Manufacturer accelerates carbon fibre ambitions

29 September 2022

Times may be challenging for British manufacturing but pattern, tool and model maker STAL Ltd is progressing at pace with its ambitions in carbon fibre, thanks to Innovate UK funding and expert advice from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The £15k grant, together with technical expertise from the AMRC, is enabling the company to train even more of its staff in carbon fibre tooling.

It is a natural next step to STAL’s sizeable investment in the very latest CAD/CAM processing systems, allowing its highly skilled engineering team and CNC operators to generate complex tool paths from 3D models and drawings. The process works equally as well for reverse engineering where technical drawings for existing parts do not exist, and where 3D models are needed.

STAL’s managing director, Stephen Slater, said: “The projects we take on at STAL are hugely diverse. At the full-scale industrial end, we might be working on a carbon fibre headlight enclosure for a world-leading sports car manufacturer. At the hobbyist end, we might be reverse engineering a mould to bring a lost design back to life, or creating a model to be used in a theatre production.

“We may have established ourselves in 2003 as a pattern maker for the castings industry, but since then, we’ve used our proud heritage of a British manufacturer as the springboard to diversify our business and remain at the forefront of adapting new technologies.

Partnering with the AMRC in this way signals our clear intent that we will continue to invest in both the capital equipment and skills needed to manufacture at scale.

Technical composites lead at the University of Sheffield AMRC, John Halfpenny, said: “Stephen approached the AMRC to help the business understand how it could diversify, looking at manufacturing parts for the composite industry. The AMRC approached this by delivering a two- week intensive course covering all the skills and equipment needed to break into this growing market.

“Two members of Stephen’s team worked with AMRC staff and technicians, covering all aspects of composite component manufacturing, including composite mould making and composite component manufacture, curing in autoclaves, and trimming parts.

“The AMRC also covered the advantages of using digital processes, incorporating CAD design and manufacturing techniques, to include filament winding and press moulding. The AMRC is confident that with the training given, it will help guide Stephen and his team on the next steps to take. The team at AMRC is keen to assist them where possible as the company grows.”

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