America’s Cup catamaran racing sail boat (Emirates New Zealand)Australia


A key driver for the growth of the Australian composites industry is the Government’s $250 million Industry Growth Centres Initiative, an industry-led approach to driving innovation, productivity and competitiveness through investing in key industry sectors.

Most recently, the Australian Government invested $250,000 through this initiative to develop an internationally recognized advanced manufacturing hub – the Advanced Fibre Cluster Geelong – to accelerate the growth of the carbon fiber industry in Geelong. The focus is on composite projects that reduce energy consumption; new products for the automotive and defense industries; innovative industrial applications for carbon fiber; and improved carbon fiber recycling.

The Advanced Fibre Cluster Geelong is base for a number of leading composites companies and organizations. One of them is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Here, a new lightweight environmentally-friendly composite was developed as an alternative to concrete, and led to the creation of technology company HySSIL.

Another is Carbon Revolution, who produce the world’s only one-piece carbon fiber wheel, which they describe as the most technically advanced wheel on the planet and one of the most advanced lightweight technologies on any car. Carbon Revolution recently announced plans to ramp up production of its carbon fiber wheels to 200,000 units annually.

Also in the cluster is Austeng, who recently collaborated with Imagine Intelligent Materials to build the first commercial graphene plant in Australia, and advanced composites manufacturer Quickstep, who are currently working on a low cost carbon composite fender for the European automotive market. For this, Quickstep is relocating its automotive R&D activities from Munich, Germany.

Geelong is also the location of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’s National Carbon Fibre Manufacturing Collaboration Hub, created with Deakin University and the CSIRO Fibres of the Future Laboratory. It includes the open-access carbon fiber and composite research facility run by Carbon Nexus. With state-of-the-art research and analysis labs, pilot scale and research carbonization lines, and excellent production and research staff, Carbon Nexus has cemented Geelong's reputation as an advanced manufacturing hotspot. In its first year of operation, Carbon Nexus produced 75 different batches of carbon fiber and tested 18 different precursor materials that can be used in the production of composite materials.

In the aerospace industry, Airbus Group Australia Pacific plays a crucial role in advancing the region’s defense and commercial aviation capabilities, including the manufacture of composite structure components. Just one example is the MRH90, an all-composite construction, medium-lift helicopter.

With leading edge technology and a world-class manufacturing facility located in Brisbane, Airbus Group Australia Pacific Composites specializes in the manufacture and repair of aeronautical composite structures. It manufactures and repairs composites for both Australian and global aviation industries, including components for the ARH Tiger, NH90 and Super Puma helicopter programs. It operates from a 6000 square meter, purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility in Eagle Farm in Brisbane.


New Zealand

The Centre for Advanced Composite Materials (CACM) is based at the University of Auckland’s Newmarket campus. Including the synergistic research area in the Plastics Centre of Excellence, CACM covers approximately 3,500m² and includes a large, open plan laboratory area with a range of specialized equipment and a mechanical testing laboratory. CACM collaborates with other New Zealand and international researchers, and works directly with many New Zealand companies.

One area of research conducted by CACM is into green composites or high performance bio-composites. The aim is to design, manufacture and analyze lightweight composite products using natural reinforcements and polymers produced from both synthetic and natural resources. Other research areas include micro and nano-fibrillar polymer-polymer composites, self-healing composites, anti-reflective coatings, and enhancing flammability performance of composites.

Southern Spars, already recognized as a world leader in carbon fiber spars and rigging, is building almost all of Team NZ’s AC50 boat for the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda in May. From their new manufacturing plant in Avondale, they have branched into making carbon fiber bike wheels and medical evacuation stretchers for rescue planes.

Core Builders Composites has built the latest generation of America’s Cup wing-sails for over half of the Bermudan fleet, and has also expanded into architectural and industrial projects, participating in the creation of the world’s first carbon composite helicopter.

Finally, there is Rocket Lab, a US aerospace corporation with a New Zealand subsidiary and a mission to develop lightweight, cost-effective commercial rocket launch services. It has developed the 17 meter-long Electron rocket; the world’s first all-carbon composite launch vehicle. If all goes well with current testing on the Mahia peninsula, Electron will deliver many satellites into orbit for optimized crop monitoring, natural disaster prediction, Internet from space, improved weather reporting, up-to-date maritime data, and search and rescue services.

Electron makes use of advanced carbon composite materials for a strong and lightweight flight structure. After extensive research, Rocket Lab developed carbon composite tanks that are compatible with liquid oxygen, providing impressive weight savings.

From bikes to boats, and planes to spacecraft – and everything in between – composites manufacturers in Australia and New Zealand are certainly making their mark in the world – and beyond.


Written by Denzil Walton

Denzil Walton is a technical copywriter, editor and conference reporter. He has over 30 years’ experience writing on a variety of industrial and high-tech topics.


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