surfacing Veil for Polymer Composites
  • Functional Surface Shaping Techniques for Polymer Composite Components
  • Method and Apparatus for Surface Shaping of Polymer Composite Components
  • A method of Binding Dry Reinforcement Fibres
  • Welding of Functional Components to Polymer Composite Components
  • Joining of Concentric Section Polymer Composite Components
  • Customisable Size Load Bearing Polymer Composite Frame

International engagement

  • Engagement in European Union framework projects with a combined value of approximately €245 million.
  • Engagement in collaborative projects funded by USA Office of Naval Research and Air Force Office of Scientific Research with a combined value of approximately $12 million
  • International contract research and grant income to CRC-ACS exceeding $10 million from 1999 to 2010
  • Establishment of CRC-ACS 2010-15 with 28 participants from eight countries
  • An estimated 50 bilateral agreements with leading international companies and research institutions from 1991 to 2015
  • Countries engaged in CRC-ACS projects: Canada, New Zealand, USA, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam
  • Countries engaged in ACS Australia projects: Singapore, China, UAE, France, UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand

Contacts

For information on technologies available to Australian industry and how to access these contact: Professor Murray Scott, Managing Director, ACS-Australia E:m.scott(at)acs-aus.com

Article prepared by Dr Andrew Beehag, who was General Manager for the CRC for Advanced Composite Structures and Operations Manager of ACS Australia at time of publication – 1 July 2015