At the University of Ulster, the Engineering Composites Research Centre (ECRE) has been at the forefront of engineering excellence in the process of textile weaving and composites. The centre is widely recognised as a leader, both nationally and internationally, in the field of design and manufacture of advanced textile preforms and composites. For some time ECRE has attracted significant funding from IRTU Centre of Excellence; in more recent times funding has been granted for programmes involving the simulation and modelling of 3D woven fabrics for structural composites (Technology Strategy Board) and further industrially led programmes designing and manufacturing preforms. These developments led to associated work in the modelling and integration of sensing technologies (two Rolls-Royce CAST Awards) and the further development of hybrid structures (metallic and thermoplastic yarns) (in collaboration with Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Sheffield University/Boeing).
ECRE has developed and delivered academic and training programmes to both university and industry. The most significant of these is the development of the Bombardier Transformation Programme now running in its 5th year with over 1000 engineers trained at various academic levels in the UK and Canada.
ECRE has focussed on new nano-materials development (Bombardier) and the transfer of our design and manufacturing experience into bio-composites (AHRC). Recent research has focussed on the reuse of carbon fibre and thermoplastic materials and in the development and understanding of new advanced preforming processes which include Spatially Reinforced Composites (5-axis technology- SpaRC) in collaboration with Bombardier.
ECRE's expertise in the area of alternative fibres has been achieved by transferring our extensive experience and knowledge of fibre preparation and the subsequent manufacture of tailored preforms by 3D weaving to a wide range of materials. We work with carbon, glass, basalt and polymeric fibres (including aramid, UHMWPE) and the use of natural fibres including wool, flax and viscose rayon in the production of 3D woven textile reinforcements aimed at the automotive and construction sectors. In order to address the challenges faced by industry, ECRE has been working in a cross-disciplinary manner engaging with experts in the textile, engineering and scientific fields. ECRE is involved in new projects which include an advanced engineering centre (NIACE) in collaboration with QUB and Bombardier with funding of £6M; this purpose built centre was officially opened on 31st January 2012. ECRE has also a University spin-off company, Axis Composites.