A new £8.2m National Composites Certification and Evaluation Facility (NCCEF) was opened at The University of Manchester on June 30th 2010. The facility will be part of the Northwest Composites Centre, which was launched in 2006 to carry out cutting edge research into composite materials for aerospace composite design and manufacture to be used in the construction of lighter, more fuel efficient aircraft.
The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is to invest £4.7 million in this groundbreaking new facility to support companies in the aerospace supply chain. It will be supported by £2.5 million of academic commitment and resources from the University. The remainder of the funding will come from the private sector.
The facility will be unrivalled in Europe and has been recognised by the National Composites Network as filling a recognised gap in UK infrastructure.
It will provide expertise and evaluation techniques to support companies of all sizes in the development of new composite products and manufacturing processes. It will also provide companies with an evidence base to demonstrate the quality of their products to improve their chances of winning orders and increasing product sales.
There is a current move within the region's major aerospace companies to require suppliers to provide supporting evidence of product capability, rather than carrying out acceptance tests themselves on delivery.
However, a study of the region's capabilities and opportunities in composites, compiled by the Northwest Aerospace Alliance in 2006, identified access to testing and evaluation support as a critical bottleneck to the invention of new composite products and the successful winning of orders.
This facility will address this through providing data regarding composite quality to improve the success rate of regional companies winning contracts, designing data and 'rules' to facilitate the development of new products and providing data to certify the quality of composite parts, processes or repair strategies.
Professor Paul Hogg, Executive Director of the Northwest Composites Centre and Professor of Composite Materials, said: "Local companies will now be able to enjoy an unrivalled service generating basic data and advice on composite materials that will support design, materials selection, manufacturing and repair strategies and aerospace qualification.”