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PRESS RELEASE: Marine-i event highlights exciting opportunities in composite materials

 The Marine-i Discovery Room Event titled Composite materials – sector challenges and opportunities for innovation was held on 30th April at St Austell Conference Centre and attracted an audience of around 50 delegates.

Composite materials are playing an increasingly important role in the marine industry. Being lightweight and durable, they score very highly on efficiency measures. There are also new types of materials appearing on the scene, such as new thermoplastics and self-healing composites.

The event was attended by a very broad cross-section of regional businesses, from surfboard companies to advanced composite boat builders and equipment manufactures. This demonstrates the wide range of applications that these materials have in the marine industry.

Nigel Keen of the National Composites Centre gave the keynote presentation, explaining the role of composites across different sectors and the UK’s composite strategy.

Dr Derek Craig of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and Dr Terence Macquart of the University of Bristol detailed the work being done at the Wind Blades Research Hub. Leading edge erosion is often a problem for wind turbine blades, and more advanced composites can help to address this.

Paul Dunstan of Fraser Nash Consultancy gave the audience insights into some of the innovative work in this field currently being done by UK companies.

Stephen Leonard-Williams of Composite Integration talked the audience through the pioneering work they have done, which has made the company a world leader in the control and optimisation of composite moulding processes.

Dr Rachel Nichols-Lee of Whiskerstay talked about the benefits of composites in propeller design for electric and hybrid propulsion systems for smaller craft. The use of composites here can help to reduce vibration and create propellers that are easier to repair.

Casper Kruger of NOV (National Oilwell Varco) highlighted their progress toward achieving a zero landfill policy for composites. Reducing the size of waste ‘chunks’ had allowed 97% of waste to enter the Energy from Waste scheme, rather than being sent to landfill.

Ian Falconer of Fishy Filaments explained how they have been able to carry out 3D printing of micro composites, using waste carbon fibres with nylon from recycled fishing nets – another great example of the innovative thinking being adopted around recyclability.

Alex Whatley, Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Plymouth and lead organiser for this event said:

“This was a really productive day that saw a great deal of useful information and up to date insights being disseminated to the businesses that attended. We hope this will play a valuable role in helping to shape their innovation plans and highlighting the opportunities open to them in this sector. The Marine-i team is very grateful to all the presenters who took part in the day.

“During the day, there were many issues discussed around end of life, recycling and waste management, and we are keen to explore these in more depth. So we hope that this will lead to a further event focussed specifically around these topics in the near future.

“If any Cornwall-based businesses are currently working on innovations in the field of composite materials and are looking for support to help develop, test and commercialise them, then they should speak to the expert team at Marine-i.”