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ACRC: Facilities and Equipment

The Automotive Composites Research Centre (ACRC) houses state-of-the-art composite manufacturing equipment to enable research into process development and demonstration of all stages of the automated manufacturing process. As we cater for a variety of processes and products, our facilities need to be flexible to adapt to different project needs. A range of standard analytical test equipment is available for materials characterisation with specialist equipment on hand in neighbouring science departments for any extraordinary requirements.

Our 3 key processing facilities include:


A range of standard analytical test equipment is available for materials characterisation with specialist equipment on hand in neighbouring science departments for any extraordinary requirements.


SMC Compounding Line

Our Schmidt & Heinzmann SMC production line gives us a unique, independent and small batch capability dedicated to innovative R&D. Fully equipped with in-process areal weight measurement and heated line, we can compound carbon and glass fibres with a range of resins in a variety of formats. We work with industry to develop bespoke and high-performing materials in specific formats to establish manufacturability and push the limits of the current process by exploring new materials, optimising process and quality.

Using our extensive industrial equipment we have the capability to mould components using materials developed in-house and characterise performance for a complete end-to-end solution. This gives us the unique ability to integrate and demonstrate cost competitiveness of the manufacturing value chain, from raw material to end product.

We build upon the sustainable benefits achieved through light-weighting using composites, by improving sustainability in the production phase. We aim to demonstrate the properties of recycled materials in new SMC compounds, increase the efficient use of materials, and improve energy efficiency via our real-time power monitoring systems.

Technical Specification

  • SMC and prepreg manufacturing
  • Range of fibres: Carbon / Glass / Natural
  • Range of resins: Liquid epoxy / vinyl-ester / bio-resins / resin film
  • Resin mixing: 2 mixers with speed control / dedicated fume cabinet / vacuum degassing
  • Working width: 600mm
  • Production speed: 0.5-6m/min
  • Sheet weight: 1-7kg/m²
  • Resin viscosity: 10000-40000mPa.s
  • Number of rovings: 23 max with inside / outside unwind
  • Heated Impregnation zone with 17 upper / 16 lower rollers
  • Heated upper & lower doctor boxes, line and compaction zone
  • In-process areal weight measurement
  • Film heat sealing
  • Cooling calendar
  • Roll winder
  • Space available for a second chopping or fibre distribution station

Lower resin film

Fibre chopping

Upper resin film

Automated Composites Manufacturing line

The Automated Composites Manufacturing line with robotic ply pick & place assembly cell, material handling systems, IR heater and 150t press provides the capability to produce composite components from cut plies through to moulded part in a single forming-moulding stage using either diaphragm membranes or gripper systems.

Pick & Place

Pick and Place Assembly Cell

Automated Composites Manufacturing Line

Engel v-Duo 1700 tonne multi-functional press

WMG focuses its research on developing composite manufacturing processes for high-volume automotive applications to support low carbon automotive initiatives. The 1700 tonne Engel v-Duo press enables development, demonstration and testing of full-size automotive components using a range of composite materials and manufacturing processes.

The machine features a useable platen size of 2.2m by 1.8m and offers flexibility to manufacture parts using different materials and processes such as prepreg compression moulding, SMC compression moulding, thermoplastic composite stamp forming and high-pressure resin transfer moulding, including gap / compression HP-RTM. During compression moulding processes complex geometry parts can be manufactured under controlled conditions. In SMC processes, for example, the press adjusts the displacement at each tie bar to ensure a controlled and even part thickness. As the resin cures the press continues to adjust its position to maintain an even part thickness.

Technical Specification

  • 2.2m x 1.8m useable platen area
  • 100 - 1700 tonne variable compression force
  • Active parallelism control during compression
  • 5-stage speed control during compression
  • 5-stage pressure control during compression
  • Up to 800mm/s closing; 580mm/s opening; 20mm/s compression
  • Sliding lower platen
  • All press functions instrumented

Resin Injection - Hennecke Streamline 65 Resin Metering Machine

Hennecke's Streamline machine system is a fully automated processing system for all common matrix systems used in HP-RTM liquid moulding processes such as polyurethane and epoxy resin thermoset systems, or polyamide 6 thermoplastic systems (cast nylon). It also has the capability to add a third stream containing internal release agent. The system is integrated with WMG's Engel v-Duo press to provide added flexibility and to be adapted to the individual production needs. The equipment has the capability to record and report all machine parameters during the re-circulation and injection cycles.

Technical Specification

  • 3+1 : (resin / polyol) / hardener / isocyanate + release
  • 60 litre day tank capacity x 3
  • Flow rate is a function of mix ratio and nozzle diameter which can be varied from 0.036 - 0.069 l/s with the current pressure balanced nozzles. Flow rates up to 1.0 l/s could be achieved.
Engel Press

Plaque Mould

The plaque mould is mounted within WMG’s Engel v-Duo press to provide a means to study composite manufacturing processes using a simple part geometry. The plaque mould is used to study flow of short fibre materials in compression moulding processes and resin flow in HP-RTM processes using a number of in-cavity mounted pressure transducers. Flow progression can also be tracked using in-cavity thermocouples but their primary use is for tracking resin exotherm during cure. In-cavity dielectric cure sensors and an in-mould mounted heat flux sensor provide additional information regarding the cure process. Prepreg Compression Moulding (PCM) can also be carried out in the mould cavity, which is infinitely variable to produce components between 1mm and 4mm thick.

