Speaker insights from Ostseestaal, Smart Tooling, Composites Evolution and Composite Tooling & Engineering Solutions

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About Tooling for Composites 

Ahead of the Tooling for Composites conference we took the opportunity to gather industry insights from our speakers.

In our first combined interview, we caught up with speakers Dr. Thomas Kühmstedt, Alex Edge, Dr. Ben Hargreaves and Liam Moloney from our 'Capitalising on techniques to improve manufacturing' session. We spoke to them about the most exciting development for composite tooling, their predictions for the future and what they will be speaking about at the Tooling for Composites conference.  

16 September, 2020 | Bristol, UK

Dr. Ben Hargreaves, Sales & Marketing Director, 
Composites Evolution

Liam Moloney, Director, Composite Tooling & Engineering Solutions Ltd

Alex Edge, Sales Manager EMEA, 
Smart Tooling

Please tell us about your current role. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

Thomas Kühmstedt: I’m the Technical Director of Ostseestaal. My key area is Business development. Here my responsibility lays i.a. in the development of new moulding systems for composites. The metal moulds are made of Invar, Steel, Aluminium or Stainless. Our products are applied in the aero structures fabrication, renewable power generation and solar power industries.

Alex Edge: I am the Senior Sales Manager for EMEA region. I am focused on commercial aerospace platforms and defence flight platforms. I have been working in the composites industry since 2008 – focused on tooling and process techniques.

Ben Hargreaves: I joined Composites Evolution at the end of 2019 to head up a growing sales and marketing team. As a relatively new player in the prepreg market, our immediate focus is to continue raising awareness of our component, tooling and fire-retardant prepregs across our key target markets.  We’re also planning to launch a number of exciting new products in 2020, so we’ll be working hard to promote these.

Liam Moloney: I am the Director of a specialist composite tooling design company. Key focus is delivering the best tooling solutions possible to our customers to suit their particular composite components and assemblies.

What has been the most exciting development in the world of composites in the last couple of years?

Thomas Kühmstedt: We see today a massive pressure on cost of parts manufactured. The industry is applying more and more an approach to move from manual craftsman like to industrialised production. Here the reliability of production systems is vital. 6 Sigma will become a standard for everybody. Reliability and cutting cycle times are the keys to reduce cost in production. The production systems are becoming more complex and sophisticated.

Alex Edge: Three developments come to mind. Firstly, the progression from the A380 through to the A350 composite utilisation. Fully co cured unitised composites featured in modern airframes versus the ‘black metal’ approach in older flight platforms. This new approach reduces part count, improves weight vs performance and reduces bonding and riveting operations. Secondly, shape Memory Tooling – that’s why I joined Smart tooling. And lastly, the employment of composites in autonomous air vehicles which require a lightweight composite structures and are very complex shapes.

Liam Moloney: In the world of tooling, not much has changed. Some new materials have been introduced but, generally speaking, most of our customers still use the same methods of manufacture for their composite laminate moulds with the same reinforcements and epoxy or BMI resins. CTES have been working hard, though, on developing new tooling.

How do you see the composites industry developing and growing in the next three-to-five years?

Thomas Kühmstedt: The composite industry will continue to grow in the coming years. We will see new resin and fibre systems matching the diverse requirements of the products made. It will range from fire resistant, via thermoplastic to recycling. In particular recycling poses a big hurdle in the near future.

Alex Edge: More integration and trapped/complex parts, more resin infusion parts, more over braided parts, OOO and OOA, Faster cycle times with snap cure systems, further exploration of CMCs, Z-directional reinforcements to eliminate fasteners in primary structures.

Ben Hargreaves: The demand for composite materials is only going to increase, as more and more industries seek out lighter, stronger, stiffer materials.  This is particularly true in transport sectors, driven by impending legislation aimed at dramatically reducing CO2 emissions. Alongside this, we’re seeing greater emphasis on sustainability (which, up to now, has largely been a nice-to-have), with life cycle analysis becoming an increasingly important tool to help inform decisions on materials, processing etc.

