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Gianfranco Meschini, CSO and Board member, Microtex Composites

JEC Composites Magazine interviews Gianfranco Meschini, CSO and board member at Microtex Composites, to understand in depth the company evolution and the projects focused on technical innovations in order to continue to provide top solutions to the high tech industry.

Gianfranco Meschini, CSO and Board member, Microtex Composites
READING TIME

7 minutes, 50 secondes

Microtex Composites is part of the historical Becagli Group specialized in the textile production since the end of the second world war. The group is composed of two companies: the original one still dedicated to the production of traditional fabrics and Microtex Composites which is
expert in the manufacture of advanced composites, both dry and prepreg with different kind of resins. Microtex Composites starts from the weaving of carbon fibre, develops its own resin systems and produces prepreg.  The company features a solvent impregnation line, a hotmelt, a UD line and a SMC line.

Thanks to continuous research and development activity, today the company is an European excellence for carbon fibre manufactures.

Gianfranco Meschini is the CSO and board member of Microtex Composites. Mr. Meschini, after a consolidated experience in Microtex Cotton Club, with Massimo Becagli and Silvio Campigli founded Microtex Composites

The new company was immediately in the spotlight of the national and international markets thanks to the innovative idea aimed at the production of dry and prepreg carbon fiber for aesthetic and structural applications in the automotive, nautical, motorsport and transport sectors.

Currently, Gianfranco deals with the development of sales policies and strategies, as well as the development and consolidation of international markets.

We asked him about the past and future of Microtex Composites.

SMC is a ready to mould fibre – reinforced in a thermosetting matrix material – primarily used in compression mold. Its applications range from lightweight alternative to metal sheet working, structural components at low cost, automotive and transportation.
SMC is a ready to mould fibre – reinforced in a thermosetting matrix material – primarily used in compression mold. Its applications range from lightweight alternative to metal sheet working, structural components at low cost, automotive and transportation.

JEC Composites Magazine: How and why did Microtex start developing innovative products like carbon fiber coming from traditional fibers like cotton?
Gianfranco Meschini: “Microtex Composites is a 2015 spin off of a larger company (Microtex Cotton Club SpA), part of the Becagli Group, which started to evaluate the transition from classic fabrics market to the composites market in 2008. This phase started from the market vision of Mr. Massimo Becagli, who always believed in product innovation and didn’t find large development possibilities in the traditional fabric area any more. The transition was a mix between the combination of the traditional fabrics experience of the Becagli family – started in the early 50’s – and the introduction of new technologies, processes and people coming from other sectors. The first implementation was back to 2008 where a conventional weaving loom was converted for carbon fiber weaving. We first started with the production  of carbon fiber and special glass dry fabrics. After a couple of years the setting up of the solvent prepreg line ended and the first prepreg pilot production started. The development of this activity was performed thanks to a spin off of the traditional internal chemical laboratory.”

Samples of aesthetic composites made by various fibers such as carbon, linen, metal fibers used in a wide range of applications (e.g. bodywork and interiors) for different markets: motorsports, automotive, rail and marine. Aesthetic composites are also successfully used in the interior design sector.

JEC Composites Magazine: From your point of view, how did the use of carbon composites in automotive industry change from 2010?
Gianfranco Meschini: “The use of carbon fiber changed a lot in the last ten years. In 2010, excluding some very high-end projects, most of the carbon fiber applications were in the area of “carbon look” bodywork to let the end user “feel” the car technology. During  the years, carbon look requirements fade out especially on luxury cars where the use of carbon fiber is intrinsic. In the future, the use of carbon fiber for structural applications will be performed using SMC and woven fabrics that will be used extensively on top level projects but only when needed in budget cap and mass production.”

JEC Composites Magazine: What the automotive and auto sport industries do now ask?
Gianfranco Meschini: “Currently the most important topics are related to sustainability either on carbon fiber application as well as natural fiber and bio-based materials. Concerning the processes, especially for large volumes applications, autoclave processes will be substituted by other techniques like thermoplastic forging and compression moulding. The volume scaling up of the composite production will be the key topic for the future, and extensive composite utilization in the automotive market will be only possible if the production technology radically changes.

We are now working on new products to comply with mass production processes. The main products are related to compression moulding epoxy formulations either for SMC and conventional carbon fabrics, as well as natural fibers.”

Microtex Composites | Our philosophy

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you tell us some of your collaborations with automotive, marine and aerospace?
Gianfranco Meschini: “We cooperate with the most important brands worldwide either for automotive and marine markets.

For automotive we support a lot of bodywork projects as well as some medium volume (for composites) structural chassis applications. Concerning the marine market, we support the production of composites masts and booms, skiffs, cruise boats and racers like “IMOCA 60” category.