Technical Specification

  • 550 x 550 mm, 1-4mm cavity with shear edge
  • Cavity seal, vacuum seal, ejectors
  • Cavity evacuated during closure
  • In-cavity sensors: Pressure; Temperature; Dielectric Cure; Heat flux
  • Processing flexibility:
    • Prepreg Compression Moulding (PCM)
    • Sheet Moulding Compound (SMC) compression moulding
    • High-Pressure Resin Transfer Moulding (HP-RTM), centre and edge gated
    • Gap or Compression RTM (HP-CRTM)

Plaque Mould


SMC Cutting Machine

The Sala Autocut SMC automatically cuts a variety of plastics (including sheet moulding compounds, polyethylene, films) unwound from a roll, to pre-set lengths.

Sala SMC Cutting Machine

CNC Fabric Cutting Table

The Zund CNC cutting table enables automated and continuous cutting functions on a range of rolled materials;

  • 1.2m + 1.2m conveyorised bed x 1.8m wide
  • 1.4m/s maximum cutting speed
  • Stationary, roller, oscillating and ultrasonic cutting knives
  • Suitable for cutting glass, carbon and aramid fibres; dry or impregnated; thermoset or thermoplastic
Zund CNC Cutting Machine

Compcut 200 Composite Plate Saw

The Compcut 200 advanced composite plate saw achieves precise cutting in a diverse range of materials to prepare highly accurate composite test specimens. Composite test specimens for standard mechanical characterisation techniques go straight from the Compcut 200 to test without the need for secondary operations.

Compcut 200 composite plate saw

Universal Test Machines

The MEC characterisation lab houses 7 Universal Test Machines including dynamic and static frames, equipped with 4 environmental chambers capable of temperatures between -40°C and +550°C. There is a comprehensive set of standard test fixtures available to conduct testing including and not limited to; tensile, flexure, compression and shear. Complementing this are fixtures designed and manufactured in-house for non-standard and component level testing. Available load cells range from 5 to 250kN for different materials such as cured and uncured composites, fabrics, fibres and metals. The full range of axial and transverse strains can be recorded using either mechanical or video extensometry, or GOM. Each machine is regularly calibrated and traceable according to UKAS standards.


Optical Microscopy

ZEISS Axiocam 305 colour is equipped with a 5 Megapixel camera for high resolution imaging at fast speeds. Fast readout with 36 full frame images per second. Both colour and black and white imaging modes. ZEN imaging software offers an intuitive user interface and robust performance.


Macro TGA

The Eltra Thermostep Macro thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) permits measurement of fibre volume and weight fraction. The programmable furnace is connected to an integrated balance, heating and weighing are combined in one instrument. This saves time-consuming manual work and allows for high sample throughput.

Macro TGA


Anton-Paar’s Modular Compact Rheometer 302 (MCR) is primarily used to perform a variety of rheological tests, including rotational, oscillatory, and a combination of both. MCR 302 is equipped with the Toolmaster™ technology automatically recognises measuring systems; T-Ready™ detects sample temperature equilibration in real-time; and TruGap™ feature detects the real measuring gap. The RheoCompass software is used for the control of the system.



Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) measures enthalpy changes in samples due to changes in their physical and chemical properties as a function of temperature or time. The Mettler Toledo high pressure differential scanning calorimeter has the capability to study thermal effects under pressure. Equipped with STARe Evaluation 16.4 software, a wide range of measurement data can be analysed.



Dynamic Mechanical Thermal Analysis (DMTA) measures the viscoelastic properties of materials during a controlled temperature and/or frequency program. The DMA 242 E Artemis is equipped with Proteus® measurement and evaluation software, making it fast and easy to characterise the dynamic-mechanical properties as a function of frequency, temperature and time.


Permeability Measurement

The EasyPerm bench is an industrial system for measuring 3D permeability of dry reinforcements, such as glass, carbon, aramid, flax and hemp. The system allows evaluation of in-plane (X, Y) and through-thickness (Z) permeability, whilst minimising the amount of material required for analysis. Permeability measurements are essential for efficient process simulation and reduced development duration, and can be used to compare reinforcements and check product quality.

EasyPerm Permeability Rig

Composite Material Freezer Storage

A controlled composites storage freezer is specifically engineered to meet storage requirements for composite materials such as prepreg. The 67m3 walk-in container freezer can store materials to -18oC for extended shelf life.

CAE Software Packages

  • Process simulation: PAM-RTM ∙ PAM-FORM ∙ Moldex 3D ∙ 3D Timon
  • Performance simulation: ABAQUS ∙ LS-Dyna ∙ Hyperworks
  • CAD: SolidWorks