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XTEK opens new composite fabrication plant in Adelaide

Max Blenkin

Defence and technology company XTEK has opened a new advanced manufacturing centre in South Australia in a move to expand into new markets and new industries, including space.

XTEK opens new composite fabrication plant in Adelaide
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The fabrication centre in Adelaide will be equipped with the company’s XTclave composite materials curing and consolidation technology and will be used to manufacture lightweight ballistic armour plates and helmets for the US market.

This technology can also be used to manufacture composite components for space applications. Last July, XTEK signed a statement of strategic intent and co-operation with the Australian Space Agency.

XTEK has also signed a memorandum of understanding with space company Skykraft to jointly develop a range of new small spacecraft and launcher systems.

The XTclave is a machine about the size of four shipping containers that runs cycles of ultra-high pressure at high temperatures to cure composite and thermoplastic resin.

The new machine will allow the company to ramp up production from the three plates per cycle it can now make, to more than 40 plates in less time. It will also prove the manufacturing process for XTEK’s expansion into the US.

“With this acquisition we now have the largest distribution network in the US and with this facility in Australia we have the manufacturing capability necessary to address the US military market,” said XTEK managing director Philippe Odouard.

XTEK showed off some of its products at the SHOT Show in the US earlier this year. That’s the premier US expo for firearms and related products.

Odouard said the reception was incredibly pleasing.

“We got confirmation from everyone that there was massive interest for this product at the price point we discussed,” he said.

“This is a huge opportunity to distribute our high-margin ballistic solutions in Australia and export globally, by leveraging our well-established US distribution network.

“We continue to work towards commercial-scale orders, progressing the long-standing relationships we have developed with potential major customers globally as they near the end of the testing and validation process.”

Odouard said XTEK was targeting production capacity producing up to $20 million revenue.

XTEK chair Uwe Boettcher said the expansion would not only enable the company to fulfil expected demand for its ballistic products but also allow it to expand into the space industry by being able to make larger more complex shaped parts than were currently available.

“We are starting the research cycle again with the space industry and we see great potential,” Boettcher said.

XTEK can leverage its XTclave technology for space applications because the ultra-high process pressure reduces plastic outgassing.

That’s the process whereby in the vacuum of space, trace amounts of chemicals are emitted by the composite material, potentially degrading mechanical performance and also contaminating delicate instruments.

That’s often considered a limiting factor for lightweight composite materials used in space.

Additionally, XTEK materials achieve a higher specific strength to weight ratio.

XTEK has based its research and development operations in Adelaide for the last 13 years, developing the lightweight armour plates and helmets and other defence related products.

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