High performance engineering specialist, KW Motorsport (KWM), has begun the next phase of its pioneering lightweight chassis research that could revolutionise low cost racing car design and niche vehicle markets, after securing £119,600 in government funding.
The award from the government-backed funding agency, Innovate UK, means that the team can continue research and development into a lightweight, low cost, thermoplastic composite chassis technology, known as ToPCaT (ThermoPlastic Carbon Tub).
Prior to securing vital Innovate UK funding, Brackley-based KWM completed a 16-month feasibility study, funded by Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP)’s High Performance Technology Investment Programme.
Now, it is starting the second phase of designing and developing a proof-of-concept prototype, and all necessary tooling and jigs, FEA analysis, crash testing and validation, design reviews which will be tested in KWM’s own designed sports race car.
KWM won the funding from Innovate UK’s Motorsport Valley Launchpad competition and provides 60% of the total cost of the 12-month project. The matched funding will come from KWM’s own research and development (R&D) budget.
Kieron Salter, managing director of KWM, said: “This funding is much more than just a grant; it also provides us with focused training and gives us opportunities to pitch our project for investment,” he said.
“We’ve started the hard work and this second phase will enable us to really develop our idea and concept. It’s very exciting because this next stage in our ToPCaT programme is a crucial one as we continue to explore the challenge of delivering a low cost carbon fibre intensive chassis platform.”
Traditionally, monocoque chassis structures used for motorsport and high performance automotive vehicles are manufactured using high specification pre-preg (pre-impregnated) composite materials that are cured in autoclaves and bonded together. This requires highly skilled, labour-intensive manufacturing processes. “These processes are traditionally only accessible and suitable for ultra low volume production of expensive high-performance race cars and premium super cars,” said Kieron.
After receiving the feasibility study grant in June 2013, KWM worked closely with sister company KW Special Projects (KWSP) and recruited ex-F1 composite expert, Stuart Banyard, as head of advanced manufacturing to lead the feasibility project.
“Our approach is to reconsider the design of the monocoque in such a way that makes best use of the manufacturing processes of thermoplastic materials to redefine the conventional carbon tub and use low cost motorsport applications to develop for production and proof of concept,” added Kieron.
Once the second phase of the programme is completed, the third phase will involve developing the potential applications of ToPCaT from motorsport to other niche automotive and motorsport sectors by developing further prototypes and collaborative projects with OEMs.
KWM is a high performance motorsport engineering company with a history of innovative race car and chassis design. The company offers high performance engineering services, including whole vehicle and sub-system design to the motorsport and niche vehicle sectors. KWM’s sister company, KWSP is an ambitious business specialising in digital fabrication and operating within the high performance engineering sector – designing, manufacturing and supplying complete solutions.