Wet spinning line launch

Carbon Nexus has increased its research and production capabilities with the installation of the only polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor wet spinning line in the Southern Hemisphere.

Jointly owned and operated by Carbon Nexus and CSIRO, the wet spinning line completes Carbon Nexus’ value chain, allowing it to offer R&D services from precursor development to white fibre spinning, to carbon fibre production and composite manufacturing.

“With the installation of the wet spinning line and the 3D printers, our capability to conduct research across all the stages of carbon fibre production is enhanced beyond our current bench-top capabilities,” says Prof Russell Varley.

The wet spinning line was custom built by an Italian company with input from Deakin and CSIRO researchers.The company liked the design so much it made another for its own factory and the the CSIRO/ Deakin machine has been described as “the Ferrari of wet spinning lines”.

Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science the Honourable Craig Laundy MP officially launched the facility.

Caption: CSIRO’s Dr Anita Hill, Member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson, Minister Craig Laundy, CSIRO’s Keith McLean, Prof Jane den Hollander and Carbon Nexus chair Simon Crean officially open the wet spinning line.

Future of carbon fibre is here

Thanks to breakthrough Deakin research, the University and LeMond Composites have joined forces in a $58 m deal to revolutionise the use of carbon fibre across the world.

The partnership, signed today by Mr Greg LeMond – three-time Tour de France winner and the founder and CEO of LeMond Composites – and Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO, allows LeMond Composites to license new technology from Deakin’s world-leading carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus.

The technology, developed by Carbon Nexus PhD student Maxime Maghe and Carbon Nexus General Manager Steve Atkiss, has the potential to reduce the energy used in carbon fibre production by 75 per cent and reduces the production process time from around 80 minutes to under 15 minutes.

In addition, the specialised carbon fibre production machinery required is expected to cost around 50 per cent less than current equipment. The smaller equipment footprint makes possible a 70 per cent reduction in the size of a carbon fibre processing plant.

Mr LeMond said it was difficult to fully grasp the global impact the technology would have on consumers.

“What Deakin and Carbon Nexus have invented here will feed the world with low cost carbon fibre and help make carbon fibre available to the masses,” he said.

“This could make Geelong the new composite valley.”

LeMond Composites will also consider the development of a carbon fibre manufacturing plant in Geelong, which would invest more than $30 million in construction and equipment and create dozens of jobs for Geelong manufacturers to take the carbon fibre of the future to the global market.

Victorian company and Carbon Nexus’ long-term industry partner Furnace Engineering has already benefited from the deal as the manufacturer of the specialised machinery required.

The globally unique, $34 m Carbon Nexus research facility was established in 2014 with support and investment from Deakin and all levels of government. Today’s announcement at the facility was attended by representatives from the State Government, the City of Greater Geelong and Geelong’s industry and business groups, including G21 and the Chamber of Commerce. Former Federal Minister the Honourable Simon Crean, Chair of Deakin’s Advanced Manufacturing advisory group, also spoke at the event.

The University’s Chancellor Mr John Stanhope AM said the partnership between Deakin and LeMond Composites demonstrates how Deakin research could be leveraged to benefit the Geelong region and beyond.

“Realisation of jobs and growth comes from the conversion of research and technological innovation into commercial outcomes,” he said.

“Deakin is in the innovation business and that means we’re in the jobs business as well.”

Prof den Hollander said the new technology was a game-changer for the future of manufacturing.

“We know carbon fibre has been in use in aircraft, high-end cars and bikes, among other applications, for a long time now, but it remains a niche product that costs a significant amount to produce.

“This new technology could revolutionise the advanced manufacturing sector locally, across Australia and around the globe, because it will make carbon fibre more affordable to produce, which will make it more accessible for consumers,” Prof den Hollander said.

“This is a huge global success story and it was incubated in our Geelong Future Economy Precinct by one of our very own future leaders – a PhD student working under the guidance of our gifted leadership in carbon fibre research.

“Australia has a rich history in innovation, but much of it falters before commercialisation. With this partnership, we’re reversing that cycle. We’ve shown that we can nurture new ideas through to commercial outcomes.”

