At a time when manufacturing is in decline, a composite material designed and developed in Toowoomba, Queensland, is being used in multi-million dollar projects around the world and redefining the capabilities of manufacturing.
Pultrusion, as it is known, is the “next big thing” in manufacturing according to the team. It is a continuous process for the manufacture of composite materials with constant cross-section.
Wagners Composite Fibre Technologies (CFT), the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), and Allnex, a global producer of industrial resin coatings, have teamed up and embarked on a $10 million project that received a $3 million boost from the federal CRC program.
Wagners CFT, a pioneer in the use of composite materials in civil engineering, is using pultruded material in the UK, USA and New Zealand. The company is currently installing a boardwalk for the United Arab Emirates’ Al Jubail Island Development.
Engineer and polymer composites researcher, Dr Xuesen Zeng from USQ, said pultrusion has been the manufacturing method of choice due to its ability to produce large sections at volume which are economical and consistent in quality.
“[And] we’re increasing the productivity of the process, incorporating additives such as fire retardants, integrating braiding,” Dr Zeng added.
Professor Peter Schubel, executive director of the USQ Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences, revealed that the university’s investment in a production-ready Pultrex pultrusion line has allowed USQ to operate as the research arm of Wagners CFT. This, he said, has freed up precious production time, leading to the development of new products for new markets, with improved mechanical and fire performance.
“The integration of experimental and modelling capabilities will help increase productivity through higher line speed, and create structures that can compete on cost within Australia and in the global market,” Professor Schubel said.
Wagners CFT, USQ and Allnex are creating advanced structures which are expected to capture new high value markets in the oil, gas and transport industries here in Australia and internationally.