Quickstep Signs Key European Agreement for Composites Process Development in Aerospace Industry

Quickstep Technologies Pty Ltd has secured a key three-way development agreement to produce aerospace-grade production parts on a trial basis for the UK aerospace industry.
The Australian advanced materials group has signed an agreement – the 3rd major international research collaboration to be announced in the past six months – with the Northern Aerospace Technology Exploitation Centre (NATEC), a major UK Aerospace Manufacturer and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).
The ‘Process Evaluation Agreement’ will enable the Quickstep Process to be trialled in one of the key world centres for the global aerospace industry. The Process enables the high-speed production of advanced composite components at a fraction of the cost of conventional processes by using fluid curing rather than air at high temperature and pressures.
Under the collaboration, a 12-month evaluation program will commence later this year at UMIST in Manchester, England – with Quickstep supplying a fully automated production facility to be assembled in Perth, Australia. The pilot facility will develop aerospace-grade production parts for civil aircraft.
Established in February 2002, NATEC’s key aims include contributing to the competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry by providing world-class expertise, providing a hub to co-ordinate and manage projects and forming an ‘exploitation’ network working with academia, industry, regions and associations.
NATEC was formed by collaboration between the Universities of the North of England. The NATEC hub is based in Manchester and staffed by a team who understand the needs of both industry and the academic world. The organisation has more than 200 research experts and has some ₤100 million worth of research infrastructure.
The Quickstep pilot production facility to be delivered to UMIST will be the third fully automated machine to be deployed internationally by Quickstep, with one facility already operating in Geelong, Australia and another to be delivered shortly to one of the world’s leading auto-makers in Japan.
The NATEC agreement comes just a week after the official launch of the Geelong venture in collaboration with the State Government-backed Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM), which has established a world centre for advanced materials manufacture.
Quickstep’s CEO, Mr Nick Noble, said the NATEC agreement represented another important advance in the continuing development of the Quickstep Process, representing its first exposure to the European market and laying the foundations for the potential evolution of a major international research collaboration in the future.
“We are delighted to have secured this landmark agreement with representatives of the UK Aerospace Industry,” Mr Noble said. “This collaboration program will open many doors for Quickstep and represents a very exciting development for the technology.
“We are very pleased that the potential of the Quickstep Process has been recognised by NATEC and by one of the world’s leading aerospace companies, and we look forward to working closely with the evaluation team in Manchester as the development program gathers momentum in the coming months,” he added.
The Quickstep Process enables the high-speed production of composite materials in volumes and cost structures not previously achievable using conventional autoclave processes.
The key advantage of the breakthrough Process – developed in Perth over the past 10 years – is its ability to produce composites much faster and more cost effectively than conventional autoclave manufacturing processes.
Quickstep’s patented suite of technologies enable the high-speed production of advanced composite materials by using fluid curing rather than air at high temperatures and pressures as in conventional autoclave processes. The high level of control over the curing process inherent in the Quickstep™ process overcomes the traditional barriers to the mass production of these materials, which have been used in highly specialised applications for decades – enabling them to be produced in much greater volumes and at a much lower cost.
Mr Noble said Quickstep was at an advanced stage of negotiations with a number of other international research & development organisations, automotive and aerospace groups and expected further pilot plant and development programs to be signed in the coming months.
“We are confident that we could have as many as a further 3-6 Quickstep pilot production facilities deployed over the next 12 months, as global recognition and take-up of the technology accelerates,” he said.
In last weeks newsletter, we reported that Quickstep Technologies has set up a fully automated production plant as part of venture with the Victorian Government-backed Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM).

Published: 21st July 2004