Composites Today

Magazine For Composites Professionals

Gowing Bros Ltd identifies a market opportunity for travel surfboards

Calling all surfing fanatics! How good would it be to travel more easily with your board? Imagine a travel surfboard solution that requires minimal storage space, but that surpasses current surfboard standards and delivers equally, if not better, on performance. 

Investment Company, Gowing Bros Ltd (Australia), has identified a market opportunity for such a travel surfboard, planning to turn the vision into a reality in partnership with its brands; Gowings Pacific Trader, FCS and Softech. 

This ACM CRC project will identify and develop advanced manufacturing techniques for increased board laminating quality, and will adapt automated processes for core shaping, composite material deposition (glassing), and finishing, retaining the board’s high quality while reducing manufacturing costs. 

Gowings will lead the project, managing the design scope and drawing on essential market information. In addition, they will oversee compliance and standards testing, ensuring that the surfboard meets regulations and market expectations, even engaging surf athletes for field trials. 

Lead research partner, The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), will also offer input into the technology-informed design, exploring the board’s performance characteristics (flex, damping, rebound, “feel”) so that they may be optimised. The extensive research capabilities of the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Surf Flex Lab will also be leveraged, to encompass the entire surfing experience. 

On Tuesday 23 April 2024, Mr Gowing was joined at his Harbour Drive office by Paul Amos, Mayor of Coffs Harbour, Shadow Minister for Tourism, Gurmesh Singh MP, ACM CRC’s Dr Steve Gower (CEO), Professor David Currow (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Research and Sustainable Future, UOW) and Professor Ganga Prusty (Director of Research, ACM CRC), to undergo a contract signing ceremony that made the project official. 

“This is a very exciting project for the CRC – one that has great global potential for us, our partners, and for Australia as a nation, with the boards being designed and manufactured right here on our shores,” said Dr Gower, a keen surfer himself! “Australia needs to reposition its manufacturing and sovereign engineering capability to capture emergent markets. This project presents a great place to start.”


Development of world’s largest airship

Exel Composites is collaborating with French airship manufacturer and operator FLYING WHALES to develop thin wall carbon fiber tubes for a state-of-the-art airship. The airship will deliver up to sixty tons of cargo to remote and difficult-to-reach locations globally. This will also cut emissions compared to land- and air transportation.  Exel will provide R&D support during the airship’s rigid structure prototyping phase, developing and manufacturing the estimated 80km of carbon fiber tubing needed to make this concept a reality.  

FLYING WHALES is the designer of the LCA60T, a 200 m-long vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airship that uses helium lifting technology to lift its weight and cargo capacity. The airship will function like an airborne crane, carrying the cargo and transporting it to the customer, reducing the reliance on air and land transport, and unlocking bottlenecks at shipping ports. 

The airship could be used to transport trees when transporting lumber, wind turbine blades to utility stations, and, most surprisingly, an entire portable hospital, aiming to bring universal healthcare to some of the world’s most remote areas. 

“With this airship being one of the largest ever developed, the frame needs to be able to distribute the structure’s entire load,” explained Guillaume Klein, business development manager at Exel Composites. “We are working closely with FLYING WHALES to develop a unique tube that meets the technical requirements and specifications needed to make this project viable. Most aerospace standards don’t cover airships yet, instead focusing on planes and helicopters.” 

“We needed both a supplier of pull-wound carbon fiber tubes and an R&D partner with an understanding of aerospace standards and applications to help bring our vision to life. Exel provided us with both,” explained Vincent Guibout, CEO of FLYING WHALES. 

Exel was selected due to the huge volume supply of tubes needed for the airship, and the producer’s unique capabilities. 

“Each airship requires 80 km of pull-wound carbon fiber tubes,” continued Klein. “Pull-winding is ideal for these applications as it allows extra reinforcements to be added to the tubes compared to other techniques. Furthermore, being a continuous manufacturing process, it allows us to produce the large volumes of tubes needed for this project while maintaining quality, stability and uniformity.”