Custom machinery manufacturer and fibre processing specialist Cygnet Texkimp (Cheshire, UK) has supplied a 3,000-position 3D weaving creel to the Composites Centre at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC, Sheffield, UK).

The high-capacity creel will be used alongside AMRC’s 3D jacquard loom to produce woven structures from carbon, ceramic and other technical fibres for automotive and aerospace applications.

Chris McHugh, Dry Fibre Development Manager at the AMRC Composite Centre, said: “AMRC is taking dry fibre processing for composites to a new level in the UK. Significant investment in advanced technologies will help the manufacturing sector develop composite solutions for wide ranging applications in automotive, aerospace, space and beyond.

“Controlling tension of fibres, varying speed of fibres and minimising degradation to ensure highest performance is realised, are key factors that we need in our processes. The UK partnership between AMRC and Cygnet Texkimp helps us to realise this with the installation of this advanced 3D weaving creel.”

The two organisations began working together in 2014. In 2018, AMRC commissioned Cygnet Texkimp to design a 2D weaving creel which is also housed at its state-of-the-art facility for advanced composite manufacturing research and development.

“We’re delighted to be working with the Composites team at AMRC again as two British manufacturing brands supplying solutions to the global composites industry,” says Chris Furphy, Product Director at Cygnet Texkimp, which began manufacturing creels for the traditional textile market over four decades ago and now designs and builds a range of fibre handling and converting technologies for the international composites and advanced fibre markets.

“The way fibres are fed into the weaving process is absolutely vital to the quality of the finished product,” he explains, “which means that fibre tension and fibre path – ensuring the fibres never come into contact with each other as this can easily cause damage – are really important when it comes to designing a creel like this.”

With a footprint of less than 40m², AMRC’s new 3D creel is one of the highest volume-per-square-metre weaving creels in the world. The technology features an intelligent control system to maintain low and consistent running tension of the fibre into the downstream weaving process and enable operators to adjust the tension of individual positions or zones according to fibre weight and position in the woven structure.  A bespoke guide system accommodates varied fibre counts (k-counts) and tow widths, and a tension recuperation mechanism offsets the shedding motion of the loom.