Unique Modelling Capability for Composite Manufacturing

The National Composite Centre (NCC) held an event focused on ‘Demystifying Digital Engineering’ on 23 March. This was an opportunity for guests to view and interact with a range of digital technology and skills demonstrators that accelerate engineering transformation, identifying efficiencies in product, process and technology development. This will inspire the next generation of engineers to engage with tools developed in the DETI (Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation) R&D initiative.

The Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) demonstrated a simulation tool that provides uniquely fast, and accurate simulations for the manufacturing of composite components. The automated simulation tools developed are available for industry use from BCI and the NCC, which results in significant cost savings per part by reducing the need for physical trials, which could in turn eliminate one or more design cycles. The University of Bristol also contributed to DETI with 5G work on Enabling Quantum-secure 5G enabled Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) for manufacturing, through the Smart Internet Lab, and the challenge of Enabling the Digital Thread in small engineering projects in work between CFMS and the University’s Engineering Systems and Design Institute.

People looking at the BCI stand at the event  People sat watching a presentation in a conference room

BCI Doctoral Research Symposium 2023

On 4 April 2023 the Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) welcomed over 100 delegates from academia and industry to the Bill Brown Design Suite, Queen’s Building, for its annual Doctoral Research Symposium.

Attendees of BCI Symposium listening to a presentation

Doctoral students from the BCI, including 38 students from the EPSRC CDT in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing (CoSEM CDT), showcased their innovative composites research through an impressive display of posters and presentations. 

Delegates were treated to a rapid-fire journey through the cutting-edge of composites research, with 25 presentations on topics spanning all three themes of the institute. Slides can be found on the Symposium webpage; recordings will be added to the BCI YouTube Channel 

Posters from the day were collated into an electronic Poster Booklet.

Attendee stood next to their poster board

Congratulations to all the winners of the poster competition:

  • Delegate vote: Charles de Kergariou. (Runners up: Stefania Akromah and Tom Brereton) 
  • Student vote: Stefania Akromah. (Runners up: Charlie Brewster and Charles De Kergariou) 


Documenting the morning’s events was local artist, Helen Frost. Her Graphic visualisation of the Symposium gives a flavour of what it was like to be there on the day.  

An artist drawing illustrations across a large canvas

Following the Symposium, students attended an industry-led discussion panel, comprising experts from Airbus UpNext, GKN Aerospace, Leonardo Helicopters, Sigmatex UK and Vertical Aerospace. Student Nuhaadh Mahid remarked that this “provided the rare opportunity to clarify industry-related questions about their current projects and reasoning behind various design choices.” 


To cap off the day staff and students gathered in the Wills Memorial Building for the Symposium dinner to mark the culmination of another year of hard work.

BCI Co-Director, Prof. Ole Thomsen, said: “The display of high-quality research of our BCI doctoral students was truly impressive. This was duly noted and recognised by the external attendees including project partners. It was indeed a good day for BCI!” 

Attendee stood next to their poster board

Two attendees looking at poster board

The Composites Perspectives Series

Last year the Bristol Composites Institute launched “Composites Perspectives”, a series of talks each focusing on different topics and including two composite-expert speakers. Since June 2022, the BCI has hosted three Composite Perspectives events, with the next one arranged for 11 July 2023 (details on how to register will be released soon).

The first Composites Perspectives event took place on 14 June 2022 and saw Professor Richard Oldfield (Chief Executive, UK National Composites Centre and Honorary Industrial Professor, University of Bristol) and Professor Pascal Hubert (Werner Graupe Chair on Sustainable Composites Manufacturing and Director at the Research Center for High Performance Polymer and Composite Systems, McGill University, Canada) discuss “Composites Role in Delivering Net Zero” and “Solutions for Zero Waste Composite Prepreg Processing”, respectively.

These talks became part of a wider ‘Sustainable Composites’ programme, and in September 2022 guest speaker Dr. Tia Benson-Tolle (Director, Advanced Materials and Sustainability, Boeing Commercial Aircraft) covered the importance of “Circularity and Recycling” within sustainable composites, and Professor Ian Hamerton (NCC Professor of Polymers and Sustainable Composites, University of Bristol) discussed the “High Performance Discontinuous Fibre technology (HiPerDiF)”.