We are now approaching the aerospace sector too, but in this area the development and qualification time require a long-term planning.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Following two years of pandemic, which challenges are you facing? We know that one of the problems the industry is experiencing worldwide is the global supply chain. How do you deal with the problem, do you rely on a local supply chain?
Gianfranco Meschini: “The global supply chain is a topic that in the last two years had a great influence on the developed strategies. Luckily the Company approached years ago a geographic supply chain redundancy which mitigates the problem. The supply chain redundancy is based on the qualification of multiple supplier located in different parts of the world (e.g. Europe, America and far east) in order to reduce the dependency from various factors like what happened in the last years (e.g. shipping delays and/or raw material shortage).”

Natural fiber composites are realized by assembling different raw materials to get a final product with excellent performance and sustainable. Nowadays they are successfully used in the automotive (bodyworks and interiors), sport & leisure (cycling, ski, golf, snowboard) and marine (interiors and non-structural exteriors) markets.
Natural fiber composites are realized by assembling different raw materials to get a final product with excellent performance and sustainable. Nowadays they are successfully used in the automotive (bodyworks and interiors), sport & leisure (cycling, ski, golf, snowboard) and marine (interiors and non-structural exteriors) markets.

JEC Composites Magazine: Which do you think is your area of excellence?
Gianfranco Meschini: “We try to put the customers needs and satisfaction as the one of the most driving topics in the company, so the expectation is to organize the activities trying to maximize the results in this area.

Regarding this topic we have developed a new vision for superior fabrics: Club Italia.

Our team of expert technicians and engineers manage the entire production process to ensure the customers concept is implemented to the highest quality standards.

The final result will not only focus on performance; our Style Office will also creatively customize the result according to the customers needs.

Our key factors are:

  • smart production planning to match client’s needs
  • a dynamic technical support: our technicians can assist our clients both during the prototype stage and the whole production process
  • an excellent customer service providing very fast replies and prompt order processing
  • customization: we are proud to bring our customer’s ideas to life, in any application field.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Do you think that the lower-carbon technologies are a possible answer to the challenges we are facing related to environment protection and green economy? Are you considering the use of natural fiber and resins?
Gianfranco Meschini: “I think that, in the next future, the greatest efforts will be in the direction of the sustainability area and the use of recycled fibers. The use of natural fibers and bio-based resins is one of the most important topic which comes from our market. The company is working on some projects accordingly and some products are already available as carbon fiber recycled prepreg and natural fibers. We are currently working on further development of the existing product based on recycled and/or natural fibers.”

Club Italia is a new vision for superior fabrics. Thanks to the ongoing research for new inspirations Microtex Composites can apply a careful study of patterns combined with the use of both fancy and technical yarns.
Club Italia is a new vision for superior fabrics. Thanks to the ongoing research for new inspirations Microtex Composites can apply a careful study of patterns combined with the use of both fancy and technical yarns.

JEC Composites Magazine: Another related topic is the circular economy. What are your considerations about carbon composites recycling ?
Gianfranco Meschini: “Circular economy is a very important topic as carbon footprint reduction. The company developed some activities years ago and some development projects are still ongoing, based also in an increase of interaction with all the supply chain before and after our processes. Recycling of carbon fiber can be economical and environmentally interesting.

We are not experiencing the same scenario on glass fiber recycling where the recycling costs are much higher than the virgin material. Probably, in the next years, environmental regulations will provide more opportunities.

Life cycle assessment will be soon implemented.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Life cycle assessment is s a topic very much under the spotlight, but still not cost-effective. Are you supporting research projects on the matter?
Gianfranco Meschini: “Yes, the idea is to go on with current projects and develop new ones with the contributions of several companies and Universities. The projects will be on a national and international basis.

In the next months, collaborations for next years will be presented. Currently our collaborations include University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Aerospace department of Pisa University, Mechanical engineering department University of Brescia, as well as foreign University like Bristol University.”

Board members (from left: Federico Becagli-CTO, Silvio Campigli-CIO, Massimo Becagli-CEO, Gianfranco Meschini-CSO) in the new refrigerator area capable to store 180.000 sqm of prepregs.
Board members (from left: Federico Becagli-CTO, Silvio Campigli-CIO, Massimo Becagli-CEO, Gianfranco Meschini-CSO) in the new refrigerator area capable to store 180.000 sqm of prepregs.

JEC Composites Magazine: You recently inaugurated a new large (8.000 sqm) production plant, what are you going to produce in this new surface?
Gianfranco Meschini: “The new production plant is active from the middle of 2021 and it is located in Pistoia (40 kms from Florence). It features most of the production areas, warehouses, offices, R&D, as well as a new refrigerated warehouse for prepreg storage: one of the largest on the market, able to store 180.000 sqm of prepregs.

Part of the production area remains in the close historical plant located in Prato (20 kms from Florence). A multiple site strategy is a standard requirement especially in the Automotive industry as well as the prescription of IATF 16949.

The Company is going through a significant growth and the production place was not suitable anymore. This kind of investment allow us to be even more competitive in order to match market’s and customers’ needs. Therefore, with the new refrigerator area we will be able to supply our customer quickly, increasing our storage capacity.”

More information www.microtexcomposites.com