Carbon Nexus Director Derek Buckmaster said the agreement with LeMond Composites was the first time Carbon Nexus technology had been licensed.

“Over the past three years, we have conducted many commercial research projects for external clients, as well as conducting our own fundamental research into understanding the chemical reactions that take place during the carbon fibre production process, with the aim of accelerating the reactions while reducing the energy required.

“Maxime Maghe and Steve Atkiss made a breakthrough discovery when they identified the significant factors controlling the reactions, allowing them to optimise the chemistry and accelerate the production process,” Mr Buckmaster explained.

“Optimised equipment designs based on the new process have also resulted in a significantly smaller footprint for future carbon fibre production lines. The smaller ‘fibre reactor’ equipment consumes significantly less energy than standard oxidation ovens and offers the potential to reduce capital costs and labour costs for carbon fibre production.”

Mr LeMond, who in 1986 became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France on a carbon fibre bike, has been a household name among cyclists for three decades, selling carbon fibre bikes under his own brand around the globe. He established LeMond Composites last year to realise his vision of affordable carbon fibre bicycles for everyday riders.

Mr LeMond said the ability to scale-up low-cost carbon fibre production had been the biggest hurdle to bringing the material to the masses.

“Deakin University’s manufacturing process will make it possible to localise manufacturing and make carbon fibre technology more accessible to a wider range of industries like transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure or any industry that benefits from using lighter, stronger, safer materials,” he said.

Prof den Hollander said the scope for future growth of Deakin and LeMond’s partnership had potential to help transform the future for Geelong.

“We all know that Geelong’s reliance on manufacturing has changed and the future will be driven by high-value advanced manufacturing,” Prof den Hollander said.

“Deakin is passionate about supporting the communities we serve, working collaboratively with industry and relevant business and governments to drive forward solutions to the challenges our region is confronted with, which is why we have been heavily involved in supporting Geelong’s transition through projects like Carbon Nexus.

“Our University has played a key role in finding these solutions, leveraging off our world-class research, infrastructure, and industry and government partnerships. I am delighted to now work with Greg LeMond and his team to help find a way that helps Geelong lead the world.

“Just three months ago, Deakin joined with the City of Greater Geelong and G21 to launch “Geelong Economic Futures,” a blueprint for a number of projects that included scope for development to help lead this city’s future. Carbon fibre development was a key project highlighted, so it is pleasing to see an important part of this vision come to fruition.”

Prime Minister visits Carbon Nexus

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP has visited Carbon Nexus at Deakin University for the first time.

The cutting-edge carbon fibre composite research facility, Carbon Nexus, has hosted Australia’s Prime Minister the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, for a tour of its carbon fibre research facilities and manufacturing lines.

Mr Turnbull was in Geelong on 17 January to announce Geelong recipients of the Federal Government’s $20 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package (RJIP). Three of the successful recipients – LeMond Composites, Conflux Technology and 36T – received grants totalling almost $6.4 million to develop their operations at Waurn Ponds.

Deakin University Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Gary Smith welcomed the announcement.

“Deakin contributed to the Regional Jobs and Investment Package process, with our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander AO, chairing the local planning committee of regional business and community leaders that advised the Federal Government on priority areas for funding,” said Professor Smith.

The Director of Carbon Nexus, Derek Buckmaster, was delighted to show the Prime Minister the facilities at Carbon Nexus.

“Mr Turnbull was energised by the innovations he saw here, highlighting Carbon Nexus as a demonstration of Australian innovation,” said Mr Buckmaster. “He met with Carbon Nexus PhD Candidate Maxime Maghe, one of the inventors of the new technology that will underpin LeMond’s vision to manufacture quality, low-cost carbon fibre for the masses.”

While announcing the recipients of the Federal Government funding, the Prime Minister congratulated Deakin and the Carbon Nexus team for their innovative research that is supporting hundreds of new jobs.

“I just want to say congratulations to Deakin University. We have here in Geelong ­­– pioneered by the brilliant research and development that you, Derek, and your team have done here – the world’s leading centre for the development and production of advanced carbon fibre materials,” Mr Turnbull said.

“What a great testament to the ingenuity and innovation of Deakin University and Geelong, to ensure we have the jobs of the future.”

