Home' Asian Aviation : AAV July August 2010 Contents 26 AsianAviation | JULY--AUGUST 2010
push into US market
Australian composite manufacturer Quickstep is building its business as
interest in its novel process grows, writes Emma Kelly.
Quickstep is hopeful its process could be used for the A350XWB. Credit: Airbus
composites have been used
in the aerospace industry
for years, they are only
now beginning to fulfil
While about half of the structure of Boeing's 777
twinjet was conventional aluminium construction,
with about 15 percent composites, the new 787
Dreamliner reverses the gures, being made from about
50 percent composites. e materials have always had
the potential to o er signi cant weight savings in
aircra construction, but it has taken a long time for
the industry to nd ways to manufacture composite
parts in a safe, e cient and cost-e ective manner.
Australian materials maker uickstep has in recent
years developed a unique manufacturing process that
speeds up the production of composite components.
e company has attracted a good deal of interest and
has been working to expand internationally.
Now, uickstep has set up a subsidiary in the
United States in its latest drive to establish a foothold
in that country's aerospace and defence industry.
e move comes as development contracts build
up for the small Western Australia-based company
and it gets closer to its composites being used on new
aircra programmes, including the Lockheed Martin
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). As well as producing
composites using the traditional autoclave method,
uickstep has spent many years perfecting a novel,
uid-based curing method for the manufacture of
high-strength, lightweight composite materials.
e uickstep Process uses a light, rigid mould
suspended in heat-transfer liquids. Liquid circulates in
a low-pressure environment with a exible membrane
maintaining constant pressure and heat, while
vibration in the circulating liquid forces out trapped air
and gases. e process requires 25-30 percent less time
to produce composite parts than traditional autoclave
methods, as well as having cost bene ts.
uickstep's new Dayton, Ohio -based subsidiary has
been set up to boost its e orts to target aerospace and
defence manufacturing contracts in the country. e
company has had a North American showcase site in
conjunction with the National Composite Center
(NCC) in Dayton for the past three years and the new
unit will be based at the same site.
e partnership with NCC has allowed uickstep
to demonstrate its patented composites-manufacturing
process to potential customers and evaluate the
prospective market for the technolog y.
"We now have ample con dence in the potential
of the US market to establish a formal subsidiary and
deal directly with the various tiers of the composites
industry. is allows us to contract directly, either as
uickstep, or in conjunction with manufacturing
partners to move the process towards full production,"
says Philippe Odouard, chief executive o cer.
" e objective is to successfully qualify uickstep's
patented manufacturing technolog y with North
American advanced-composite manufacturers, and
subsequently license the technolog y and provide
equipment to meet the demands of this fast-growing
and important geographic market," says Dale Brosius,
president of the US subsidiary.
uickstep is already working closely with US
composites company Vector Composites, with a
focus on defence contracts -- the main target being
the JSF. In May, the partners were awarded a Phase II
small-business innovation research (SBIR) contract
by the US Air Force -- funded by US$2.6 million
for the base contract and a potential US$4 million
follow-on option -- aimed at qualifying use of the
uickstep Process to manufacture composites for the
JSF programme. Last year, the partners completed the
rst phase of research for JSF parts quali cation.
e research will focus on process quali cation
of bismaleimide (BMI) and epoxy resin composite
materials using the uickstep Process. ese two
materials constitute the majority of the advanced
structural composites used in the JSF. e 27-month
contract will develop extensive mechanical properties
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