New Facility Gives AEC Access to Cutting Edge Design
Albany Engineered Composites (AEC) recently opened the doors to its new Research & Technology (R&T) Center. The 45,000-square-foot facility, located in Rochester, New Hampshire, supports continuous development of composite technologies, fabrication methodologies, advanced design and simulation tools, and automation capabilities. With looms, autoclaves, ovens, presses, a computational simulation team, inspection and other equipment all dedicated solely to new development projects, the center allows AEC’s R&T team to exercise their creativity to the fullest and take more risks when developing new designs or processes.
Previously AEC’s R&T team only had access to production looms and processing equipment. If this equipment was needed for production that would take priority and restrict how much time and equipment access engineers had for exploring newer experimental work. But now they have more control over equipment scheduling and use.
“Time constraints tend to result in engineers not taking design risks, instead leading them to take more conservative approaches that they know will work. You can’t take a risk and try something brand new or groundbreaking with production equipment, because if it fails, you may lose your window on the equipment and end up with nothing to present to your customer,” says Chris Redman, R&T Team Lead for Composite Materials and Structures at AEC. “We’ll still have tight schedules and customer driven-deadlines, but we will have more flexibility and control over our ability to pursue new ideas.”
One example of what the R&T Center brings to the table: rapid fabrication of component prototypes for early product design efforts. This gives AEC the ability to more flexibly support the phases of new product development referred to as Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1-4 in the aerospace industry. A part’s TRL defines how ‘ready’ it is to be integrated into actual use. TRL levels 1-4 refer to a part that is in the early concept and design phases of development, while TRL levels 5-9 are used as a part transitions from a design concept into a component that - when manufactured - meets the safety, reliability, and quality specifications required for its final use. According to Redman, “having dedicated people and equipment should allow us to go from concept to prototype much faster, reducing overall development cycle time by a significant amount.”