Professor Smith noted that Deakin’s world-class research, infrastructure, and industry and government partnerships would continue to support the Geelong region’s future as a centre for high-value, advanced manufacturing.

“The Federal Government’s support for LeMond Composites also demonstrates Geelong’s growing reputation as a world leader in carbon fibre research and manufacturing.

“Deakin is proud to have supported the development of this high-value, job-creating industry for the region through our globally-unique, award-winning Carbon Nexus centre, which was established at Waurn Ponds in 2014.”

LeMond will use their $5 million grant to support the development of Australia’s first commercial carbon fibre manufacturing facility. The $1.02 million received by Conflux will support the development of an Additive Manufacturing and Engineering Centre, while the $309,000 grant to 36T will support the company to tool, process develop and commission a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing centre for global export of world-leading carbon composite intensive cycle wheels.

Win for advanced manufacturing at Waurn Ponds

Advanced manufacturing research at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus has been boosted by high-profile Federal Government funding.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO has welcomed the announcement of the recipients of the first round of grants from the Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund.

Carbon Revolution and LeMond Composites each received $2.5 million to expand and develop their operations within the Geelong Future Economy Precinct at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus.

“As we all know, Geelong’s future is high-value, advanced manufacturing, which is why Deakin University welcomes this week’s $10.1 million Federal Government investment in the city’s continuing economic transformation,” Professor den Hollander said.
“Deakin is passionate about supporting the communities we serve, working collaboratively with industry and relevant business and governments to drive forward solutions to the challenges confronting our region.

“Our University has played a key role in finding these solutions, leveraging off our world-class research, infrastructure, and industry and government partnerships.”

Deakin’s award-winning Carbon Nexus centre was established at Waurn Ponds in 2014 as a globally-unique, cutting-edge research facility to conduct basic and industrial-scale research into carbon fibre production methods and composite manufacturing techniques.

Professor den Hollander said that, since then, Carbon Nexus had supported Geelong to establish itself as a world leader in carbon fibre research and manufacturing, supporting the development of a new, high-value manufacturing industry that is creating jobs for the region.

Earlier this year, a breakthrough in carbon fibre research at Carbon Nexus that will make the production of carbon fibre faster and less expensive led to a $58M agreement with LeMond Composites. The partnership allows LeMond Composites to license the new technology from Carbon Nexus.

Developed by Carbon Nexus PhD student Maxime Maghe and former General Manager Steve Atkiss, the technology centres around the optimisation of chemical production processes. It has the potential to reduce energy in carbon fibre production by 75 per cent and the production process time from around 80 minutes to under 15 minutes.

The specialised carbon fibre production machinery required is expected to cost about 50 per cent less than current equipment and allow a 70 per cent reduction in the size of a carbon fibre processing plant.

LeMond Composites is expected to use its Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund funding to develop Australia’s first commercial carbon fibre manufacturing plant, which will produce commercial quantities of carbon fibre under license from Deakin and create dozens of jobs for the region.

Carbon Revolution, a multi-million dollar wheel manufacturer, has been nurtured from start-up by Deakin and all levels of government. Its founders include carbon fibre wheel innovators Dr Ashley Denmead (Engineering and Design Director) and CEO Jake Dingle.

Carbon Revolution produces the world’s first one-piece, carbon fibre composite wheels for supply to the global automotive and aerospace industries. Already employing over 120 people in its $24 million factory, the rapidly-growing company works closely with its research partners, including Carbon Nexus.

The company is now embarking on a major expansion. Already supplying Ford Motor Company in Detroit and with additional contracts with other manufacturers, it has signed an agreement with a North American aircraft landing gear manufacturer to develop carbon fibre wheels for use in aerospace.

It is currently extending its premises by around five times and expects to employ over 600 people and increase its production capacity from 10,000 carbon fibre wheels a year to more than 150,000 at Waurn Ponds by 2022.

“Carbon fibre development was a key project highlighted by the Geelong Economic Futures blueprint Deakin jointly developed with the City of Greater Geelong and G21” Professor den Hollander said.

“The Federal Government investment is a welcome show of support for this shared vision.

