There is hope that some of the jobs that will be lost when Ford stops making cars in Australia in 2016 can be replaced in carbon fibre and composites manufacturing.
The Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing and Deakin University have been collaborating in recent years on a carbon fibre project, with an Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre at the university’s Geelong Waurn Ponds campus under construction.
“What we've realised over that past seven years is that there's a huge wave of demand coming for carbon fibre composites,” said Brad Dunstan, the CEO of the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing, told the ABC yesterday.
Dunstan cited MicroHeat, which make water heaters using the material.
“We require to people to make injection moulded plastic components, to stamp out metal electrodes, to make electronic circuit boards - all of which are being used in the automotive industry and being put together by people on automotive style production lines,” he said.
The flow-on effects of the closure of Ford’s Broadmeadows and Geelong plants in October 2016 are a concern for the Geelong region. Dunstan and others hope that some of the jobs lost in car-making can translate into the carbon fibre industry.
While re-training would be necessary, there was a growing demand for the technology. Also, there were similarities in what some workers were doing at Ford in Geelong and what carbon fibre companies were doing.
“There are still guys, standing at presses, inserting pre-forms in there, the resin infusion happens, the thing cures and the part comes out,” he said.
“We've been speaking to organisations such as Volkswagen out of Germany and they've indicated that by 2020 they're going to need 187,000 tonnes of manufactured carbon fibre components.”