With a team of just 25 people, Advanced Composite Structures Australia (ACS Australia) could be said to be punching well above its weight.
“We’re a relatively small organisation, but we’re working with giant companies,” says managing director Professor Murray Scott.
ACS Australia, an independent private company, was formed in 2008 as a spin-off to a Commonwealth funded Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) focusing on advanced composite structures. The CRC, which has been in existence since 1991, is now winding down after 24 years of continuous operation.
“This is why we created ACS Australia; to remain engaged with innovative companies and continue that commercialisation of the intellectual property,” says Professor Scott.
“Essentially we’re a company of specialist engineers and technicians – it’s all about delivering competitive advantage to global clients and translating research outputs into commercial outcomes.”
Although small in size, the Port Melbourne company has been making waves globally for its innovative technology.
In October 2015, the company won a JEC Asia Innovation Award for an aspect of its Thermoset Composite Welding technology known as COFA, which is used for rapidly attaching special fittings to composite structures.
Professor Scott says the welding technology is the company’s most important piece of IP.
“It’s unique. We have patents all over the world for this technology. We’re in the early stages of commercialising it all.”
Thermoset Composite Welding is an assembly method that eliminates fasteners and secondary bonding.
Professor Scott says that inside an aircraft structure, for instance, there are parts such as wiring harnesses or air conditioning ducts that need to be attached securely.
Before this technology there were only two basic choices: attaching with rivets, by “drilling holes in your beautiful structure,” or gluing them on, says Professor Scott. However, gluing can take a long time and is generally not trusted in the aircraft industry for critical applications.
The welding technology developed by ACS Australia in conjunction with its CRC partners, including Airbus in Europe, enables aircraft companies to reduce manufacturing assembly time and therefore, save money.
ACS Australia also won a JEC Europe Innovation Award in 2014 for development of a composite repair clamp together with Malaysian oil and gas giant PETRONAS and other partners. The new lightweight clamp will help oil and gas companies deal with corroded or leaking pipes, which Professor Scott says are often difficult and expensive to repair.
Using relatively inexpensive tooling, ACS Australia’s product can be made in a couple of weeks, unlike their metal counterparts, “which are not so amenable to bespoke solutions,” says Professor Scott.
He says composites can be equivalent in strength to steel, but are only about a third of the weight – with the added benefit of being inherently corrosion resistant.
Whilst ACS Australia continues to develop and commercialise world-class technology and provide specialised engineering services, Professor Murray Scott says one of its greatest achievements is working with almost 100 organisations worldwide over the past seven years.
“We have helped so many companies adopt new technology – that’s our biggest success story.”