“For Geelong to secure 34 per cent of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund’s first round demonstrates the strength of this vision, and the work of the Member for Corangamite to advance the region’s plan in Canberra.”

Bridging the divide

The difference between running experiments in the lab and performing them on an industrial scale is vast. But Deakin’s pilot scale carbon fibre plant, Carbon Nexus, is helping researchers validate their laboratory results in a real world setting. And it’s not just Deakin researchers who are benefiting.

Dr Michael Hummel, a senior researcher in the Department of Forest Products Technology at Aalto University, Finland has been using the Carbon Nexus facility over the past two weeks to run trials on renewable carbon fibre precursors.

Dr Hummel and his colleagues have developed a new ionic liquid-based spinning technique for the production of continuous cellulosic filaments. The fibres – originally targeted for textile and apparel applications – showed high mechanical properties, which made them also interesting for more technical applications such as natural reinforcement in composite materials. But Dr Hummel needed somewhere with the necessary expertise in carbon fibre and ionic liquids together with a facility to carbonise the fibres. After a fortuitous meeting with ionic liquids researcher Dr Nolene Byrne from the Institute for Frontier Materials, he realised that Carbon Nexus could provide just what he needed.

’’Within the carbonisation process many variables exist,” explains Dr Byrne.

”Time and temperature are the obvious ones, but we need to consider the impact of other processing parameters. There are a total of 20 interrelated processing parameters which all impact the properties of the carbon fibre.

”The pilot-scale, single tow line at Carbon Nexus allows us to do research that is directly translatable to industry.”

Over the past week the researchers have run Dr Hummel’s cellulose and cellulose/lignin filaments under a range of different processing conditions and learnt a lot during the process.

”While some things we can learn by doing furnace testing, the proof is in the pudding and seeing these novel precursors run on the line was exciting,” says Dr Byrne.

Dr Hummel believes the filaments show great promise as precursors for bio-based carbon fibres.

“Cellulose and blends of cellulose as precursors for carbon fibre have the possibility of one day replacing glass fibre and meeting the needs for high volume application which require moderate tensile strength,” he says.

Resins shape future for composites

Deakin’s new composite materials professor says improved resins will define the next generation of carbon composites.

Lighter, stronger, self-healing and morphing properties are but some of the features of composite materials that will appear in the coming decades.

According to Deakin’s new Professor of Composite Materials, Russell Varley, the only thing holding back such applications is the performance and functionality of today’s resins.

Professor Varley has joined Deakin from CSIRO’s Clayton facility where he spent 26 years honing his polymer chemistry expertise. He has collaborated with companies such as Boeing and Petronas, and with world class polymer experts like Prof Jeff Wiggins from the University of Southern Mississippi and Prof Frank Jones from the University of Sheffield.

Read the full story here.

Unique crystal aids carbon fibre breakthrough

With huge potential for improving carbon fibre manufacturing, collaborators have discovered how to achieve ultra-high resolution of carbon fibre precursor.

Innovative thinking and the special properties of germanium crystal have helped achieve a breakthrough for researchers seeking to enhance carbon fibre analysis at the Australian Synchrotron.

Led by Carbon Nexus – Deakin University’s unique carbon fibre research facility – the researchers developed Infrared imaging technology that has improved scientific understanding of the chemical changes that affect the structure of precursor material in the production of high-performance carbon fibres.

The team of nine scientists working on the project were collaborating from Carbon Nexus, the Infrared Microspectroscopy group at the Australian Synchrotron, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), and Swinburne University of Technology.

Recently published in the “Journal of Materials Chemistry A,” their research paper elucidates the exact chemical transformation occurring during the heat treatment of polyacrylonitrile (PAN), which produces structural changes. PAN is the chemical precursor used in the production of all high quality carbon fibre.

Dr Nishar Hameed initiated the concept and led the project when he was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Materials, and the work forms part of Srinivas Nunna’s PhD research at Carbon Nexus, under the supervision of Dr Claudia Creighton.

Mr Nunna is lead author of the paper and received a postgraduate research award from the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) to support the study. Originally from Bapatla in southern India, he has been at Carbon Nexus for the past three years and hopes to continue his research here.

