David Cameron experiences the SigmaLite difference

Prime Minister unveils COMPipe – revolutionary weight saving technology

14 Jul 2014 Published by

Prime Minister David Cameron attended the official launch of COMPipe this morning at Farnborough Air Show 2014. The new technology, developed by Sigma Components as part of the €1.8m Clean Sky programme will deliver dramatic weight savings for aero-engines, reducing costs and CO2.

Sigma Components’ managing director Mark Johnson invited the Prime Minister to compare the weight of the traditional aero-engine pipe, with the new lightweight COMPipe while explaining the potential global impact of the savings that could be made.

A great example of a small UK manufacturer that has benefited from the Government’s growth programmes on offer to innovative, ambitious firms, Sigma Components has been able to make huge strides in developing new technologies with the support of the CleanSky programme.

It was also one of the first UK manufacturers to sign up for the Sharing in Growth programme, which is now valued at more than £2.1m over five years. The company’s Hinckley headquarters and Farnborough site are already benefiting from an intense programme of business improvement initiatives to accelerate growth and maintain global competitiveness, with funding matched by Sigma’s own investment in skills and facilities.

Mark Johnson commented: “This visit from the Prime Minister David Cameron is a tribute to the hard work and vision of our team, and proof that our profile is building as we invest, innovate and develop our portfolio of skills and products. As we expand our facilities in the UK and China, we’re also introducing new technologies that will secure Sigma’s long term future. We’re delighted to be able to unveil our revolutionary COMPipe at the Farnborough Airshow today, as it promises to have such a major part to play in the future of aero-engine manufacturing across the world.”

Although the project is not due to be completed until Autumn 2014, the potential weight savings from the new composite pipes and end fittings are already surpassing expectations. If all the engines due to be delivered over the next 20 years were made using COMPipe and its fittings, conservative estimates predict a saving of 4.5million tonnes of CO2 could be made over the life of the engines. This potential could be realised, as COMPipe can be formed into a 3D shape, replicating existing pipe geometry.

Using approximately 150 composite pipes and fittings per engine, the total weight saving per engine is at least 10kg. Lowering the engine weight has a knock-on effect of reducing weight elsewhere in the aircraft, known as the snowball effect; creating an overall empty weight saving of up to 80kg for a twin-jet aircraft.

Mark Johnson explained: “This revolutionary project is proving that a modest weight saving in a single fitting can create a massive snowball effect that will greatly reduce the overall cost, size and environmental impact of manufacturing and running aircraft. Our figures demonstrate that huge savings can be made straight away if COMPipe and the technologies involved in its production are implemented.

“With representatives of the global aerospace industry attending the Farnborough International Airshow over the next few days, we have an exciting opportunity to share these figures and give engineers the opportunity to see a tangible product. We’ve already received a great deal of interest in COMPipe and the technologies involved and I believe there is still more potential for spin off projects in due course.”

Mike Andreae, director of technology and improvement at Sigma Components commented: “These are the headline savings that the industry has been waiting for. We’ve been working with TWI in Cambridge to make it as easy and affordable as possible for OEMs to reduce the weight of aero-engines in order to improve aircraft’s environmental performance.

“Engineering a pipe and fittings that can exactly replicate existing components has been incredibly challenging, when you consider that the pipe assemblies must be capable of withstanding the arduous operating environment of an aero engine, including elevated temperatures and pressures. We’re delighted to be the first to deliver a solution to the global industry at this prestigious airshow.”