The 3D Weaving processes are for manufacturing high performance carbon fibre composites.

Axis Composites was spun out of University of Ulster two years ago and has concentrated on computer-based design and development and transferring technology out of the University. However, the company has recently commissioned a 3D weaving loom to manufacture prototype 3D fabrics and demonstrate the special properties of these high-tech textiles.

The preform can be woven into a multitude of different widths, thicknesses, patterns, shapes and strengths. The 3rd dimension yarn can vary too in thickness, width and pattern. Composites from 3D fabrics are highly resistant to delamination and that makes them very appealing to manufacturers with strength and weight challenges - and that means not just aircraft companies, but boats, buses, wind turbines and lorries too.

Axis says that its research has shown that the 3D composite has significantly better performance in several limiting load cases including 15% higher fatigue properties, a mode I interlaminar fracture toughness and crack propagation value of G1C (delamination resistance) up to 20 times higher than the 2D reinforced epoxy laminates. The binder yarns are also largely responsible for 3D woven composites having greatly increased tensile strain-to-failure values and better Open-hole properties with very low notch sensitivity.

Axis adds that this means that the designer can safely carry a greater load through the composite structure for a given thickness in many scenarios, thus reducing the weight of the structure. It opens a new horizon for the composite designer where some of the traditional conservatisms can be reduced. Many other benefits can be derived from 3D woven composites including cost of manufacturing.