Liam Moloney: With the current Coronavirus situation everything is up in the air. In aerospace, if lots of airlines were to go out of business then maybe new aircraft production would need to be slowed down, which could impact the composites industry a lot. Automotive could likewise suffer if people decide they like working from home but believe that could provide added impetus to the electric vehicles sector. Companies will need to actively seek out new markets for their composites manufacturing if they want to find stability and growth.

Where do you see the future of tooling for composites in the next 5 years?

Thomas Kühmstedt: Tooling will become more complex and automated. Smart tooling will be a success factor in reducing cost of FRP parts. New manufacturing processes such as out of autoclave processes will gain more importance. Time to market will be reduced despite higher complexity in the systems.

Alex Edge: The Aero composites market must adopt the polymeric tooling technologies i.e. shape memory polymer tools. This will enable further unitisation of structures and reduce bonding and fastener count. The market will only change at the pace of the OEM’s if the supply chain is engaged at the design phase. Thus, we can be aware of the requirements placed upon us further down the path to production. Plus if we are treated as partners we can aid design through novel use of key tooling techniques that are not common knowledge.

Ben Hargreaves: As the use of composites continues to grow, the demand for suitable tooling systems is likely to follow a similar curve. For us, that means we need to continue developing novel tooling prepreg systems to meet our customers expanding requirements; including faster, lower-temperature cure systems, and out-of-autoclave systems suitable for production of large tooling.

Liam Moloney: With some of the development programmes CTES are involved in I see composite tooling performance (accuracy, temp capability, life, etc.) increasing on the one hand and cost and lead time reducing on the other. Both directions could lead to more opportunities for exploitation of composite tooling into new markets. China offers a really exciting opportunity for composite tooling, with the COMAC 919 at flight testing stage and the 929 in development.

You will be speaking at the Tooling for Composites conference, could you give us a little preview on what you will be talking about? 

Thomas Kühmstedt: At Ostseestaal we have developed i.a. mould systems with complex geometries made of steel. These moulds go into wind blade production and have an extremely short time to market and enable reduced cycle times. Integrated heating and active cooling systems allow for steep heating and cooling ramps of up to 3 K/min. Steel moulds are very reliable, almost unbreakable and have a very good heat distribution due to its high thermal conductivity.

Alex Edge: Smart Tooling is a shape memory polymer tool that is designed to be rigid at layup, elastic for extraction and can be elastic or rigid during the cure cycle. SMP tools are great for trapped and complex geometry composite part production. Smart Tools are all in one, layup tools and under vac bag intensifiers. We supply in flight platforms like the A380, Cessna, F35 and more.

Ben Hargreaves: In this presentation, we’ll be picking up on the sustainability theme and exploring how flax fibre reinforcements can be used to make lightweight composite tooling for the production of high-performance carbon fibre parts.

Liam Moloney: I will be speaking about a new development in composite tooling, an exciting collaboration between CTES, SHD Composite Materials and Applied Graphene. Our novel tooling solution will allow a high-performance mould tool, with a Tg in excess of 300°C, to be moulded from low cost tooling block with its performance and life greatly enhance by the discrete addition of graphene platelets. We have just completed work on a 10m demonstrator and more information on that and the material itself will be presented at the conference.

The launch edition of Tooling for Composites will take place in Bristol on 16th September 2020. We invite industry experts across the supply chain to evaluate and discuss advancements in tooling, for the processing of thermoset and thermoplastic composite materials and systems. 

With increased adoption of composites in high-performance industries, there is a need to ensure tools have higher accuracy, reduced costs, faster processes and a longer lifespan. This conference will look at the latest advancements to improve tooling and end products. Expert speakers across the value chain share their insight and knowledge through case studies, product showcases and interactive sessions. 

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Dr. Thomas Kühmstedt, Technical Director, Ostseestaal GmbH & Co. KG