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Government funding to accelerate vehicle weight reduction through composites

Sigmatex (UK) : 17 April, 2015  (Technical Article)
Sigmatex, the 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 LX Programme is one of 20 supply chain projects from across the country 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.
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. 
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 consortium 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. The LX partners and OEMs will share internal and external challenges through platform of strategic R&D with a common purpose, focussing on scaling, rapid application, design and strategic re-shoring.
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.
Carbon fibre for composite material applications
Sigmatex develops and manufactures woven carbon fibre textiles for composite material applications, including 3D, spread tow, innegra, recycled, unidirectional, multiaxial, and 2D woven types across a broad spread of industries, ranging from the world’s top supercar manufacturers to high performance leisure brands and most of the world’s major aerospace companies. The company has extensive capacity to produce innovative carbon fibre textiles
Selection of partners 
Combines engineering knowledge and expertise in design and precision manufacture of advance composite components for the automotive sector, including whole vehicle design, crash structure, body structure, systems, design and production solutions for a wide range of components.
Cranfield University
Offers niche research, education, training and consultancy, bringing together design, technology and management expertise to develop novel technologies and improve the science base of manufacturing research.
Expert Tooling & Automation
UK manufacturer of industrial automation systems, assembly tooling, automated assembly, special purpose machinery and single and multi-robotic cells, including robotic assembly.
Granta Design
Helps engineering enterprises manage information on the materials (metals, plastics, composites, and more) that are essential to their businesses, while developing and applying material intelligence, to enable better materials decisions, saving time and money, and reducing risk as products are optimised.
Group Rhodes
Manufactures and markets over 50 basic ranges of machines for Metalforming, Materials Handling, Waste Management, Clay Preparation, Concrete Working and Special Purpose applications.
Was established with the objective of improving composite product performance by eradicating manufacturing defects as well as lowering the risks associated with complex processing. LMAT closely collaborates with the aerospace and wind energy industries, constantly improving composite production methods as well as overall product quality.
Surface Generation
Develops and commercialises its Production to Functional Specification (PtFS) technology which optimises the use of advanced composite materials to enable the manufacture of products such as aircraft wings, consumer devices or automotive components more efficiently than by applying traditional manufacturing techniques.
A division of Sirdar Spinning, a supplier of advanced textile products specialising in manufacture of high performance materials for hand and arm protection. 
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