Goodwood 73 Members Meeting – 1965 Chevrolet Corvette

A great weekend working with SZ Motorsport after some winter development on the 1965 Chevrolet Corvette. The Car was invited to the 73rd members meeting to contest in arguably the big race of the weekend the Graham Hill Trophy. The race is for pre 1965 GT cars, and the competition would come from iconic cars such as The Shelby Cobra, The Lightweight E type, Iso Grifo / Bizzerine, Maserati Tipo 151/3, Lotus 26R’s, Ferrari GTO’s and SWB’s, and in my view the ultimate front engine GT car the Shelby Daytona Cobra of which 2 were entered.
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Jaguar F-TYPE R Tour de France Support Vehicle

From Concept to Reality

jaguar_ftype_skyteam_04-bike-rackWorking for and with MCT engineering Leggero Forte has recently undertaken the tooling design and project management of the tooling and metallic components for Sky’s unique Jaguar F TYPE R coupe bike rack for this years’ time trial in the Tour de France.

Jaguar Land Rover’s design and styling team had provided the CAD data required, working with MCT this was then modified to aid manufacture and reduce potential assembly issues. Due to the very tight time and budget constraints the manufacture route for the composite parts was from a combination of direct epoxy and aluminium tooling.

The highly styled nature of the requested components did not always favour manufacturing which led to some complicated tooling solutions. As the parts are highly visual hiding any potential splits was a priority in the tooling design.

Composites Take Flight

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Composites are playing a larger and larger role in aircraft. At Boeing they have gone from a tiny proportion of the planes’ bodies in the late 1960s to

half the materials used in their construction today. So what are the benefits and what are the challenges that this offers?

Breaking Through Design Barriers

The key to these planes is strong composite materials, using carbon fibre to add strength to plastics. Lighter than the metals traditionally used in aircraft construction they ensure that the aircraft are still as strong, able to bear their own weight and survive the rigours of flight.
Working with composites opens up new options for designers and engineers. Any increase in options is good when trying to balance the interests of fuel efficiency, aerodynamics and reducing engine noise. For example, composites have allowed the creation of sweeping wing tips for improved fuel consumption.
Working with composites changes what constitutes a single part of a plane. Components can be made in different shapes and sizes, improving the aircraft’s structural integrity and reducing time and costs on assembly.

Saving Money and Saving the Planet

These sorts of efficiencies have two main benefits – one for the companies running the planes and one for the public good.
For the companies more efficient planes mean cost savings. Lighter craft need less fuel to fly, and aerodynamic efficiencies help with this. With fuel prices continuing their inexorable climb, anything the companies can do to cut these costs makes a huge difference.
The improved efficiencies of construction also create financial savings. Lighter parts are cheaper to transport. Innovations in parts design save money on fabrication and construction. The use of superior
composite tooling techniques leads to parts that fit better at a lower cost. For manufacturers and airlines alike, composites mean savings.
These efficiencies don’t just save money – they also help save the planet.
Aircraft are significant causes of pollution due to the fuel they burn staying in the air. The lighter and more fuel efficient they are the less impact they have on the environment.
More than this, the light, innovative designs made possible by composites are paving the way towards solar powered aircraft. The
Solar Impulse plane, due to make a dramatic 25 day demonstration flight in 2015, is a solar powered aircraft built from the latest composites and environmentally friendly technologies. It opens up a world of possibilities for low cost, low impact flying in the future.

The Challenges of Composite Aircraft

The shift towards composites in aircraft of course comes with its own challenges.
During production having the right tools for the job is crucial. Aircraft are precision machines and small imperfections in their surfaces can lead to huge losses in efficiency. Meeting rigorous safety standards also demands a precision approach, and closer collaboration between aircraft manufacturers and
composite tooling designers will be necessary to reap the benefits that composites can bring.
For the airlines using these planes new challenges also arise. Repair teams have to learn to work with new materials, and
Boeing in particular  have worked hard to show that their composite aircraft can be successfully repaired. Small repairs can be achieved by bonding new layers over damage using heat and epoxy. Spare parts are being developed to bolt over other areas vulnerable to damage. But for larger scale damage custom repair jobs may be needed, requiring repair crews to have a greater understanding of the materials they are working with. Moving towards larger parts, while good for construction and reducing vulnerabilities in the plane, can make repairs harder, as the pieces being replaced are larger than before.
Composites are clearly the future of aircraft construction. The potential benefits are huge, but as is often the case, so are the challenges.

