Mast manufacture at Future Fibres.Yesterday, I visited the beautiful Spanish city of Valencia, the home of Future Fibres. Well known in the racing yacht and superyacht sectors for its lightweight carbon fibre rigging, the company branched out into the manufacture of composite masts in 2008.

A tour of the company's 15,000 m2 manufacturing facility illustrates the scale of the projects Future Fibres is accustomed to. Work is currently in progress on a 76 m long mast (for a Perini Navi 60 m sloop), as well as several furling booms of more than 25 m. Equipment includes a 50 m long autoclave and 60 m climate-controlled laminate rooms. The company works closely with tool and mould specialist Persico, it boasts a 'world class' design team and has developed a unique software for optimising mast design. 

Gearing up for growth

Future Fibres has been growing and it now employs over 100 people. It is planning to grow further by expanding its business outside of the marine sector.

This move is being led by CEO Hugues Jacquemin (previously CEO of glass fibre producer 3B), who joined Future Fibres around a year ago. Another key player in this strategy is Luca Mezzo, previously with aerospace specialist Safran, who has taken up the new position of Chief Technology Officer. To separate day-to-day R&D (product enhancements) from 'true innovation' the company recently set up an Innovation Centre in the UK.

Future Fibres believes applications which could benefit from its composites expertise include:

  • automotive (Future Fibres has already produced carbon safey tethers for the wheels on F1 cars, and it's working with RPx Automotive on the carbon composite tub of the RP-one sports car);
  • civil engineering (the company provided solid carbon fibre cables as the primary load-bearing supports for a 216 m long footbridge in Spain);
  • lifting technology (replacing steel cables with lightweight composite cables in cranes and other lifting equipment); and
  • oil and gas (exploitation of deepwater oil and gas reserves will require lightweight cable technology).
Fast fact
Future Fibres' first mast underwent the ultimate challenge. It was fitted to British sailor Mike Golding's Vendée Globe yacht Gamesa and is reported to have finished the around the world race in perfect condition. 

NDT and the monitoring of damage within composite structures is also a key focus.

From project to product

The move from the large, one-off, custom projects it currently specialises in, to higher volume products, is the challenge Future Fibres now faces. Jacquemin confirms that the company is also in the process of expanding into a low-cost country to enable larger volume production. 

The strategy seems sound, and I think we will be hearing more of Future Fibres in the coming years ... ♦

Read a more detailed profile of Future Fibres here. 

Amanda Jacob is the Editor of Reinforced Plastics magazine.