Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director for Composites Australia Inc.
Custom-made equipment and testing facilities and a highly qualified workforce of inquisitive minds with a love of precision manufacturing is what gives CST Composites in Sydney its competitive edge, according to its founder and Managing Director Clive Watts. CST’s expertise in unique filament winding technology was developed through its experience of supplying carbon fibre spars and tubes to the marine sector, which it still services today. The company’s client list has expanded exponentially over the past 20 years to include the industrial, aerospace and high-tech markets. A milestone in 2005 was supplying specialised engineered high modulus carbon filament wound tubes to the Hubble Telescope program at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.
Today the company runs a series of filament winding and pultrusion machines as well as a wide range of specialist machines and tools used for the fabrication of composite sections. According to Clive, CST is now the largest user of carbon fibre tow in Australia and New Zealand. “We’ve grown threefold in recent years because of our brand of precision engineering and manufacturing”.
The company is now operating from two factories in south-west Sydney, both of which are swelling with new hightech equipment to ensure quality and consistency of its output. CST’s recent investment in precision “centreless grinding technology” allows the outside of its carbon fibre composite tubing to be finished within OD tolerances of +/- 50 microns. Laser sensors are also used to measure the tight tolerances. “We have been able to do some jobs to +/- 5 microns. This kind of extreme accuracy, both inside and outside of our tubing is what is required to supply into high tech markets including supercars, electrical goods and aerospace, but it’s also what we enjoy doing,” says Clive.
Exports have now grown to 93% of the company’s output of filament-wound and pultruded product. As testament to the company’s innovation strategy, earlier this year, CST Composites received the Global Supply Chain Integration Award at the Endeavour Awards held by Manufacturers’ Monthly. The prestigious award was in recognition of its international achievements in supplying Australian manufactured advanced carbon fibre components into global supply chains.
CST continues to invest to strengthen its supply chains by investing in automated machines for making tubes, tool making, raw material production, inhouse metrology, data tracking software and marketing. Clive commented “Some people call it ‘industry 4.0 and big data’ whatever it is we’ve been doing it for 23½ years.”
This article first appeared in: Connection Magazine Issue 49: December, 2018