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Formax to focus on testing and simulation support at Composites Europe 2015

According to Tom James, Director of Innovation at Formax, the company’s role has expanded to include an advisory service and simulation support.

9th June 2015

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Leicester

Industrial, Medical/Hygiene, Sustainable

Formax, the leading manufacturer of carbon fibre and speciality composite reinforcements, will be highlighting further investment in its Innovation Department and showcasing its testing and simulation expertise at the Composites Europe 2015 exhibition in Stuttgart from 22-24 September.

Formax works closely with companies in the automotive, marine, wind energy, sports and industrial markets to develop custom multiaxial reinforcements optimised for their demanding composites applications.

Building on significant growth in its business over the past three years, this year the company continued to invest in its expanding Innovation Department in order to support its customers' product development processes.

Services and support

“Increasingly our role has expanded to include an advisory service, where we leverage our knowledge of processability, the performance of fibres and 20 years of experience developing bespoke fabric architectures to help make the correct composite for the correct part,” explained Tom James, Director of Innovation at Formax.

“In recent years there has also been an increase in demand for us to perform the additional role of simulation support, led by automotive customers and their need to simulate process and performance during the early stages of product design.”

Formax Innovation Centre 

To accommodate the growing Innovation Department, a new Formax Innovation Centre is currently under construction at the company's Leicester headquarters. Scheduled to open in September, this world class facility will house a state-of-the-art laboratory, a dedicated testing and simulation area, and a new prototyping centre, all intended to facilitate the optimisation of reinforcements for individual applications.

Formax simulation image: Differences in fabric architecture can significantly affect flow geometry. © Formax

Led by Tom James and his team, the Innovation Centre will enable the company to accelerate its work in key areas, such as fabric architecture development for polymer and ceramic composites, fabric and composite characterisation and process simulation.

Simulation for composites processing

To facilitate the development of optimised fabrics for resin transfer moulding (RTM) and infusion processes, the Innovation Department, working closely with the University of Nottingham, UK, recently commissioned a bespoke permeability measurement rig. Knowledge of the permeability of fibre reinforcements allows for the efficient design of injection tooling and process flow, as well as aiding the development of robust impregnation processes for structural parts, the company reports.

 The new rig calculates the permeability of preform stacks. Using a low-viscosity silicon oil tests can be conducted in a fraction of the time taken for an actual impregnation. Sophisticated data acquisition and processing software takes pressure gradient measurements across the stack and generates permeability values for the principal and secondary flow directions.

The permeability rig provides estimates for permeabilities at a given volume fraction. These values can be used with analytical hand-calculation methods or flow simulation software to provide predictions of fill time and dry spots.

“Currently, users of simulation for composites processing are primarily limited to highly automated or high-volume applications,” said Tom James. “With the improvement in simulation methods for composites processing, and with better access to relevant materials data, we are in a position to help not only the next major automotive manufacturing programme, but also the customer building his next race-winning yacht.”

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