“This improved chemical understanding will allow us to analyse the structural variations of PAN fibres in the cross-sectional level at every stage of the production process,” said Mr Nunna. “We hope to do this over the next six months at the Synchrotron so we can find ways to improve the fibre quality and reduce energy use in production.”

“The majority of commercial carbon fibres are manufactured from PAN, but an imperfection often occurs during production that affects its material properties,” added Dr Hameed.

“Although it has been more than half a century since carbon fibres were first developed, the exact chemical transformations and the actual structure development during heat treatment is still unknown. Because the conversion of PAN to carbon fibre does not occur evenly across the fibre, it results in a skin-core structure that manufacturers are seeking to prevent so they can enhance the fibre strength.

“The most significant scientific outcome of this study is that the critical chemical reactions for structure development were found to be occurring at a faster rate in the core of the fibre during heating, thus disrupting the more than 50-year-old belief that this reaction occurs at the periphery of the fibre due to direct heat,” said Dr Hameed.

Dr Creighton, who is a lead researcher in low-cost carbon fibre at Carbon Nexus, noted that high-end applications, particularly in the automotive and aerospace industries, were most likely to benefit from the research.

Dr Mark Tobin, the Principal Scientist-IR at the Australian Synchrotron, said that the group had sought to overcome existing analysis techniques over the two-year project.

“To acquire detailed images of the fibres, which are only 12 microns across, we modified the beamline for the experiment, using a highly polished germanium crystal to focus the IR beam onto the fibres. Germanium is a chemical element that is similar to silicon. We discovered that if we made a lens pointed on one side, when the pointed side is pressed down onto the surface, we can achieve much better magnification.

“This technique to focus the synchrotron beam is based on the concept of Attenuated Total Reflection (ATR). It allowed us to acquire images across individual fibres, to see where carbon-carbon triple bonds in the PAN were being converted to double bonds.

“We can use this new technique for other purposes, such as analysing paint samples, inspecting the surface of insect wings or many other uses that could lead to improved applications.”

Located in Clayton, Victoria, the highly sophisticated Australian Synchrotron is a giant machine (about the size of a football field) that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As electrons are deflected through magnetic fields, they create extremely bright light, which is channelled down beamlines to experimental workstations for research purposes.

The synchrotron is involved in health research, in areas such as cancer, influenza, diabetes and other diseases, and materials research.

•    Read more: “Journal of Materials Chemistry A,”

First birthday marks year of success for Carbon Nexus

In just its first year of operation, Deakin University’s unique Carbon Nexus research centre has attracted industrial partners from nine countries, produced 75 batches of carbon fibre for research trials, and received nine local and national research excellence awards.

The birthday celebrations began early with the announcement in May of a $4.7 million ARC grant for the new Future Fibres Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) to develop advanced carbon fibres and nanofibres to support more sustainable and advanced manufacturing.

And with the recent announcement of a $1.76 million Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund grant for Carbon Nexus and Quickstep to establish a dedicated automotive division to be located at Deakin University, the future of Carbon Nexus – and Geelong – is looking brighter every day.

Carbon Nexus Director Derek Buckmaster explained that the year of achievements was just the beginning for Carbon Nexus.

“The Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for the ITRH is one example of how government and industry are confident in Carbon Nexus’ capacity to lead the way on the path to creating the world’s best carbon fibre and to driving the jobs of the future,” he said.

Mr Buckmaster, who has just returned from a visit to the United States where he participated in the inaugural meeting of the Institute of Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), said the global manufacturing industry was growing increasingly excited about the future capabilities of carbon fibre and that Carbon Nexus was playing a key role in its advancement.

“There are so many reasons to be excited about the future of advanced manufacturing through the development of better, lighter, stronger and more cost-effective carbon fibre,” he said.

“Carbon Nexus is well on the way to developing the most cost-effective PAN (polyacrylonitrile) based carbon fibre targeted for specific applications. This brings us one step closer to one of our main aims – reducing the cost of industrial-grade carbon fibre materials.

“Our carbon fibre production line is embedded within Deakin University, enabling innovative research outcomes and already working with industry on projects that are helping to drive the jobs of the future.

