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Martin Oughton, founder, Plyable: Composites have proven to be an excellent alternative to metallic materials

Martin Oughton, CEO and cofounder of Plyable, is a specialist in carbon fibre composites. His vast expertise and experience go from F1 and Grand Prix yachts to the aerospace, automotive and marine sectors. Martin has many years of experience in researching and developing high-performance carbon fibre composites. JEC Composites interviewed Martin to understand how Plyable can simplify manufacturers’ lives.

Martin Oughton, founder, Plyable: Composites have proven to be an excellent alternative to metallic materials
READING TIME

3 minutes, 30 secondes

JEC Composites: How are you structured and what is your proposal for manufacturing companies?

Martin Oughton : Plyable is a manufacturing marketplace that bridges the gap between capacity and capability. Composites manufacturing is a highly fragmented market. Few companies have the vertical integration needed to meet all customer requirements. Plyable acts as an aggregator, providing a one-stop shop that connects supplier capacity and capability through software. Manufacturers get access to a full range of capacities across the globe, whilst simultaneously allowing us to distribute multiple tools across our network of partners. This means we can reduce costs, shorten lead times, and simplify supply chain management. 

JEC Composites: Can you explain your work methodology?

Plyable is fundamentally a technology business. Customers upload their CAD files to our platform, where our patented software automatically assesses the geometry and complexity of the design. Based on this analysis, the software provides an instant quote and lead time tailored to the customer’s requirements, streamlining what was previously a manual process.

Plyable

JEC Composites: Why are composites a good alternative to metals for mould construction?

Composites have proven to be an excellent alternative to metallic materials. Take the aerospace industry for example. There is a historical trend to use what they have always used – invar steel tools. However, with today’s rapid innovation and race to market, costly tools with long-delivery times are not ideal. Since Plyable is not vertically integrated, we can provide engineers with the right material for each application, offering a practical trade-off. Manufacturers can maintain the same manufacturing processes and produce certifiable parts, but without the extended lifespan of invar tools. 

JEC Composites: Which types of materials do you offer?

Plyable provides tooling in a wide range of materials, from foam tools for prototyping to invar for more demanding applications. We are also engaged in R&D with new materials, including large-format additive manufacturing in both polymers and metals. 

JEC Composites: What advantages does a composite mould offer? 

To make a composite mould, we usually create a master pattern from CNC-machined, low-cost tooling board and then layup carbon fibre over it. The layup varies with the mould’s size, scale, geometry, and presence of a back structure. A composite mould will be CTE matched to the component that is being produced, so the engineer does not have to worry about scaling for thermal expansion. They are typically faster and cheaper to manufacture compared to metallic moulds. Composite moulds are also lighter and have lower thermal mass, allowing them to heat up and cool down more quickly, making the production process more cost-effective. 

JEC Composites: How does Plyable’s contribution assist companies?

Plyable simplifies the supply chain and provides access to expert engineering support. We manage the sourcing of various components, allowing our customers to focus on delivering their products. Plyable is an online platform that provides instant quotes, but we’ve also got a full-time team of engineers, who are able to bring their experience to our customers. For our manufacturing partners, we add value by smoothing out their workload. We provide overflow capacity during busy periods and consistent work manufacturing tools and patterns for Plyable during quieter times. 

JEC Composites: Share your thoughts about the future impact of 3D printing on the industry. What are its current limitations? 

3D printing is set to transform mould manufacturing by making it quicker and more cost-effective, especially for intricate designs and rapid prototyping. Right now, however, 3D printing struggles with broader tolerances compared to traditional methods, which makes it less suitable for very precise components. The range of materials available is also limited, so it is not suitable for industries that require advanced alloys or specialty composites. To really make 3D printing viable at scale, we need more suppliers and better global distribution. 

Plyable

JEC Composites: Why is automated mould design such a game-changer for the industry? 

Automating mould design significantly shortens the time from concept to finished product. Mould design is often overlooked yet is a critical step in getting a product to market. By automating this process, engineers can upload early prototypes and receive real-time quotes, along with design-for-manufacture feedback. At Plyable, the key challenge we faced was gathering enough data points. Depending on the product, its geometry and the manufacturing process, there are different choices an engineer can make. We needed a large data library for our AI to make the correct engineering choices. That is why we launched Plyable with a basic workflow 5 years ago, aiming to build this dataset. The more data we collect from customer uploads and quotes, the better our automated system becomes. This continuous improvement feeds into our algorithm, enhancing the automate design process.

More information www.plyable.com