NanoTool - Nano-enhanced lightweight composite tooling


"Moulds for forming composite components can be made from ceramics, metals, composites or other materials such as fibreglass, high-density foams, machinable epoxy boards or even clay or wood/plaster. Tooling costs and complexity increase as the part performance requirements and the number of parts to be produced increase.

Composite tools are more easily constructed than metal tools and, because they are made from materials like those the composite manufacturer will use for the part, they can be made in-house and their properties are closely matched to that of the components that they are used to manufacture. But they are more vulnerable to wear and typically find service in low-volume production. However, several tools can be made with composite materials for less than the cost of a single hard tool, making larger volumes more cost effective. The thermal conductivity of the composite tools is lower than that of metal tools which means that heat does not transfer as readily through the tools and they take longer to heat up. This adds production time and cost. Composite tools are used widely in the automotive, aerospace and marine sectors.

Haydale Composite Solutions have developed prototype composite materials where the thermal conductivity of the laminated materials has been increased by modifying the resins using nano-fillers such as graphene. A masterbatch of the carrier resin with a concentrated level of nano-filler is prepared by Haydale in South Wales. The nano-fillers (graphene, CNTs or other fillers) are funtionalised for improved dispersion in the resin and improved adhesion to the resins using a low temperature plasma process. The masterbatch containing the concentrated functionalised fillers is then safe to handle in normal composite manufacturing processes.

Graphene is a multi-functional material with the potential to revolutionise the mechanical and physical properties of thermoset resins across transport, aerospace, construction, renewable energy, consumer goods and sports goods. This project aims to achieve significant improvements in manufacturing times through improvements in the mechanical and thermal properites of the composite materials for the auomotive sector leading to a reduction in energy consumption, greenhouse and toxic gas creation (CO2 and NOx) thereby supporting climate change targets and reductions in raw material use.

This project is a collaboration between Haydale Composite Solutions (HCS) based in Loughborough, Forward Composites (Forward) based in Huntingdon, University of Sheffield (UofS/AMRC) and University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) based in Preston."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Haydale Composite Solutions Limited, Loughborough £151,731 £ 106,212


University of Sheffield, United Kingdom £50,624 £ 50,624
Pentaxia Ltd, Derby £135,248 £ 81,149
University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom £49,758 £ 49,758


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