The most recent event, which took place on 14 March 2023,  focused on Transformation in Engineering, with talks from Professor Mike Hinton, Consultant in Research and Technology Partnerships, High Value Manufacturing Catapult (“Engineering Transformation”) and Professor Ole Thomsen, Co-Director of Bristol Composites Institute and NCC Chair in Composites Design and Manufacture (“Towards virtual validation of composites structures – rethinking the testing pyramid approach”).

You can read about the previous events here and recordings of each session are available to view on the BCI Youtube Channel.

We look forward to inviting you to our future Composites Perspectives events.

BCI / NCC Joint Annual Conference, 10 November 2022

Last November, the Bristol Composites Institute and National Composites Centre presented the 2022 BCI NCC Joint Annual Conference, which addressed some of the key engineering challenges of our time, particularly focusing on how composites will ensure a net zero future for the UK.

The conference showcased the cross-TRL work we conduct together and how we can work in partnership with industry to advance and optimise their technology developments and fast-track innovation.

The morning session included updates from the NCC and BCI on their work in Sustainability, Hydrogen and Digital and the afternoon session focused on transitional research and how the gap between the technology readiness levels can be bridged. There was also a keynote presentation from Kate Barnard (WhatBox – Consultants facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships (whatboxltd.com)) which was followed by a panel session chaired by Michele Barbour and featured Matt Scott, Valeska Ting, Evangelos Zympeloudis, Kate Robson-Brown and Musty Rampuri and sparked plenty of thoughtful discussions between guests and speakers.

The conference, which was held at the NCC in Emersons Green, Bristol, welcomed over 60 people in-person, and had an additional 40 online attendees. Details of the 2023 joint conference will be released later in the year.

Guests listening to a presentation at the conference Guests listening to a presentation at the conference

Engineering with Origami

Armed with a large collection of origami models (which handily packed down for the journey to London), Aerospace Engineering academic Mark Schenk recently gave an outreach talk on Engineering with Origami at the Royal Institution (https://www.rigb.org/whats-on/engineering-origami). The talk attracted a diverse family audience to the lecture theatre famous for its Christmas Lectures.

A demonstration of origami being given to children

Origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, has received widespread attention from mathematicians, scientists and engineers to understand its properties and explore its applications. In his talk, Mark introduced the audience to some surprising examples of folding (have you ever looked closely at Mona Lisa’s sleeves?) and a few underlying mathematical principles of origami, ultimately leading to a surprising diversity of engineering applications.

A view of the lecture hall used to give the talk on origami engineering

These applications range from designer materials with tailored properties, to self-folding origami and deployable structures in space. To get a hands-on feel for engineering origami, the audience were asked to fold their own Miura-ori sheet (a common fold pattern used in engineering origami) from a laser cut pattern, and after the talk they explored the various engineering origami models brought to the lecture.


The event was hosted by the Dutch Embassy in the United Kingdom, and supported by the Dutch Academic Network in the UK (DANinUK).

BCI Celebrates UTC 15 Year Anniversary

This year the Composites University Technology Centre (UTC), supported by Rolls-Royce, celebrated its 15 year anniversary. An event with talks and posters held on the 6th September was opened by the University of Bristol’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Prof. Phil Taylor, and followed by a dinner at The Orangery in Goldney Hall. The Composites UTC was set up in 2007 to support research into the use of composite materials for aero-engine applications and was led by Prof. Michael Wisnom for its first 10 years. In 2017, Prof. Stephen Hallett took on the Director role, leading the UTC into new technology areas such as Ceramic Matrix Composites and Hydrogen storage. Among the key achievements from the UTC have been the delivery of design and manufacturing technology for Rolls-Royce’s next generation of turbofan aeroengine, the UltraFan that will deliver a 25% reduction in fuel consumption compared to early 2000s technology. This was written up as an Impact Case Study for the REF 2021 evaluation of university research, helping the University of Bristol achieve its top 5 UK ranking.

