Quickstep's Strategy To Break Into Automotive Industry Receives Major Boost
Production Of 'Proof-Of-Concept' Automotive Panel Using Quickstep Process
- Landmark research program progressing well targeting the development of manufacturing technology for the global automotive industry, utilising funding from $2.6M Climate Ready Grant
- Opportunity for Quickstep to participate in significant forecast increase in automotive carbon fibre composites consumption
- RST should enable fully robotised production of automotive parts in minutes with costs comparable to steel parts
- Delivery of first milestone in research program completed, with production of proof-of-concept Class A automotive flat panels using Quickstep's patented Resin Spray Transmission (RST)
- Test panels achieved exceptionally high quality and outstanding surface finish straight from the mould
Australian advanced materials company Quickstep Holdings Limited (ASX:QHL - "Quickstep") is aggressively targeting opportunities in the burgeoning automotive composites sector, today announcing that a research program aimed at the development of new automotive manufacturing technology is progressing well, with the successful completion of a proof-of-concept painted carbon fibre flat panel to Class A automotive quality.
The automotive industry is currently undergoing a massive shift towards the use of light-weight composite components to help combat increasing fuel prices, carbon emission trading schemes and pollution regulations worldwide.
New regulations in the United States stipulate that all new cars from 2017 must consume less than 6.5 litres per 100km (by comparison, a 2011 BMW 535i has fuel consumption of 8.5 litres per 100km). One of the routes to achieve this objective is through significant weight reduction, made possible by carbon fibre composites, which offer similar stiffness to steel at 60-75% lower weight.
However, a key barrier to the take-up of carbon fibre automotive parts has been the significant costs and timeframes required to achieve the necessary "Class A" exterior finish - which has traditionally seen carbon fibre only used on expensive, high performance vehicles.
Quickstep's research program is investigating the use of the Company's patented Resin Spray Transmission (RST) technology to cheaply and efficiently mass produce composite parts with a Class A finish - which would make the use of carbon fibre accessible to the entire automotive industry. Quickstep has been working with German car manufacturing line designer, EDAG, for some time to ensure the Company's ongoing development of RST technology is in line with the needs of the automotive industry.
The Company has achieved its first milestone towards this objective, today announcing it has successfully manufactured a 'proof-of-concept' painted carbon fibre flat panel to Class A automotive quality using RST.
The panels exhibited an exceptionally high quality for a rapid layup and curing process, with non-destructive ultrasonic scans confirming specifications well within automotive industry standards. In addition, they also achieved outstanding surface finish straight out of the mould, meeting the demands for exterior Class A automotive body panels without the need for additional expensive and labour-intensive bogging and sanding.
In addition, RST should also enable the manufacture of automotive parts in minutes rather than hours at costs that are comparable to steel in vehicles with low to medium production volumes. This outcome is achieved because Quickstep is able to manufacture using dry carbon fibre (as opposed to prepreg material, which requires expensive storage and handling) as well as its ability to use inexpensive rapid-curing resins with high exotherm, as the Quickstep Process is able to dissipate the exotherm extremely efficiently.
Managing Director of Quickstep, Mr Philippe Odouard, said the successful development of RST for automotive parts would represent an enormous opportunity for the Company.
"The ability to provide a fast and inexpensive automated manufacturing solution for automotive-quality parts would transform the Company," he said. "The production of proof-of-concept panels this month using RST represents the first milestone towards achieving this goal, and we are moving ahead with further development work."
"These first test panels prove the process concept and confirm our technology is able to meet the quality and surface finish requirements of the automotive industry. Our next efforts will focus on addressing the challenges of producing representative geometries, working with different material systems and industrialising the production prototype," he continued.
Mr Odouard said the ongoing development of RST for automotive parts was expected to generate significant excitement at the upcoming JEC Composites Show in Paris.
"Given the current global focus on the use of carbon fibre in the automotive industry, we are greatly looking forward to sharing our recent developments on RST with the industry - we will have our RST-manufactured painted panels on display at the JEC show," he said.
Quickstep will be exhibiting at Booth E66 at the JEC Composites Show in Paris from March 29 to 31.
Quickstep's RST development program is being undertaken as part of the Company's Climate Ready project, which has received a $2.6 million funding grant from the Australian Federal Government..
Quickstep is an Australian-based company at the forefront of advanced materials manufacturing and technology transfer for the global aerospace and defence industries.
The use of advanced composites is rapidly growing with carbon material usage planned to increase at an average rate of 20% per annum for the next 10 years, underwritten by the emergence of high-use carbon fibre commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. Light weighting of vehicles is the prime driver with commercial aircraft and military equipment leading the charge.
Quickstep has significant capabilities and expertise in the production of aerospace-grade composite components using both conventional autoclave-based manufacturing and leading edge out-of-autoclave production technologies, including its proprietary Quickstep Process. Quickstep is set to generate revenue using three distinct business models:
1.Technology transfer through the provision of the proprietary Quickstep Process and production equipment;
2. Manufacture of composite components, out of its Australian facility; and
3. Conducting paid or self-funded Research & Development on new composite structures.
Quickstep signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MOU's) in 2009 in relation to manufacturing contracts for the international F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program - the largest military aerospace program in the world, currently valued at in excess of US$300 billion worldwide. The first was signed with global aerospace companies, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, for around $700 million of potential contracts. The second MOU was signed with Melbourne-based Marand Precision Engineering for up to $50 million of contracts to manufacture Vertical Tail skins for the JSF.
Quickstep signed a Long Term Agreement with Northrop Grumman in relation to the JSF program in February 2011, with a start date for JSF part delivery set for early 2012.
The Company has a fully-commissioned aerospace-grade manufacturing facility located in North Coogee, Western Australia, and recently announced plans to relocate its manufacturing operations to Bankstown, New South Wales, to a new facility that offers the scale, resources and utilities necessary to undertake large-scale, long term aerospace manufacturing contracts.
In addition to its Australian operations, Quickstep also has facilities in strategic global locations including North America, Europe and the UK.
The Company is currently partnering with some of the world's largest aerospace/defence companies, including the US Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Airbus and EADS.
For further information, visit: www.quickstep.com.au