Sigmatex, the world’s leading independent converter of carbon fibre, has been awarded Government Funding through the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) for a project that aims to produce higher volumes of composites in the UK to accelerate vehicle lightweighting.
The Sigmatex Lightweighting Excellence Programme (LX) has been awarded £3.8 million from the latest AMSCI round of funding. The LX consortium will address the lack of capability in the automotive sector to manufacture composite components at high volumes of scale in the UK by connecting the key elements of designing, manufacturing and creating capacity for production.
The lightweighting programme is a strategic cooperation led by Sigmatex in partnership with Caparo Advanced Composites, Cranfield University, Expert Tooling & Automation, Granta Design, Group Rhodes, LMAT, Surface Generation, Tilsatec and with support from Axillium Research and Axillium Lightfellows. Three UK-based automotive OEMs will work closely with the LX manufacturing and technical partners.
A total project value of £7.15 million of joint funding from AMSCI and industry will support the creation of 238 new jobs and safeguard 144 existing jobs between 2015 and 2021.
While the UK has an excellent reputation for developing advanced technology for niche, mid, and high volumes of vehicles, with 1.6 million vehicles per year produced currently, the majority are wholly metallic structures. The LX programme offers OEMs and partners the opportunity to accelerate capability in lightweight structures to achieve weight reduction targets driven by stricter EU emission legislation which comes into effect in 2020.
The LX Consortium has been developed in line with the industrial strategy of BIS and it is aligned with the Automotive Council’s lightweight technology strategy. LX partners will work to understand the challenges for vehicle OEMs in the areas of lightweight design, manufacturing and production growth to meet a high volume UK capability.
Working together, LX partners and OEMs will share internal and external challenges through an LX innovation ‘platform’ of strategic R&D with a common purpose and focus on scaling, rapid application, designing excellence and strategic re-shoring.
Sigmatex develops and manufactures carbon fibre textiles for composite material applications. From global locations, Sigmatex supplies carbon fibre textiles across a broad spread of industries ranging from the world’s top supercar manufacturers to aerospace companies. In all cases, Sigmatex helps its customers to achieve improved product performance through lightweight strength.
Sigmatex’s Chief Executive Officer, Scott Tolson, comments “The automotive industry is achieving huge advances in creating more efficient cars. However there is also a significant potential to make cars lighter by the use of carbon fibre. This innovative project aims to develop ways to reduce the cost and upscale the incorporation of composites in cars, so that such materials can be used in a wider range of vehicles. With the support from OEMs this is a real opportunity to create a UK supply chain that is able and capable to meet the future demands of this important and growing industry.”
Products that may previously have been designed and manufactured from metals are now being replaced by carbon fibre; carbon fibre textiles are an enabling technology and can open up new ways of designing improved products to achieve higher technical performance through lightweight strength.
Sigmatex, a UK company with its global headquarters in Runcorn, Cheshire, was established in 1986 and has specialised in converting carbon fibre since then. With significant global manufacturing presence, Sigmatex currently has a huge capacity to produce innovative carbon fibre textiles, and with the company’s aggressive global investment programme, this capacity is continually increasing.
AMSCI is a funding competition designed to improve the global competitiveness of UK advanced manufacturing supply chains. Funding is available to support research and development, skills training and capital investment to help UK supply chains achieve world-class standards and encourage major new suppliers to locate in the UK. Finance Birmingham manages AMSCI on behalf of BIS.
The Sigmatex LX Programme is one of twenty supply chain projects from across the country announced by BIS on 26 March 2015 that will benefit from a total of £67 million of government investment through the AMSCI programme, with £109 million being invested in the same projects by industry.