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NSW plant to manufacture advanced carbon fibre composites

Quickstep Holdings has opened the most advanced independent aerospace composites manufacturing facility in the southern hemisphere, in Bankstown, for the manufacture of advanced carbon fibre composites.

The factory will produce composites for the aerospace and automotive industries, including Lockheed Martin’s F35 Lightning II (pictured) and C-130 Hercules defence aircraft.

The New South Wales-based facility will be Quickstep’s main manufacturing base from the fourth quarter of this year, when it will begin production.

Current Quickstep customers and partners include Audi, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and the US Department of Defence.

The factory opening, which was attended by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems president and vice president corporate Gary Ervin, and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, was broadcast live by BRR Media on Friday.

Quickstep managing director, Philippe Odouard, said the facility is world-class, putting Australia on the map in terms of advanced composites development.

He said the new plant will create new manufacturing jobs, and has the capacity to become an integral part of the global supply chain for high-volume manufacturing industries.

“This facility represents a quantum leap in Australian advanced composites manufacturing, strengthening our ability to deliver product and technologies to global industries that increasingly source competitively around the world,” he said.

The Bankstown facility comprises a 4,000-square-metre hangar with $15 million of manufacturing equipment and infrastructure, along with a 1,250-square-metre office, which now becomes Quickstep’s headquarters.

The Quickstep Process changes the way advanced composites are manufactured by using a unique fluid-based technology for curing the composite materials.

The Quickstep Process works by trapping the laminate between a free floating rigid (or semi-rigid) mould that floats in a Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF). The mould and laminate are separated from the circulating HTF by a flexible membrane or bladder. The HTF can then be rapidly heated and then cooled to cure the laminate. (Diagram courtesy Quickstep Holdings.)

Premier O’Farrell congratulated Quickstep on the new facility, which was partially funded by the NSW government.

“This is one of the world’s most advanced carbon fibre component manufacturing plants and a great example of high technology bringing international work to NSW. With this facility, Quickstep will be the largest independent aerospace composites manufacturer in Australia,” he said.

The facility will conduct research and development to licence its unique composites manufacturing process.

The Quickstep Process provides customers with a high-quality finish, and is inexpensive, lightweight and strong.

The composites are quick to produce, and contribute to fuel efficiency, as composites are much lighter than metal components, says Quickstep.

The new facility provides Quickstep with an opportunity to earn income through equipment supply, services and licence fees, including in the US and Europe where new legislation drastically reduces the allowed carbon dioxide emission per kilometre, with objectives that can only be met with weight reduction.

Quickstep says this has triggered “a significant automotive sector interest in carbon fibre cars, and Quickstep is already working with Audi.”

Northrup Grumman’s Ervin remarked: “This new facility is just one example of the investments Quickstep has made in the last two years in preparation for executing F-35 work.

"It’s a testament to the strong partnership Northrop Grumman has with Quickstep in producing the F-35 centre fuselage, as well as the Governments of Australia and New South Wales in establishing this critical composite manufacturing capability in Australia.” 

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