Mincham – Light-weight solutions for the defence, aerospace and high-tech industries

Offering advanced composite fabricating, manufacturing and engineering capabilities across a broad spectrum of materials and fabricating technologies.

Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director of Composites Australia Inc.

Mincham specialises in the design, prototyping, production, and through-life support of advanced light-weight structures for the defence, aerospace, and other high-tech industries.

For over 25 years Mincham has serviced the Australian Defence Force along with key industry members and primes, such as: CEA, BAE, Raytheon, Thales, Boeing, and many others both within Australia and internationally.

According to Mincham’s business development manager, Brody Mincham, “The increased focus on regional security and building defence capability is opening up unprecedented technical opportunities. Our founding services in full MRO (maintenance and repair operations) and through-life support (TLS) have expanded to offering a broad range of composites capabilities and agile solutions for low/medium-rate production. We’ve recently moved into a 4,000 square metre facility within the defence hub in Edinburgh Parks – which is much larger than our previous site – and we’ve invested in new strategically important equipment.”

Servicing both civil and military markets – whether the task is manufacturing, upgrading, rebuilding, or modifying, all require a broad range of advanced composite fabricating and engineering capabilities. Given the expanding growth in the sector, Mincham’s facilities have evolved accordingly and now include most disciplines, such as pre-preg, wet lay-up, vacuum bagging, pressure moulding, resin transfer and infusion. The company also has plans to augment filament winding capability soon. Its composite’s area now includes a series of separate climate-controlled rooms with large down draft preparation bays for debagging, carbon fibre trimming, priming and custom paint spraying in an automotive grade spray booth. Mincham also recently upgraded their CNC capabilities with new 4-axis and 5-axis machines located in a newly built machine shop.

To add to the existing autoclave capability, the new production site is fitted with an aerospace grade composite curing autoclave. One of the largest autoclaves in Australia, the Econoclave® is an energy efficient composites bonding autoclave designed for medium to large sized production parts. It has a useable diameter of 3m (118″) and a working length of 8m (314″) as well as maximum operating temperatures of 250C and a maximum operating pressure of 10 bar.

Mincham’s broad experience in material/technology capabilities extend to all high performance fibres including Carbon Fibre, Kevlar™ (Aramid) and E, S and Quartz Glass as well as core materials and prepregs. The company’s engineering design service offering is equally broad and includes process engineering and automation, simulation testing, tooling design, material development, prototyping and testing enabled by a multi-platform suite of software. Mincham is an active member of the South Australian industrial community and involved in several industry alliances including the Australian Aerospace Alliance and the Australian Technology Innovation Alliance. Company founder Darryl Mincham has served as a director for the Defence Teaming Centre which was constituted to develop Australia’s capabilities for domestic and international defence markets across air, land, sea, space and cyber.

Minchams' advanced composite fabricating, manufacturing and engineering capabilities across a broad spectrum of materials and fabricating technologies are demonstrated in this suppressor
One of Mincham’s 3-axis CNC machines producing tight-tolerance composite machined components”

Having spent his early career as a Structural Aircraft Maintenance Engineer in the RAAF, Darryl realized the employability of veterans. Today, over 20 per cent of the Mincham workforce is veteran. “Employing veterans is a core company value and something we hold close to our hearts. Veterans spent their careers as end-users of the products that we manufacture, overhaul and service. Post service, they can come to a job outside the force with a clear comprehension of performance expectations and a respect for systems that come with complex certifications and standards.” advises Brody.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) assists veterans move into the commercial world through a number of programs including an Employer Incentive Scheme and a ‘work trial’ program that provides an opportunity for both the veteran and the company get to know each other. DVA moderates many of the new employee issues as well as the specific ones that come with veterans.

Strategically, the company has been working towards a portfolio of 50 per cent in contract work and services to Primes and industry, balanced with 50 per cent of proprietary products for which it invests in its own research and development, certification, and tooling.

“UAVs continue to be a key focus of our research and development program. Our Tube Launched Aerial Delivery Systems are our current focus and we’re incredibly proud of the direction it’s headed”. Mincham’s UAV project is contracted through Defence, with industry partner “Acacia Systems” complementing the vehicle with its renowned mission system. Due to the nature of the project, information is held close, what we do know is that the UAV is a high-speed, portable air-vehicle – with minimal set-up time and extremely low running cost. Its capabilities range from sensor deployment, training, decoy and what else Defence sees fit.

According to Brody, medical is also a fertile area for innovative product design for rapid response services for aeromedical patients and combatants; with composites aiding the technical revolution. The company has a range of products and services dedicated to the aeromedical and ADF deployment support, including lifting systems, specialised stretchers, restraint systems and cabinet systems designed and developed for customers such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Following the pattern of passion for Innovation and research, Mincham also supplies composite assemblies to a South Australian company manufacturing portable medical X-ray machines for the global market, as well as other defence niche technology products.

To complement the company’s aerospace pedigree, the organisation is further expanding its space offerings on the back of a decade of R&D and low rate production in the field. With complementing experience in advanced composites, light weight alloys/steels and MIL-SPEC coatings, Mincham is able to offer its clients a broad range of expertise that cross multiple specialities of advance light structures. This coupled with many years’ experience in highly regulated complex certifications and standards such as AS9100, ISO9001 and CASA accreditations, places Mincham in a position to offer a unique capability.