The aerospace industry is readily adopting composite materials owing to their strength and weight benefits to meet the stringent quality requirements and save costs on building structural systems. Thermal curing plays a vital role in manufacturing high-quality composite materials. Traditionally, the aerospace manufacturers used high-pressure autoclaves for thermal curing. However, autoclaves have proven to be expensive and time-consuming. In such a scenario, there has been an emergence of out of autoclave (OOA) composite manufacturing that substitutes the traditional autoclave curing process at a reduced cost. While many automotive manufacturing companies are already making use of OOA, the aerospace industry is still lagging. In fact, many new materials and processes developed for the automotive industry can be used in the aerospace manufacturing field, especially the fast curing systems that provide a significant financial advantage. Aimed at bringing this advantage to the aerospace manufacturing industry is Composites ATE that focus on OOA with fast curing systems to reduce investment in tooling by decreasing cure cycle time to 3-15 minutes from four to eight hours. The company also helps in removing the need for most ancillary materials like a vacuum bag. “Our long term strategy is based on introducing into aerospace the materials and technologies that we are already using for the automotive sector: fast curing prepregs (carbon or glass) cured in hot-plates presses,” says Daniel Claret, Engineering and R&D Director at Composites ATE.
Providing composite applications for the thermal and electrical isolating sectors for over two decades now, Composites ATE insulating materials include ISOMIK and THERMOMIK that are based on MICA mineral with an excellent thermal behaviour of up to 800o C. Similarly, BLACKTHERM is a proprietary product based on glass fibre and an internally developed resin featuring high impact and wear resistance. It was developed to reduce thermal losses at the press plates in the plastic injection industry. It is a high-tech thermal insulation plate. Alusave System, currently under development, is a hybrid plug and play product ready to use at the Aluminum Injection industry.
Our long term strategy is based on introducing into aerospace the materials and technologies that we are already using for the automotive sector: fast curing prepregs (carbon or glass) cured in hot-plates presses
This product is a sacrificial material removing the need for press plates’ maintenance. Composites ATE other materials are mainly used for electrical isolation and as fire barriers due to their self-extinguishing characteristics.
Composites ATE is EN/AS9100 certified company with a scope covering from design to production of aerospace components. “We will soon obtain IATF16949 and also ISO14001 standards due to our new contracts in the automotive during 2020,” says Claret. In the Aerospace, some of the company’s traditional products hold Airbus certification and are considered as a speciality. At the same time, Composites ATE also produce parts in technical plastics or even perform post-curing of carbon/bismaleimide helicopter engine covers. “We have the in-house knowledge to diversify and foster cross-sectoral synergies. This allows us to define the most suitable solution case by case.”
The company is currently working with clients like Airbus, VW Group, Siemens-Gamesa, Bombardier Rail, ABB or B/S/H among others with a robust quality management system, strict project management procedures and customer satisfaction as the core principals. One of the major successes of Composites ATE is its recent project with an automotive OEM from VW Group. The project was awarded to Composites ATE for producing small and cosmetic finishing carbon fibre parts. “Our solution is about 20 per cent cheaper and a half in investment than our competitors, and ready for producing the expected 70,000 parts per year demanded by the customer,” says Claret.
Currently, Composites ATE is building new Headquarters and R&D facilities near Barcelona will be the base for its expansion on fast curing and press processing systems. The company is also looking at the enhancements of its traditional products. With the increasing potential of both the Automotive and the Aerospace sectors in the U.S., Composites ATE plans to expand to the American market in the coming years.