Audience at of UTC conferencePeople in Bill Brown FoyerPeople standing outside restaurant

NextCOMP and IDC Teams Attend FUTURES 2022

This September our NextCOMP and Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) teams attended the FUTURES event, held on the SS Great Britain. Read on for an insight into what both teams got up to…

NextCOMP – Composite “Crushing it” at “Up late on the SS Great Britain”, FUTURES European Researchers Night.

The NextCOMP team and BCI collaborators enjoyed an extremely fun and busy evening on Friday 30 September at “Up late on the SS Great Britain”, one of the events held as part of FUTURES organised by the University of Bristol Public Engagement team.  Despite the weather, this was a very well-supported event at the Bristol harbourside and our stand “Crushing it: Be a Composites Engineer” was very popular with visitors of all ages, including Brunel and Prof Evelyn Welch, Vice Chancellor. Visitors were eager to watch our Dobot demonstrations as well as to have the chance to manufacture, test and inspect their own jelly and pasta composites using the brand new “NextCOMP Crusher”. We loved chatting to all the visitors about our research and hearing their thoughts about what we are doing!

Collage of photos from FUTURES event
Photos top left – bottom right:
Brunel tests his jelly composite ably assisted by Bohao and Eleni.
One of our younger visitors enjoys using the NextCOMP Crusher.
The NextCOMP Crusher in action.
Close up inspection of the composite.
Some of the team before the doors opened to the public.


Industrial Doctorate Centre at School Research Fair, FUTURES 2022.

On Friday Patrick, Huw, Humza, Will, Ben and Raul, EngD Students from the IDC, spent the day with Helen and Janice at the Schools Research Fair, part of FUTURES 2022.  Their challenge was to engage pupils aged 7 – 12 from local schools about the magical properties of composites materials. With the aid of Play-Doh and spaghetti, pupils learnt that by combining materials you can increase the strength to weight ratio, so enabling us to fly more sustainably.  Pupils also considered the challenges of recycling composites.  Have you ever tried to remove spaghetti from Play-Doh?  The pupils investigations with Play-Doh demonstrated that aligning your fibres neatly created the best results.  When asked what the pupils would like to make stronger and lighter, school bags, trainers and cars were top of the children’s wish list.

Teachers and pupils alike were amazed by the properties of composites materials and impressed by the team’s ability to explain a complex theory in such a simple manner so sparking the interest of many a budding engineer.

Collage of photos from Futures event

Photos left-right:
Demonstration of Play-Doh and spaghetti structure.
Group photos of IDC BCI teams.

FUTURES is a unique public engagement collaboration between the University of BathBath Spa UniversityUniversity of BristolUniversity of Exeter and University of Plymouth. Which aims to engage a wide range of people from the South West of England with research and innovation and showcase the region’s rich cultural heritage.

BCI Attends ECCM20

We are delighted to announce that a large team from the Bristol Composites Institute (BCI)  showcased their achievements and research at ECCM 20 (the 20th European Conference on Composite Materials) in Lausanne, Switzerland from 26th to 30th June 2022. ECCM is the main European forum for knowledge exchange on recent accomplishments and future trends, bringing together people from academia and industry with a mutual interest in composite materials.

UoB at EMCC20 event

This year’s conference was focused on sustainability which is a prominent aspect of composites for BCI with the title “Composites meet Sustainability”. An impressive line up of academics, researchers and PhD students highlighted our commitment toward sustainability across a range of activities spanning academic research, industrial collaborations and education programmes with more than forty presentations. Professor Ivana Partridge started the conference with her invited keynote lecture covering her eminent and ground breaking work with the title “Toughening approaches in composites – a perspective”. Several researchers showcased their accomplishments on the HiPerDiF (high performance discontinuous fibre) technology, invented at the University of Bristol, which produces highly aligned discontinuous fibre composites to address the issues of the composite industry – manufacturing and recycling.

