Within 12 to 18 months, small Australian company Quickstep Technologies hopes to have certification for what it believes is a revolutionary composite component manufacturing technology. The Perth, Western Australia-based organisation is working with an unnamed group of global aerospace companies to gain certification for the process, which promises cheaper and faster composites manufacture.

The company hopes the Airbus A380 could be one of the first beneficiaries of the process. The Quickstep process is a fast fabrication method for making high-quality composite products without an autoclave, using a fluid-filled, balanced pressure, floating mould technique coupled with vibration.

A lightweight, rigid mould is suspended in water or oil, with the liquid circulating in a low-pressure environment while a flexible membrane maintains constant pressure and heat on the mould. The pressure and heat compact the laminate and cure the component while vibration forces out trapped air and gases. The process is 10 times faster than traditional autoclave composite manufacture, says Quickstep director Deryck Graham.

In addition, it can produce large volumes, involves less capital equipment, tooling costs and labour, and provides increased manufacturing and structural design flexibility, he says. Following recent visits by US and European aerospace manufacturers to evaluate the process, Graham says Quickstep is now in discussions with a group of aerospace and material manufacturers to certificate the process for aerospace use. The A380 is a target aircraft for the process, says Graham, adding that Quickstep is talking to a European company that wants to use the process to produce bonded aluminium panels for the ultra-large airliner.

Quickstep, an unlisted company 20%-owned by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, needs to raise additional funding - around A$3 million ($1.8 million) - to enable it to commercialise and certificate the process, which is also of interest to the automotive industry.

Source: Flight International