Composites and 3-D Printing – A Challenge to the Industry

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3D printing, which thirty years ago seemed as distant a dream as deep space travel, has now arrived. Not only is it here but it is moving forward at an incredible rate, with a
multi-material colour printer recently launched and a
carbon fibre printer now on its way. This offers great opportunities for those working with composites, and also great challenges.

Here Comes The Replicator

3D printers provide more than the product-from-thin-air dream of the Star Trek replicator. They allow manufacturers to significantly improve and speed up their processes.
The most obvious benefit of 3D printing is in the production of prototypes. 3D printing isn’t cheap and can’t match other systems for cost effective mass production. But it is well suited to the production of bespoke items such as prototypes. Taking away the need to set up complex machinery or hand craft a new item, it can allow a design to go straight from the computer into physical reality for testing and tool design.
It also allows manufacturers to play with designs traditional machining might find difficult. A 3D food printer
recently demonstrated at CES can produce confectionary in shapes that are almost impossible using traditional methods. It provides one more tool in the chocolatier’s arsenal, and promises similar developments in other fields.
But it’s the shift towards more streamlined manufacturing that is perhaps most promising. 3D printing exhibits many of the principles embedded in the famous Toyota Production System and the lean manufacturing systems that have followed it. It reduces hand-offs from one part of a production line to another, allows instant shifts from producing one product to another on the same line, and can produce in quantities precisely matching customer demand. If the technology can be made more cost effective then it may transform the way we manufacture.

Bigger is Not Better

The potential for lean production by 3D printing offers a challenge to traditional manufacturers. But there’s also a more immediate challenge – the problem of copying.
3D printers are starting to be combined with 3D scanning. This will allow less reputable companies, or individuals without the resources to buy brand name products, to scan objects and print their own copies. The entertainment industry has already been rocked by the challenge of products being copied and distributed by pirates. In the electronic age, large companies start to lose the edge that comes with intellectual property (IP) control. Manufacturing may be about to face the same problems.

Responding To The IP Challenge

There are two ways in which manufacturers can respond to this.
The first is to resist the challenge, fighting legal battles to prevent competitors from copying a design. We can see this approach in the court battles revolving around King, the company behind Candy Crush Saga. It’s a brutal, protracted approach that favours large businesses legally but damages their public image.
The other approach is a more flexible one. Composites manufacturers can accept that sooner or later others will copy their designs and instead concentrate on using skilled craftsmen to produce the most up to the minute items through innovation, flexibility and skilled tooling design. Leaping on the changes made possible by 3D printing, rather than resisting them, is an approach open to all companies, big and small. It doesn’t leave the company’s fate in the hands of outsiders like judges and juries, and it builds a reputation for innovation that will draw in customers.
3D printing is here, and the changes it brings are as irresistible as waves crashing on the shore. So the question for manufacturers is this – will you make the most of the opportunity, or will you sit as futile as King Canute, demanding that the waves leave you alone.

Composites Opportunities and the Shanghai Free Trade Zone

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China is a market of huge interest to all sorts of businesses. With its large economy it provides the opportunity to export to a growing group of consumers. It’s a customer base that is eager for manufactured goods, whether for individual consumers or to cater to China’s own growing industrial base, and this provides a great opportunity for composites manufacturers.
At the cutting edge of this opportunity is the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

The Opportunity of the East

The scale of the opportunity in China has been shown in
a recent report by Irish based Research and Markets. The report, published on 11 January, predicts impressive growth in the demand for composites in China, with the market growing to an estimated $11.5 billion by the year 2018.
Major market segments for composites such as transportation, electronics and construction all grew significantly in 2012 and show no signs of flagging. Joint ventures with Chinese companies are already being established to make the most of this growth, and the need for high volume production processes in particular is expected to grow.
This is an opportunity from everybody from major composite product exporters to those providing
composite tooling design.

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ), established in September 2013, provides both an opportunity now and a sign of what the future has to hold.
The follow up to a previous experiment in Shenzhen in the 1980s, the SFTZ is a small part of a major Chinese city in which more liberal rules are applied to businesses. Rules on borrowing and investment are far looser in the zone than in the rest of China and the bureaucracy faced by businesses has been significantly reduced. It is an experiment by China in allowing more involvement by foreign businesses and investors, and it provides huge opportunities for the companies involved.

