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Belfast Engineering Firm PAC Group To Supply Innovative Preformer For Airborne

The Belfast-based engineering and manufacturing firm PAC Group have been selected by Airborne to supply their innovative hot drape performer technology to an ambitious new aerospace project.


The cell being procured by UK aerospace company GKN Aerospace is a collaboration between leading engineering and manufacturing companies, with the aim of providing a fully automated preforming line to the Global Technology Centre in Bristol.


Airborne are supplying the cell, integrating systems provided by PAC Group and the other companies involved in the project Accudyne and Assyst Bullmer.


The system will comprise of sub-systems developed by each manufacturer, and will set out to fulfil the aims of the UK industry consortium project ASCEND.


ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development), with lead partner GKN Aerospace, aims to usher in the next generation of energy-efficient aircraft through the acceleration of composite materials and process technologies.


Valued at £40 million, ASCEND has been made possible through a £20 million investment from the industry, and a commitment of £19.6 million by the UK government funded by the ATI Programme (a partnership between Department for Business and Trade, Aerospace Technology Institute, and Innovate UK).


"We are delighted to be working with Joe Summers and the team at Airborne.” said Darren Leslie, Business Development Director at PAC Group.


“It’s an honour to be able to contribute to this ambitious project, and we’re excited to be able to provide our innovative technology. Mr Leslie added.

“We’re excited to be able to provide our technology, and look forward to supporting Airborne and other industry leaders in achieving their goal of a higher rate of manufacturing composite structures.”

The project will accelerate the production rate of aerospace technology and enable the greater adoption of composite technology. In doing so, the ASCEND project will help to secure the UK’s position as a technology leader in future lightweight structures for sustainable aircraft and mobility.

“We’re proud of the sustainable nature of this project,” said Mr Leslie.


“It will contribute to the reduction of the industry’s carbon footprint and energy consumptions, whilst ushering in a new age of energy-efficient aircraft and future mobility.”


Joe Summers, Managing Director at Airborne, commented on PAC’s involvement in the project.

"PAC Group's technology and hardware is exactly what we need to complement our Automated Ply Placement system to produce the 2D stacks,” said Mr Summers.

“We are looking forward to working with the team at PAC Composites in order to offer a flexible automation solution and workflow automation, enabling a higher rate of the manufacturing of composite structures."

PAC Group’s hot drape preformer forms an essential part of the Automated Preforming Cell. The Automated Preforming Cell transforms broad goods, including non-crimp fabrics or woven materials, in 3D preforms usable with Resin Transfer Molding (RTM). PAC Group’s preformer forms an essential part of the system, and will 3D form the preforms.

PAC Group’s preformer - also known as a Hot Drape Former - has been recognised and commended for its innovative nature. In 2021, PAC Group was awarded the Queen’s Award for Innovation.

“As the leading specialist in the design and manufacture of Hot Drape Forming machines, we’re thrilled that we can bring our innovative technology to this industry-wide collaborative project,” said Gavin Rankin, Technical Director at PAC Group.

“Each of our preformers are manufactured to the highest standards. Every component of the system is produced to an exceptional quality, with reliability and durability at the heart of their design.”

“We hold 42 patents on the hardware and software used in our preformers, solidifying our position at the forefront of the development of this innovative technology,” added Mr Rankin.

“We’ve serviced some of the biggest names in the automotive and aerospace industry and it’s great to now be involved in the impressive, industry-wide UK ASCEND project, and to have a part in accelerating UK composite material and process technology.”


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