“Building a new industry takes commitment, an unwavering focus on innovation and strong partnerships between academia and industry – and that is what goes to the heart of Carbon Nexus.”

Research Director Professor Bronwyn Fox agreed, noting that the first year of activities for Carbon Nexus represented the culmination of the vision that was seeded at Deakin in 2008.

“Seven years ago we imagined Carbon Nexus to be a world-leading carbon fibre research institute, attracting future industries to research and invest in Geelong, and now this vision is becoming a reality,” she said.

Carbon Nexus by the numbers

  • Agreements with 11 industry partners from nine countries including the United States, South Korea, Russia, China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Thailand.
  • The production of 75 different batches of carbon fibre for research trials – this equates to approximately five tonnes of material and 2,250 bobbins.
  • Processing of 18 different types of precursor materials, including PAN (polyacrylonitrile), cellulose, lignin and RAFT-polymerised precursor, from a range of research collaborators and industrial partners.
  • Nine local and national research excellence awards, including the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Gold Medal to Nisa Salim, the Smart Geelong Researcher of the Year award to Professor Bronwyn Fox.
  • An Australian Research Council (ARC) $4.7 million grant for the new Future Fibres Industrial Transformation Research Hub to develop advanced carbon fibres and nanofibres to support more sustainable and advanced manufacturing.
  • An ARC Discovery Grant of $345,500, for Carbon Nexus Research Director Professor Bronwyn Fox to investigate the use of spinifex grasses in carbon fibre production, in conjunction with the University of Queensland.

Future Fibres Hub

The Future Fibres Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) will build upon Deakin’s already extensive expertise in carbon fibre development and advanced materials, which is led by the Carbon Nexus, within Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials. It draws together partners from government, industry and higher education, including the Australian Government’s national science agency, the CSIRO.

Industry partners include carbon fibre parts manufacturers Carbon Revolution and Quickstep Holdings, along with HEIQ Australia, Cytomatrix, and the Ear Science Institute Australia. These partners are contributing an additional $3 million towards the Hub.

Overseas research collaborators on the project include the University of Oxford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Carbon Nexus to partner with global industry player DowAksa

Australia’s carbon fibre industry growth strategy has been given a boost, thanks to a new partnership between Deakin University and one of the world’s leading science and technology companies, DowAksa.

This partnership includes new commitments at the University’s globally unique carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus, to advance worldwide market adoption of carbon fibre composites.

The partnership will also help to promote Australian expertise in materials and manufacturing technologies to industrial composite parts makers and end users, such as automotive manufacturers in North America, Europe and other key export markets.

DowAksa is a joint venture between Aksa, the world’s leading provider of acrylic fibre, and The Dow Chemical Company. The new agreement will provide for collaborative research and development projects with Carbon Nexus, as well as professional development and exchange opportunities that aim to advance materials and manufacturing process technologies.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander announced the partnership at the third biennial Carbon Fibre Future Directions Conference, hosted by Carbon Nexus.

“Carbon Nexus, which we opened just on nine months ago, was strategically positioned by Deakin University as the world’s leading carbon fibre research centre, directly tied to research and ready to work with industry on projects that will help drive the jobs of the future,” Professor den Hollander said.

“What we are announcing here today is a key step in the evolution of that strategy and demonstrates the critical role universities play in supporting local economies to reinvigorate and develop new economic bases.”

Professor den Hollander said the partnership between Deakin and DowAksa would initially include collaborative carbon fibre research projects focused on catalysing local demand for DowAksa carbon fibre, with eventual opportunities for adoption by industries globally.

“The Carbon Nexus pilot line will be optimised for the output of DowAksa carbon fibre samples to support the research projects,” she said.

“DowAksa and Deakin University are also expecting PhD student engagements and staff exchange and training programs as a result of the partnership agreement.

“Carbon fibre is one of the great new value-adding opportunities for Geelong manufacturing, and building a new industry takes commitment, an unwavering focus on innovation and strong partnerships between academia and industry – and that is what goes to the heart of Carbon Nexus.”

Carbon Nexus Director Derek Buckmaster said the DowAksa partnership was a key part of the growth plan for the research facility.

