A Government-led initiative to encourage on-shoring of UK manufacturing has awarded Cheshire-based machine builder Cygnet Texkimp a £200k grant to develop machinery to manufacture lighter, stronger materials and parts for the international aerospace market.

Cygnet Texkimp was selected as part of a national programme organised by Innovate UK following a competitive tender process. The company will join a consortium of four British specialists who will collaborate in a four-year project to expand the use of composite material in the future generation of aircrafts.

The programme will be led by aerospace composite product manufacturer Crompton Technology Group (CTG, a UTAS company) at its Composite Centre of Excellence in Banbury. The consortium also includes the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the National Composites Certification and Evaluation Facility (NCCEF) at the University of Manchester.

The project is being driven by the need for manufacturers and their suppliers to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations governing aerospace traffic and deliver more energy efficient aircraft. Composite materials are lighter than conventional materials metals and alloys, and therefore reduce fuel consumption and carbon footprint.

Technologies developed as part of the project will be used to develop composite products including actuators, tie rods (interior, Nacelle hold open rods) and struts (centre wing box, structure).

“Our Composite Centre of Excellence is testament to the demand and drive for carbon fibre in aerospace,” said Stevens Francfort, Project Manager at CTG, which will pioneer the design and manufacture of a range of composite parts.

“This exciting project is an opportunity for CTG to demonstrate our filament-winding expertise, and in doing so bolster our position at the forefront of this market, as the carbon fibre supplier of choice. We are on course to open an incredible amount of possible new applications, which will support the development of a new generation of aircrafts that are more respectful to the environment and comply with stringent FAA regulations.”

Cygnet Texkimp will develop machinery to manufacture carbon fibre composite material, or pre-preg, by infusing carbon filament with resin, and lay down these filaments to create the parts that will be used in commercial aeroplanes.

The National Composites Centre’s (NCC) role is to develop analytical models that will be validated through testing performed by the National Composites Certification and Evaluation Facility (NCCEF). The NCCEF will also be responsible for carrying out coupon and component testing.

“We’re collaborating to raise the profile of UK manufacturing and develop cutting-edge technology to compete globally,” says Luke Vardy, Managing Director of Cygnet Texkimp.

“Our work is exceptionally relevant in an aerospace market that is increasingly focused on fuel efficiency through saving in weight.

“The knowledge and capability we have in this field in the UK is phenomenal and we hope that by working together in this way we can create machinery and products that not only lead the world but also give us the opportunity to develop successful commercial streams for British manufacturers.”

The project designers intend to break new ground in their industry by creating carbon fibre composite material that is thinner, lighter and stronger than any other in the market, and aim to do so by minimising the amount of resin used to create it. Key to their success will be the use of new technology designed and built by Cygnet Texkimp which spreads the resin over the fibre extremely accurately.

“The resin is the weakest part of any carbon fibre prepreg, so by improving the process in which it is applied to the fibre, we can get extremely accurate fibre area weight to resin ratios,” explains Vardy.