The equipment included:

  • a large autoclave weighing 90 tonnes – including 30 000 litre water cooling system;
  • a nitrogen generating plant;
  • a small autoclave (17 tonnes);
  • a hydraulic hot-press (10 tonnes);
  • a double diaphragm hot drape former (15 tonnes); and
  • two curing ovens.

The equipment was moved from Airbus’ facility in Filton. It took four months to re-install the large autoclave which operates at 400°C and a pressure of 200 psi (13.8 bar), the hot press, water cooling system and nitrogen pressurising plant, comprising a 30 tonne receiver, three compressors and a nitrogen generator.

The hot-drape former presented unique challenges removing it from its previous location not least because it uses 2500 light bulbs as its curing heat source.

The water cooling system – previously used for cooling the large autoclave and comprising a 30,000 litre tank, a hot well and hundreds of metres of pipe work – now serves both autoclaves and a hydraulic hot press. This installation was further complicated by the need to locate a system previously housed internally to a location outside the building.

The NCC is designed to bridge the gap between academic research and manufacturing and develop new technologies for the design and rapid manufacture of high-quality composite products. The centre officially opened last month.

"AIC recognised the key issue with this project," says Rob Ludford, the NCC’s Operations Director. "By working closely with NCC staff they were able to maintain capability and continuity of service to our customers by eliminating downtime across two sites."

AIC Group comprises Autoclave & Industrial Controls (AIC), Rovic and Custom Coatings. AIC has considerable experience of general process equipment and specialises in autoclave and composite related systems that use pressure, temperature and vacuum.