“SigmaNEST paid for itself in three months and is hugely important to our company.”
Prodrive is known throughout Europe for its association with motorsport, running race and rallying programs for Subaru, Ford, and Aston Martin. Its Composites Division specializes in the manufacture of high quality carbon fiber components for its own race programs and businesses.
Automotive, Marine and Aerospace Industries
CAD models are machined into an epoxy blank pattern, then a carbon fiber mold tool is produced, which can yield 100 to 300 finished parts. Ian Handscombe, Composites Manager, explains: “We cut the resin impregnated carbon fiber and lay this up on the pattern to produce a mold about 6mm thick. Making the mold from carbon fiber ensures that it expands and contracts at the same rate as the part, guaranteeing accuracy. Components are also made from impregnated carbon fiber and are laid up in the mold to thicknesses ranging between 1 and 12mm, with the thicker components including a honeycomb core.”
SELECTING A NESTING TOOL
The company tested several nesting systems before selecting SigmaNEST, which reduced material used in a sample nest from six sheets to four, significantly better than the other products it evaluated.
“Carbon fiber costs between £15 and £40 per square meter so avoiding waste is a high priority,” Handscombe added. “Initial waste rates were around 40%, but the introduction of SigmaNEST has halved these figures, enabling us to save around £70,000 per year.”
SigmaNEST has also helped Prodrive deliver improved service. Two-day lead times are normal in the industry, so responsiveness is crucial. “Previously, laminators were waiting for molds and carbon fiber kits, which stopped them from working,” explained Handscombe. “With SigmaNEST, carbon fiber kits are planned and cut one and a half days in advance, now molds are ready in plenty of time allowing laminators to begin work immediately, greatly improving our overall productivity.”
NEW BUSINESS & EXPANSION
The new smooth running process has created extra capacity allowing Prodrive to attract additional business. Handscombe says, “SigmaNEST paid for itself in three months and is hugely important to our company. It has been the main driver for our improvement program and complete review of methods. We could not have achieved the increase in turnover without it.
We still have many changes to make, investing in new machinery and software, and SigmaTEK will be playing a key role here too. We are working towards operating 24 hours per day and we are anticipating expanding into other markets including aerospace, defense, telecommunications and marine where the flexibility, low weight and strength of carbon fiber is important.”