Our Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) in Composites Manufacture marked the achievements within two special sessions and a dedicated poster session, organised by Professor Janice Barton that took place on 28th July. The special sessions featured twelve papers, presented by the IDC EngD students, on a wide range of processes covering braiding, tape and fibre placement, modular infusion, over-moulding, application of sustainable and novel materials; development of modelling procedures; and performance investigations. We are also proud to announce that one IDC student Dave Langston won the conference poster prize – sponsored by OREC.

BCI Group at EMCC20

Prestigious Award Won by BCI PhD Student

Rafael Ruiz Iglesias, a PhD student in Bristol Composites Institute supervised by Professors Janice Barton and Ole Thomsen, and Dr Geir Olafsson has received the British Society for Strain Measurement (BSSM), Young Stress Analyst prize. The competition, which is sponsored by Airbus, involves writing a 1000 word summary of the applicants project. The project summaries are ranked by a panel of experts in Experimental Mechanics and the top four applicants are invited to present their work at the BSSM Annual Conference which took place in Oxford at St Anne’s college. The competition is open internationally and the other three finalists came from Netherlands, Portugal and UK Industry.

Rafael speaking at conference

Rafa’s presentation entitled “Subsurface Damage Assessment in Composite Laminates Using a Novel Full Field Imaging Technique” which is part CerTest, a 5 year multidisciplinary project, is aligned to the EPSRC funded Programme Grant Certification for Design . Each finalist was allowed 15 minutes for their presentation followed by five minutes of intense questioning; there were over 100 delegates in the audience. Rafa’s presentation was extremely visual and engaging, which the judges appreciated and placed his work first.

The outcome of the competition was announced at the conference gala dinner, which provided a very nice end to the evening with Rafa receiving first prize.

Rafael holding certificate at ceremony meal

Congratulations to Rafa!



BCI Goes to Glastonbury

by Ben Woods. Headshot of Ben Woods

A group of 5 researchers and academics from the BCI and Bristol Department of Aerospace Engineering recently attended the 2022 Glastonbury Festival. Due to pandemic cancellations, this was the first Glastonbury in 3 years and was also the 50th Glastonbury ever, which lined up nicely with the 75th anniversary of the Department of Aerospace Engineering. But while there were quite a few reasons to celebrate – this festival trip was all about outreach. The group spent their days talking to the members of the public about the exciting Green Aviation research going on at Bristol. They set up a marquee in the brand new Science Futures area of the festival and filled it with hands-on technology demonstrators, laser-cut plywood posters, and smiling faces in brightly coloured t-shirts.

A group of people viewing the exhibits in the BCI stand at Glastonbury Festival 2022

The stall featured a series of posters and demos that reflected the diverse, multi-disciplinary work required to make sustainable air transport a reality. It started with a discussion of the multi-disciplinary nature of modern commercial aircraft design, which requires us to improve all aspects of aircraft design.

A table with examples of composite materials on

After this, the ability of composite materials to reduce fuel burn by reducing mass was shown, highlighting both the incredible progress made to date and a range of promising new concepts under development at BCI. Several new morphing wing technologies were then demonstrated, which take inspiration from the way birds continuously adapt and optimize their wings to reduce fuel burn. The next poster highlighted the importance of also reducing non-CO2 emissions, including contrails, NOx, and noise. The final table included a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Bristol Department of Aerospace Engineering and a wishing tree where the public were invited to share their visions of a more sustainable future for aviation.

The response from the public was fantastic: the stall was busy throughout the duration and hundreds of engaging conversations were had around the challenging topic of how we can make aviation more sustainable. The wide range of people who attend Glastonbury kept things exciting – visitors spanned the gamut from people who hadn’t flown in over a decade because of the climate impact to people who make their living in the aviation industry – with the discussions and messages delivered being adapted accordingly.

The team, led by Dr. Benjamin Woods, camped out behind the stall and had plenty of time to explore the festival and watch acts in the evenings – including electronic music set from a giant fire-breathing, laser-eyed, spider stage, complete with a trapeze artist floating by beneath a giant helium balloon: which is slightly beyond our day-to-day experiences at the Bristol Composites Institute.

A crowd of people at Arcadia 2022