Engineering is not a new game. There are tried and tested processes in play around the world delivering the best in class engineering solutions with a clear competitive advantage. However, as new materials and processing techniques enter the manufacturing world, the educational establishments remain behind the curve.

We know this from first-hand experience. There quite simply is not a raft of qualified and experienced composite engineers out there. It isn’t a widely taught subject and there just aren’t straight forward degrees focusing on composite engineering and manufacture.

The solid modeling and computer stress programs (FEA) generally don’t have composite modules in them, they have to be bought from specialists and then learned on-the-job under great pressure to get it right first time and not learn from your mistakes – as mistakes are costly.

Our experience at Cecence is, that we have to go and hire teams from a particular sector where composites are consistently utilised e.g.: Marine or Motor Sport sectors, not surprisingly, where we as Founders hail from. In truth – our first apprentice joined us following a frustrating journey to find training in composites and was able to gain first-hand experience with us and ultimately became our production line manager.

So what does this mean for the industry in general?
Our first concern is that without qualified labour force in these materials, processes and techniques, that projects when run through conventional metallic engineers, will design in composites as “black steel” as often seen.

Conventional structural engineers are able to pull from industry-specific standard technical publications that have published standard properties for metallic materials, and production processes such as welding have standards and coded qualifications. However in the emerging world of composites very few similar standards exists. We are starting to see exceptions of course, eg: the CIRIA Guideline for FRP bridge construction – more of this please!

This raises our concern for the time, effort and costs associated with the mainstream development of composite components or stand-alone composite parts when qualified and experienced composite engineers are not involved. The iteration from testing to redevelopment requires expert knowledge in the properties and most appropriate processes. Designs are often not as optimal or cost-effective as can be achieved – were they “production-ready” or just complex engineering?

In our recent experiences in developing composite seatbacks, we have been engaged in the concept steering group by our customers, not just at the production stage or when they hit an issue, saving them significant time, effort and costs to reach approval and production readiness.

So, our strong recommendation is that while the manufacturing sectors understanding and up-skilling and technology transfer of composite engineering is still building, it is good business sense to involve good experienced engineers as early on possible and avoid the unnecessary iterations from testing-to-fail to rework etc. The learning curve is expensive in time and money.

It is our clear mission at Cecence to enable the full supply chain and deliver this knowledge transfer, and we consider ourselves development partners, not simply suppliers.

To learn more about our approach to composite engineering and supporting the supply chain in material supply, know-how and manufacturing, click here to request a call with one of our engineering exerpts