A successful Innovation Partnership between IComp, the Irish Centre for Composites Research and EJ, the world leader in the design and manufacture of access solutions has led to the development of a composite access cover that meets all the requirements of the EU standard for such products. This standard was recently updated to include alternatives such as composites to the traditional cast iron; a move which will advance and increase the use of composite materials in this industry. The EJ product range includes covers for water, sewer, drainage, telecommunications and utility networks which are manufactured in best-in –class facilities and distributed in over 140 countries.
The partnership with IComp has brought EJ to the forefront of composite materials and manufacturing technology developments. The work undertaken within IComp encompassed the full development cycle from concept to production. It included market analysis, selection of the polymer and fibre, computer-aided design and simulation and finally manufacture and testing. The end product was an access cover and frame based on continuous fibre fabrics and fast‐curing thermoset resin systems using a composite manufacturing process known as resin transfer moulding (RTM). Such a process delivers a high quality product compared to other composite designs on the market, with a higher performance-to-weight ratio. The final design weighs only five kilograms, while meeting all the load requirements of the EU standard EN 124. The benefits of the weight reduction include easier handling and significantly reduced transportation costs. The superior material properties and performance result in extended product lifetime. Some of the findings from the project have already been implemented by EJ to improve their current manufacturing technology.