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Quickstep loads up on lightweight technology
Sydney-based aviation components maker sets sights on car-makers
13 Aug 2013
By BARRY PARK
A SYDNEY-based company making parts for the $300 billion F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is now switching its focus to cars.
Carbon composites maker Quickstep has announced that it is in talks with German car-makers and components makers, including luxury brand Audi, about building lightweight panels for use in cars such as the Audi A1.
The switch from cutting-edge aircraft components to the as-yet unimagined lightweight car technology was helped by a $2.6 million grant from the federal government’s now defunct Climate Ready Program.
The program was established in 2008 and designed to help companies address the effects of climate change.
According to Quickstep, its resin-spray technology allows vehicle parts to be produced at high speed and low cost, and with a high-quality finish.
“This innovative ‘robotised’ process fully automates production of lightweight carbon fibre composite car panels so they can be made in minutes and at very low cost compared to other, more capital-intensive methods,” Quickstep said.
“RST enables car parts to be mass-produced with a high quality finish direct off the mould, a major improvement on existing carbon-fibre processes.”
Quickstep managing director Philippe Odouard said car-makers were aiming to develop lighter, more fuel-efficient cars in the face of tightening emissions laws.
“This can be achieved using Quickstep’s Resin Spray Transfer technology,” Mr Odouard said.
“We are delighted to have demonstrated RST’s technical success by repeatedly manufacturing carbon-fibre composite panels with our pioneering automatic plant in Sydney.
“It delivers car parts with a Class-A surface finish – without the need for the ‘re-work’ that is commonly required with the manufacture of carbon fibre automotive panels,” he said.
“We plan to manufacture exterior parts ourselves and also to licence our technology, enabling auto-makers to produce carbon fibre car panels with the strength of steel and half the weight.” Mr Odouard said Quickstep had delivered carbon-fibre test panels to several car-makers to demonstrate the RST technology’s value.
“The price competitiveness of RST compared to other technologies is attracting attention, and has led to requests for quotes,” he said.
“We expect to manufacture parts in small quantities within the next few months and to increase to larger quantities shortly thereafter. ” Quickstep is hoping to cash in on the raw physics of modern-day cars, with about two-thirds of their energy needs determined purely by weight.
Quickstep said the substantial weight savings available from using ultra-light, ultra-strong carbon fibre composite panels allowed engines to be smaller, reducing fuel use and “paving the way for mass adoption of affordable hybrid, electric and conventional cars with composite components”.
The company has also recently struck a contract to make wing flaps for the next-generation Hercules troop and equipment transporter aircraft.
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