Penso Consulting turned heads in Paris this week after revealing a unique composite door development that could potentially reduce weight on train carriages. The innovative proprietary moulding approach is a technique that could provide a number of advantages to users while impacting upon other industries as well. Penson, which was established in 2000 from a standing start to become one of the UK’s fastest growing companies in the manufacturing sector, uses a press-moulding technique that utilises a relatively traditional composite – phenolic pre-preg – wrapped over a solid core. The innovation comes from the process not the material (which is already widely used in aviation).
The difference, says head of programmes Paul Fannon is how Penso cures the composite material. It does so with the core in-situ with the part completed in one go. Fannon describes the process as using a “close-moulded” aluminium “two-shelled tool”. The process takes only a few minutes compared with half a dozen hours when using an autoclave.
Penso, which employs more than 200 people, has achieved a closed structure, eradicating moisture risk. This is advantageous when compared to traditional aluminium doors which historically suffer from delamination. However, the composite’s most beneficial aspect is its reduction in weight.
It is 13kg lighter than “conventional items” says Micheal Collins, Penso’s director of sales and marketing. Across a number of carriages that weight reduction is substantial. Up to 1,000kg could be saved when the doors are spread across a handful of carriages meaning gains in fuel efficiency, maintenance costs with less wear and tear on the rails and wheels, better scheduling and a reduction in an operator’s carbon emissions.
Collins believes the technology could have wider implications for a number of applications such as body panels, window surrounds and seats. Indeed, Penso has taken enquiries from vehicle manufacturers developing low carbon alternatives.