Carbon Composite Fibre for Net Zero

Darren Leslie with PAC's Preformer

Founded in 2018, PAC Group’s eight divisions provide electrical and mechanical engineering applications and solutions to all industry sectors across the UK and Ireland. Operating from a 15,000 sq. ft. premises in Belfast, they have a team of over 40 employees and growing.

Their engineers work with some of the world’s leading companies in areas such as robotics, instrumentation, process automation and control systems, and designing and building highly innovative machinery and equipment, integrating them into tailored processes and systems.

Innovation is embedded in the company’s culture, as Engineering Director, Elwyn Agnew, makes clear.

“We felt it was important that our values highlight the significance of innovation to the overall ethos of our company. That’s why ‘Innovation is key’ is one of our company values.”

This year, PAC Group was awarded Platinum Level Innovator status by Innovate NI, and also won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation, the UK’s highest accolade in recognising business success.

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PAC Group's Directors receiving the Queen's Award from the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast

Their innovations are largely focused in their Automation and Composites divisions, where they deliver bespoke carbon composite preforming machines and Resin Transfer Infusion (RTI) technology to customers such as Spirit AeroSystems, McLaren Automotive, and BAE Systems.

Ideation

In a fast-changing market, the PAC team wanted to analyse industry trends and identify areas where innovation would be most needed. They discussed ideas around innovative advancements for their carbon composite forming machines and applied to Invest NI for R&D support to further explore industry needs.

Selection

During this stage ideas are analysed and rated, and the best are chosen to progress. The Invest NI grant allowed PAC to conduct market research and a feasibility study, while discussions with clients further refined market needs. This research confirmed that there was growing demand in the aerospace, automotive, and marine sectors for light-weighting structures and the development of energy-efficient and smart solutions for carbon composite manufacture.

Development

PAC trialled new techniques, prototypes, and manufacturing processes. In collaboration with Bombardier (now Spirit AeroSystems), they designed a carbon composite preformer and resin transfer infusion (RTI) system, which creates complete Airbus A220 wings.

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PAC Composites Hot Drape Former Northern Ireland

The highly innovative process reduces the environmental impact of both the manufacturing process and the use of the carbon wings in flight, with a reduction in fuel use and the accompanying CO2 and NOx emissions, as the carbon composite wing is 10% lighter than its metal counterpart.

Commercialisation

This is when innovators need to construct a clear marketing strategy, defining the value of their proposition and implementing the processes they trialled, bringing together a multi-disciplinary team with design, manufacturing, finance, sales, and marketing expertise.

The carbon fibre wing manufacturing process is more cost effective and environmentally sound than traditional wing manufacture techniques. The A220 wing is the first certified commercial aircraft wing to be manufactured using Resin Transfer Infusion, for which Bombardier won the 2019 MacRobert Award for Engineering Innovation.

PAC had identified the value of their innovation and their target market, and hold 42 unique patents on their preformer hardware and software. Having anticipated industry demand, PAC are now recognised as a leader in preformer technology.

PAC have continued to apply innovation to their preformer technology, in collaboration with clients. Most recently they designed and manufactured what is believed to be the largest preformer in the world for Spirit AeroSystems in the Aerospace Innovation Centre in Prestwick, Scotland.

Having recently developed a three-year growth plan, the company became an Industrial Partner to the UK Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub, and continue to seek opportunities to collaborate and undertake research and development to improve their offering.

“We will continue to innovate in collaboration with our customers to solve their problems; it’s in our nature. We established ourselves as a force to be reckoned with in industry and we have big dreams and ambitions for the future. We have a very innovative team and we want to be recognised as a market leader for innovative engineering applications and solutions, not just in the UK and Ireland, but globally as well.”  Darren Leslie, Business Development Director at PAC Group.

Are you working on an innovative idea in your business? Get in touch and learn how Innovate NI can help you bring it to market.

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