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Sustainable Composite Research

NORCO - April 11, 2018 - 0 comments

Sustainable Composite Research

James Starkey – a recent graduate of engineering at Southampton Solent University – has been working closely with our composite team for his research dissertation on sustainability. We caught up with James to discuss what he is doing and how he is progressing.

Q: What is your research dissertion subject?
A: Assessing the sustainability value of volcanic fibre in composite laminates, in the context of the marine production industry.

Q: What are you hoping to achieve?
A: To develop a greater understanding of the impact that composite materials are having on the environment. With this understanding, provide solutions for more efficient processes for production, which may include:

  • Use of Environmentally Friendly Resins
  • Sustainable materials that cause less damage to the environment
  • Better ways to recycle materials and avoid land fill
  • Encourage materials to be reused to reduce exploitation of raw materials
  • Healthier working conditions for people involved in the industry.

Q: Why have you been working in partnership with NORCO?
A: NORCO at the outset have expressed an interest to investigate new materials and are constantly looking for opportunities to improve production. That includes both processes and materials.
By having a genuine interest in new technology NORCO have made it possible to investigate my own interests.

Q: How has NORCO provided you assistance?
A: By sharing their many years of experience, I have been able to gain a fundamental understanding of how the composite industry operates. I have gained this understanding by working on the factory floor alongside extremely experienced laminators and engineers.

The facilities at NORCO are extensive. I have been fortunate to experience working with exotic Pre-preg materials, test natural fibres, manufacture large structural items and infuse complex items. This experience complimented my research at University at Degree level and enabled me to develop ideas based on practical learning with sound research, looking at new technology and materials. At Southampton Solent University I have been able to investigate new materials by testing to recognised ISO standards.

Q: What have you discovered so far?
A: That there is an overwhelming desire throughout the industry to improve processes and adopt greener materials. There is little resistance to change. Amongst people working with composites, such as boat builders, designers, laminators material suppliers, across all market sectors, there is a common desire to make improvements. Such improvements will benefit human health, reduce waste, bring down expenditure on raw materials, and ultimately reduce the impact on the environment.

Q: How do you hope your research can be developed for the future?
A: By demonstrating how new materials can be adopted without disrupting the work flow will be a huge advantage to organisations who care about the health of their employees, the environment and their customers who buy and use their products. Essentially new materials or processes in every occasion needs to prove:

  1. There will be no compromise to structural integrity
  2. The material is practical to work with
  3. The materials are readily available and cost effective.

This proof will need to be in the form of robust evidence. With such an approach to change, it is easy to envisage a future where change is implemented across the industry. These ideas are not unique to British manufacturing, however, there is an opportunity to lead the global market and the idea that Britain can be a global leader in a growing industry is extremely appealing to me.

James Starkey is based in Southampton and can be easily reached via his email:

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