The SFTZ and Composites Manufacturing

While the most dramatic changes in the SFTZ are in the financial sector it also creates new options for manufacturing.
Though the zone itself is an area of only a few square miles it is based on the Chinese mainland, making it an ideal base for any business looking to expand in China. Businesses can be headquartered within the zone and base key activities there while having easy distribution opportunities to the surrounding area. Liberalised investment rules will draw in financial support for businesses working in the zone and make it easier for foreign businesses to cooperate with Chinese companies in their supply chain.
The SFTZ will also provide a unique opportunity for those providing composite products to consumers and consumer-facing industries. The relatively high wealth and relatively unrestricted lifestyles of those working within the zone will create markets for all sorts of consumables considered luxuries elsewhere in China. Providing end products and the tools to produce them will create a further micro-economy of composite products within the zone, channelling more of the SFTZ’s profits into the hands of manufacturers and exporters to the zone.

And Into the Future

But it’s not just the immediate opportunities that make the SFTZ a market which composites businesses should look to get involved in. It’s what the SFTZ represents for the future.
The zone has the backing of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, a trained economist looking to liberalise his country’s economy and so accelerate growth. If the SFTZ succeeds then he will almost certainly extend its liberal regulations to the rest of China, as happened following the previous Shenzhen experiment. Companies who get involved now will have a foothold ready to make the most of that opportunity.
For composites manufacturers involvement in the SFTZ isn’t just an opportunity for now – it’s an investment in the world’s most important market.

Composite Tooling Goes Environmental

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Environmental protection may not be the first thing you think of when you talk about composite tooling, but the two are deeply intertwined. Technological attempts to reduce our impact on the environment rely on good materials and precision tooling, making composites a large part of the solution to environmental problems. And now environmental research is repaying the favour, with knowledge developed at the polar ice caps feeding back into better composite design.

Composites for a Better Future

As the composite materials we make and the ways we use them become more sophisticated they increasingly feature in all sorts of technology aimed at helping the environment. From wind turbine blades to the latest generation of hybrid cars, composites are helping to build a less polluted world.
The auto industry’s response to corporate fuel economy regulations in the United States provides a great example of this. Car manufacturers are not renowned for their environmental credentials, American ones doubly so. But providing corporate fleets is a big part of the auto industry, and the government is using this to force the hand of manufacturers. Regulations call for a 99% improvement in fuel efficiency in corporate cars from 2011 and 2025. That’s a tall order for the industry, and composite materials will have to play a big part in their response.
One of the best ways for manufacturers to improve the efficiency of their cars is by reducing their weight. But they can’t just shrink the cars or remove features – customers expect a certain standard from their vehicles. Advances in the use of composites will allow manufacturers to build lighter bodies without giving up strength and space. The challenge they face is one of reducing production costs for composites, with
better tooling design being a large part of how they will achieve this.

A Better Future for Composites

At the same time, research designed to help us protect the environment is helping scientists to develop better composites.
Ken Golden, a professor of mathematics at the University of Utah, is using maths to better understand the polar ice caps and the way that global warming acts on them. Far from your normal image of a mathematician’s life, Golden has spent time drilling cores from the Arctic ice and then looking at the way they are structured.
The presence of salt transforms sea ice, making it a very different material from that seen on rivers, ponds or in a drink. It is porous, allowing sea water to move through it, and understanding the implications of this helps Golden to understand our changing environment.
But Golden’s research is not just useful for understanding the world we live in, it is useful for shaping it too. The structure of sea ice is similar to all sorts of other composite materials, and the mathematical formulae he has developed to model it are proving to have many other applications. From monitoring osteoporosis in human bones to designing better fighter jets, the implications of Golden’s maths are far reaching, and include potential developments in composites.

Environmentalism and Manufacturing Hand in Hand

Climate change sceptics sometimes dismiss environmental research as a waste of money that could be better invested in other areas. But the relationship between environmental research and composite materials shows that the sceptics are the ones wasting their breath. Improving our knowledge of materials is never a waste of time, and the things Professor Golden is learning from the arctic ice will help to make better materials. Materials which, in turn, can be used in the environmentally conscious technology of tomorrow.
The journey from the icecaps to a better hybrid car is one that we take via composites.