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New research facility at University of Auckland

New research facility at University of Auckland will help development of New Zealand industries

A new research facility at The University of Auckland's Faculty of Engineering will help New Zealand industries keep abreast with cutting edge technologies.

The Centre for Advanced Composite Materials research facility was officially opened today <>, by the Minister for Research, Science and Technology, the Hon. Pete Hodgson.

The Centre has been established as a joint venture between The University of Auckland and Forest Research (FRNZ). It is also supported by a consortium of industries and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Last week the composites research group was also announced as a recipient of a Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) grant for the designing, developing and manufacturing of advanced composite structures. The group will receive more than $10.2 million over a period of six years from this FRST grant, in addition to the support received from other New Zealand and overseas sources.

Faculty of Engineering Dean Professor Peter Brothers says he is delighted with the addition of the research facility to the Faculty's existing research and teaching programme.

"The new facility will take research in the area of composite products and manufacturing processes to a new level and it offers a wide range of research and learning opportunities to our academics and students.

"In addition, we welcome the opportunity to work with Forest Research on this initiative, as well as other members of New Zealand industry who have a stake in the ongoing development of these research programmes," says Professor Brothers.

Research in advanced composite materials at the University first started in 1987, while the joint venture was formally established in 2002. It aims to pioneer innovative technologies in advanced composite products and manufacturing processes, to enhance the wealth of its members and to provide new business opportunities that will benefit New Zealand's economy. Centre Director and Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Professor Debes Bhattacharyya, says increased interest in the research carried out by the Faculty meant that bigger custom-made premises were required.

"Since we first started research in this area, we have gone from strength to strength in terms of our research projects and opportunities and we have had growing support for our work from industry collaborators and overseas institutions.

"Interest is coming from a wide range of industries, varying from marine and forest product manufacturers, polymer and consumer products manufacturers, and aircraft maintenance and parts manufacturers," says Professor Bhattacharyya.

Forest Research Chief Executive Bryce Heard says the organisation is pleased to be so closely involved with an area of research that has the potential to drive real growth in the New Zealand economy.

"The area of composites research opens up a whole new area of opportunities for New Zealand businesses and industry," says Mr Heard.

"New Zealand organisations are already world-leaders in this area of development and this new centre of research at the University will help all of us stay ahead of the competition. It's an exciting development for everyone involved."

The Centre is now located in an architectural award winning new building at the University's Tamaki Campus in Glenn Innes, Auckland.

Research areas include innovative manufacturing processes like modified rotational moulding, development of novel biopolymers and polymer blends, modifications of synthetic and natural fibres like wood fibres, and the applications of nano- and micro-fibrillar polymers in composites manufacturing.

The Centre for Advanced Composite Materials is part of the Faculty of Engineering's Mechanical Engineering Department, but it also utilises the skills of researchers from a variety of disciplines including Engineering Science, Chemical & Materials Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemistry. Forest Research staff will also contribute to research and are likely to be based at the Centre from time to time.

The CACM has been set up initially for six years, with a possible extension after an independent mid-term review.


BACKGROUNDER

The Faculty of Engineering

The Faculty of Engineering at The University of Auckland came into existence in 1902 as The School of Mines. In 1918 it became the Auckland University College Engineering Department and in 1923 was elevated to the status of a Special School.

In 1948 the Faculty moved from the University’s city campus to Ardmore, where it remained for 21 years. In 1967 a new building was erected for the School at 20 Symonds Street and officially opened in 1969.

Now the Faculty has more than 2000 engineering students studying at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The Faculty offers eight undergraduate degrees, including the recent additions of Software Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. It consists of five departments – Mechanical Engineering, Chemical and Materials, Civil and Environmental, Electrical and Computing, and Engineering Science.

The Faculty is actively involved in a wide variety of research projects with different research partners. In many areas the Faculty is at the cutting edge of research and development and, in some cases, its work leads the world in innovation.

Centre for Advanced Composite Materials – Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Grant

The composites research group within the Centre for Advanced Composites Materials at The University of Auckland was announced as the recipient of a grant of more than $10 million (over six years) from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, last week (April 14).

The grant will fund analytical and experimental research on novel material systems like nano- and micro-fibrillar polymers and biopolymers, advanced manufacturing processes like rotational and liquid composites moulding, and innovative structures like the reinforced honeycomb or foam.

In its application, the group highlighted the spectacular growth in the thermoplastic composites area, which boasted a global average growth of 105 percent per annum in the last five years.

New Zealand is dominated by medium and small scale industries, many of which have been particularly successful in niche markets like aircraft maintenance, marine and wood-fibre based products, using composite material systems.

The research group considers it imperative that the existing edge of local industries is maintained and that the knowledge base in this rapidly changing area of expertise is expanded by exploring innovative and cost-effective techniques.

The team is strongly supported by industry organisations and aims to generate knowledge and product ideas that New Zealand companies can adapt and implement, allowing them to tap into profitable niche export markets using local materials, processes and expertise.

The University of Auckland research team has had strong links with international organisations such as the Institute for Composite Materials (Kaiserslautern, Germany), Centre for Composite Materials (Delaware, USA), Cornell University (USA), German Science Foundation, Queen’s University (UK), the Cooperative Research Centre in Advanced Composite Structures (Australia), Du Pont (USA), ICI (UK), Boralis (Norway), Pyramid Mouldings (USA), Association of Rotational Moulders (USA), Vetrotex (France) and Mitsui-Toatsu (Japan).

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