Businesses in western Canada’s manufacturing sector will be able to increase their competitive edge thanks to a federal investment of $9.8 million announced today at the University of British Columbia.
At UBC’s Vancouver campus, Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, unveiled the pan-western Composites Research Network (CRN) which aims to provide businesses the necessary skills and knowledge in a rapidly expanding and evolving industry.
Composite materials, reinforced with carbon and glass fibre, are undergoing significant innovations that impact sectors including aerospace, shipbuilding, sports equipment and industrial products.
“This investment in the Composites Research Network advances important collaborations between researchers and businesses,” said John Hepburn, VP Research & International at UBC. “These partnerships drive innovation by developing and implementing manufacturing solutions faster and more efficiently than would otherwise be possible.”
The CRN will be led by UBC Materials Engineering Prof. Anoush Poursartip, a composites expert who has received global recognition for his work on process design software and the aerospace industry.
“The Composites Research Network will focus on bridging the strengths of academia with the needs of business,” said Poursartip. “CRN will strengthen existing western Canadian businesses and attract international collaboration and involvement.”
The CRN will establish nodes in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba where highly qualified composites experts will work with businesses. CRN participants will be able to access knowledge-based, best practice documents, training facilities, materials and events as well as linkages to key national and international organizations and institutions.
“Investments like this are key in furthering our goal of creating jobs and growth,” said Yelich. “By supporting this initiative, our Government is helping to provide western Canadian businesses with the means to capitalize on the evolving composites industry, and the associated economic benefits.”
“The CRN will provide western Canadian industry with a significant advantage in further understanding and refining their composites manufacturing processes,” said Sean McKay, executive director of the Composites Innovation Centre. “Developing the necessary science and hence fundamental understanding of manufacturing issues and being able to assimilate them into every day operations to reduce defects and improve efficiencies are essential to remain competitive in today’s global market place.”
Currently, the most important and most commonly used composites are fibre-reinforced plastics which can be shaped into stiff, strong and complicated shapes at a reasonable cost. Composites are found in everyday objects such as bathtubs, shower stalls and mouldings. Industrial applications include cars, trucks, gas station forecourts and amusement park water slides.
For more demanding applications, glass fibre is replaced with expensive carbon fibre. Increasingly, manufacturers are using carbon-fibre reinforced epoxies and other special plastics for building airplanes, high performance sports equipment and high-performance cars.
Creating safe, effective and sustainable composites
Although glass fibre has been commercially available since the 1930s and carbon fibre since the 1960s, the composites industry has yet to reach its full potential in designing and manufacturing products that are not only affordable, safe and effective, but also sustainable for the environment.
In recent years, however, aerospace innovations have been seeding industry changes that will soon transform how composites are produced and used. For example, both Boeing and Airbus are building their next-generation, large twin-aisle aircraft primarily out of carbon-fibre reinforced composites, shifting away from the current aluminum aircraft. Given these radical changes, manufacturers in Canada and globally are looking to increase their composites capabilities so they can compete internationally across myriad industry sectors.
For more information about UBC research on composites, visit: http://www.composites.ubc.ca/