“We are already working in partnership with the world’s first commercial maker of single-piece carbon fibre auto wheels, Carbon Revolution, which is based at our Waurn Ponds campus alongside Carbon Nexus, and recently expanded its operations,” Mr Buckmaster said.

“We have recently welcomed Torquay-based design engineering firm 36T to work on an advanced sports engineering project in partnership with the School of Engineering.

“Australian carbon fibre parts manufacturer Quickstep is also setting up a dedicated automotive division at our Waurn Ponds campus to design and develop automotive manufacturing cells and enable the production of customer prototypes and initial production quantities.”

DowAksa is a charter member of the US advanced composites consortium that was awarded a contract last month by President Barack Obama to establish a national advanced composites manufacturing institute.

Subject to final negotiations between this consortium and the US Department of Energy, the new institute being formed, called the Institute for Advanced Composites Materials Innovation (IACMI), will bring more than $250 million USD in combined federal, state, corporate and academic support to accelerate the development of an advanced composites industry in the US.

Deakin University, already a member of the Oak Ridge Carbon Fibre Composites Consortium based in Tennessee, was among one of almost 200 organisations expressing formal support for the IACMI proposal.

Once the new Institute begins operations, it could provide Deakin with an extended platform for collaborative engagement and networking with business and academic leaders in the American market.

Carbon Nexus gains ISO certification

Deakin University’s globally unique carbon fibre research centre has added another feather to its cap with the award of an internationally-recognised quality management certification.

The certification, ISO 9001:2008, covers development trials and collaboration with customers on research projects for carbon fibre processing, as well as training carbon fibre line operators.

Globally adopted in virtually all industries by manufacturers and service companies both large and small, ISO 9001 has become the most widely recognized Quality Management System standard.

Deakin University Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Professor Lee Astheimer said that while Carbon Nexus has successfully conducted research projects with highly satisfied industry partners, the new certification is independent evidence of our service quality.

“It’s unusual for a university research centre to receive this customer service certification, but Carbon Nexus provides training and research services at industry standards, so we are proud to now have this extra recognition, particularly as we only officially opened our doors nine months ago,” Professor Astheimer said.

Carbon Nexus Director Derek Buckmaster said the certification was a significant milestone for the recently opened globally unique centre.

“It reflects our high level of dedication to excellence and meeting the needs of our research collaborators and customers in every facet of our carbon fibre processing operations and training capabilities,” Mr Buckmaster said.

Carbon Nexus General Manager Steve Atkiss, who drove the implementation of the new Quality Management System and led the certification to the standard, said all staff within the centre were responsible for the certification being awarded.

“We are extremely proud of the Carbon Nexus operations team,” Mr Atkiss said.

“Our certification to ISO 9001:2008 reflects not only the consistent high quality of the carbon fibre processing research and operations at Carbon Nexus, but also our commitment to continuous improvement in the future.”

Carbon Nexus General Manager Steve Atkiss, Quality Coordinator Kim Atkiss and Director Derek Buckmaster display the ISO 9001:2008 certification.

The Carbon Nexus research centre is active in research areas including reducing the cost of carbon fibre production, developing higher-performance carbon fibres, improving the surface treatment of fibres and reducing cycle-times for composite part production.

“We are involved in a broad range of industries including aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, plus industrial applications. Carbon Nexus also offers a broad range of hands-on training courses utilising its world-class industrial pilot-scale carbonisation line and research-scale line,” Mr Atkiss said.

“Our pilot carbon fibre manufacturing line embedded in our university is directly tied to research and industry, working on projects that will help drive the jobs of the future.”

Carbon Nexus was certified as meeting the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 by SAI Global, a leading certification provider to the aerospace and automotive industries.

ISO 9001 is an international Quality Management System standard that specifies requirements for an organisation to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products or services that meet customer and legal requirements, enhancing customer satisfaction and opening the way to continual improvement.

Highly Commended Award for Furnace Engineering

Melbourne based company, Furnace Engineering received a Highly Commended Award at the illustrious Victoria Engineering Excellence Awards for their development of high tech furnaces for Deakin’s carbon fibre pilot line at the Carbon Nexus facility.

