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Quickstep joins uni’s advanced materials push
Leading composites developer to establish its first automotive plant in Geelong
16 Oct 2014
By IAN PORTER
QUICKSTEP Holdings, an Australian company with a world-leading process for curing carbon fibre products without expensive autoclaves, is planning to build a $5.6 million operation in Deakin University’s advanced materials cluster at Waurn Ponds near Geelong, Victoria.
The new plant will be co-located with Deakin’s own Carbon Nexus fibre development company and will be sited adjacent to the new factory being built by wheel maker Carbon Revolution.
The Quickstep project will benefit from a $1.76 million grant from the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund.
This represents about 30 per cent of the total project cost, the same ratio that the federal government used when co-investing with car-makers and component suppliers under the now-cancelled Automotive Transformation Scheme.
Quickstep not only develops unique technology for advanced composites, but also makes small volume, high value parts for projects such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Lockheed Martin’s Hercules transport plane.
Quickstep chairman Tony Quick said the new facility would design and develop automotive manufacturing cells incorporating the Quickstep Process and the Quickstep resin spray transfer system.
The Quickstep Process is a method of curing composite parts without the need for expensive autoclaves (baking ovens).
Instead of being baked in an autoclave, a composite part is contained in a membrane or bladder and submerged, in its mould, in a heated fluid.
The Quickstep process is best suited to flat parts such as body panels, and is not suited to wheel production.
The hardware costs about two thirds of an autoclave. In addition, the process can cut the curing time by up to 90 per cent.
A key advantage of the process is the ability to halt and then recommence the curing process, enabling parts to be bonded to create a large component with no secondary bonds or fasteners.
The company’s resin spray process has already attracted the attention of several European car-makers, including Audi, which has teamed with Quickstep in a German government-funded consortium to develop high-quality, high-speed production. Component trials have started.
Mr Quick said Quickstep had been collaborating with Deakin University for more than a decade.
“We are capitalising on Deakin’s knowledge of Quickstep and the area’s wealth of automotive skills to create a new automotive division associated with the Carbon Nexus facility,” Mr Quick said.
“This grant will make an important contribution to enable us to build a strong automotive culture and propel Quickstep further into the global automotive market.”
He said Carbon Nexus had a team of researchers who helped develop new carbon fibres, reduce production costs and speed up manufacturing processes.
“We will benefit from their expertise as we improve out volume production capacity,” he said.
Deakin deputy vice-chancellor Lee Astheimer said Deakin established Carbon Nexus as part of its Institute for Frontier Materials with the aim of developing close working relationships with companies.
Carbon Nexus is an independent operation that not only researches and develops new fibres for use in composites, but also has a pilot carbon fibre production line.
The cluster created by the co-location of Quickstep will be only the second open access carbon fibre research centre in the world. All other carbon fibre research is done internally by carbon fibre producers.
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