Paxford Composites – The High Performance Composite Solutions Specialist

Paxford Composites (Huntingdon, UK) is one of the UK’s leading producers of high performance composite components for a wide range of markets including aerospace, automotive and public transportation.

The company is capable of producing components using a wide range of processing technologies everything from contact molding, through infusion to autoclaved prepregs. This production flexibility allows Paxford to accurately match the manufacturing method to the performance and cost requirements of a specific application.

Two examples that show the benefits of this approach are broadcast satellite dishes and the structural shells for aircraft simulators (panoramic mirrorcells) – two areas where the company has developed special expertise. Both these applications require components that must have excellent stiffness, high strength to weight ratio, repeatable component accuracy and vibration-free performance.

In the case of the satellite dishes, the reproduction of the parabolic shape is critical to achieving the required the levels of signal accuracy (less than 5° of arc) and the bandwidth required for high definition television signals. In the past these dishes have tended to be produced using prepregs that are auto-clave-cured - a process that is both relatively time consuming and expensive.

Paxford is now producing the dishes using a specially developed one-shot infusion process based on Diab sandwich cores and optimized laminate schedules. The company has not only developed a process that is faster and more cost efficient than autoclaved cured prepregs, but the finished dishes still offer comparable fiber fractions and properties.

Although a simulator shell could be seen as just a large dome or housing to contain and support the electronics and other simulator equipment, it does, in fact, play a very crucial role in the actual operation of the simulator. The inside of shell operates as a large hemispherical mirror that reflects the topographical images from the LCD projectors onto the pilots ‘windscreen’. The quality and realistic nature of the images that the pilot sees requires the shell to offer high levels of component accuracy and minimize vibration at specific harmonic frequencies.

These shells were being produced using a contact molding process but there was a demand from the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to reduce component weight more suited to simulator motion systems changing from hydraulic to electric actuation systems in order to provide greater sensory realism while at the same reducing initial and through-life costs.

Again the Paxford engineering team decided to move to an infusion process using Diab sandwich cores optimized for weight reduction. By taking this approach the company has been able to reduce the weight of the shells by 20% while maintaining stiffness and dimensional accuracy.

Louise Eriksson Jacka
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