FORMAX worked with Premier Composite Technologies to create the hands for the clock of the Dokaae Tower in Mecca, the world's largest clock tower. The clock hands are 22 m and 17 m in length and are made out of carbon prepreg. They weigh 6 tonnes each.
FORMAX worked with Premier Composite Technologies to create the hands for the clock of the Dokaae Tower in Mecca, the world's largest clock tower. The clock hands are 22 m and 17 m in length and are made out of carbon prepreg. They weigh 6 tonnes each.

2010 was a difficult year for many composite companies, but FORMAX saw its sales grow 20%. The company manufactured over 6 million m2 of material for customers serving the wind energy, marine, automotive, sports and industrial markets worldwide.

As a result of this growth, FORMAX will invest £1.5 million in new machinery during 2011. It is also continuing to add to the team of sales and technical personnel at its Leicester, UK, headquarters.

An important part of this year's investment is the installation of the latest Karl Mayer carbon multiaxial machine – the Carbon Malitronic®. This is the only machine of its type in the world. It has a variable width from 1000 mm to 1600 mm.

As FORMAX's managing director Oliver Wessely points out, given the cost of carbon fibre, the ability to produce fabrics to the exact size required results in huge material cost savings.

The new Karl Mayer machine will also allow FORMAX to offer unique fabric constructions such as lightweight 0/90° fabrics, ply orientations from +/-30° and balanced biaxials (+/-/+) from 200 g/m2 that ensure truly symmetrical fabics.

FORMAX is also investing in a laminating line that combines surface veils with existing fabrics for applications that require high quality surface finishes, such as Class A automotive panels.

Diverse applications

Wessely points out the diverse range of applications the company has been involved in. These range from developing quadaxial fabrics for use in Lamborghini's new carbon composite supercar, to supplying materials for the Dokaae Tower in Mecca – the work's largest clock tower.

On the Dokaae Tower project FORMAX worked with Premier Composite Technologies (PCT) of Dubai to produce the clock hands using carbon prepreg. The clock hands had to be be hollow to allow access to the 2000 LEDS embedded into their surface. They were therefore designed as sandwich structures, featuring an outer layer of prepregged glass cloth, a structural laminate of unidirectional (UD) carbon prepreg and secondary reinforcements using FORMAX carbon biaxial fabrics.

Bespoke reinforcements

FORMAX was founded in 2000 to provide high quality, high performance multiaxial reinforcements for the composites market.

The company manufactures a specialised range of carbon, glass and aramid reinforcements, including lightweight carbon fabrics for automotive and industrial applications, glass fabrics for the marine and industrial sectors, and heavyweight glass fabrics for infusion processes.

FORMAX prides itself on working with its customers to create and manufacture bespoke fabrics engineered to maximise the performance of their composite products.

FORMAX materials will also be used in the tower's hilal (cresent moon) structure which will measure 23 m. Working with PCT and Gurit UK, FORMAX developed a custom hybrid quadraxial fabric for this, which uses a blend of carbon and glass fibres.

Wessely explains that although FORMAX's business is growing, he wants it to remain a "small company in mindset," with the flexibility to offer innovative, bespoke materials with quick turnaround times and low minimum order quantities. This strategy is certainly working well for the company so far, he concludes. ♦