In developing the furnaces the objective was to achieve:

  • Very good atmosphere sealing in an open-ended slot-furnace design.
  • The ability to confirm the furnace is airtight prior to production.
  • The ability to drastically reduce atmosphere purge time and gas consumption.
  • Effective cooling of the emerging fibre while under inert atmosphere.
  • Significantly reduced losses, electrical energy and Nitrogen consumption resulting in significant production cost savings.

Novel features were incorporated in the furnaces in order to achieve these objectives. Losses were reduced by good thermal insulation and a reduction in the water cooling of power connections and the furnace casing. A new atmosphere curtain design was implemented to keep air out and fumes in the chamber, a critical design requirement for an open-ended slot furnace suitable for carbon fibre processing. The High Temperature chamber is equipped with removable end-caps enabling the entire furnace to be quantitatively vacuum-checked for leaks. An active cooling method allows rapid waterless cooling to ambient under inert atmosphere. Emerging fibres are cool enough to handle without gloves.

These features have enabled the furnaces to make good quality fibre with remarkably low power and nitrogen consumption.

“This is great recognition for the challenging and innovative work that Furnace Engineering has done and reinforces the value of our equipment to engineering development in Australia,” said Ian Kett, Program Director of the Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre at Deakin.

Carbon Nexus launches operator training

Carbon Nexus, has launched its first flexible training package for carbon fibre plant operators, maintenance technicians and process engineers.

Two-week intensive packages are on offer for Grade One Operators throughout 2015. This training will equip participants to be production ready and able to safely operate equipment on commercial grade multi-tow (pilot) and single tow lines.

Backed by ten years of carbon fibre and composite research, Carbon Nexus is fully aligned with the needs of the global carbon fibre industry. Its tailored training courses aim to meet the requirements of current and future carbon fibre manufacturers, internal and external staff and a wide spectrum of industry-related professionals. Training is provided at all levels, from operator to in-house trainer; research, engineer and management levels.

The Operators Training Package provides an introduction to carbon fibre, covering process steps in production, fibre skills and industrial health, safety and environmental issues. Focussing on both practical and theoretical line operations, it will also cover maintenance, fibre analysis, procedural and regulatory requirements.

Located at the Geelong Waurn Ponds campus (near Melbourne, Australia), Carbon Nexus will offer open access to ‘hands-on’ training, overseen by experienced production staff.

As well as having access to the Carbon Nexus carbon fibre processing lines, training will be provided within high-tech research and analysis laboratories by a team of outstanding researchers, who are dedicated to achieving the production of quality carbon fibre – with a focus on reduced production costs and safe, fast manufacturing processes.

Carbon Nexus operator training will:

  • Produce highly skilled operational staff.
  • Provide ongoing support for trainees.
  • Offer a package of education resources.
  • Minimise risk for manufacturers.
  • Eliminate plant down time required for training, thus reducing training costs and enabling unhindered production.
  • Accelerate skilling time.
  • Equip staff to react safely to faults and other incidents.
  • Eliminate the need for in-house supervisors to conduct operational training.
  • Provide flexible and customised training.
  • Allow for the use of manufacturers’ own precursors, if required.

A door-to-door service is a feature of Carbon Nexus training. Transport to and from the Melbourne Airport can be arranged and a residential package, with accommodation provided on-site, is available.

Training Directed by Steve Atkiss, Carbon Nexus General Manager

Renowned carbon fibre expert, Steve Atkiss, leads the Carbon Nexus training programs. Steve is General Manager of Carbon Nexus and brings a unique skill set to the facility. His vast carbon fibre background ranges from engineering and operational experience, to research and development, to full-scale commercial carbon fibre processing.

Steve spent over 10 years with the SGL Carbon Group, where he held positions as Maintenance Manager, Engineering Manager, Production Manager and Commissioning Manager. He built on this experience with several years as chief design expert for carbon fibre production line equipment and processing with the global carbon fibre manufacturer, Despatch Industries.

Throughout his career, Steve has worked on multiple projects with most of the current top 10 carbon fibre manufacturers.

He has worked with numerous regular and advanced ‘under development’ precursors, research and development process trials, and exercises in production optimisation.

For more information about the Operators Training Package dial +61 3 522 73369 to speak with our training co-ordinator.