Local advanced manufacturer targets space sector

Photo: XTEK Managing Director Philippe Odouard and Chair Uwe Boettcher in Adelaide.

Ballistics manufacturer XTEK has opened a new advanced manufacturing centre in South Australia in order to expand into new markets as well as new industries, such as space, according to an ASX announcement last week.

The fabrication centre in Adelaide will be used to manufacture lightweight ballistic armour plates and helmets and be equipped with the company’s new XTclave composite materials curing and consolidation technology.

The machine, about the size of four shipping containers, runs cycles of ultra-high isostatic pressure at high temperatures to achieve composite curing of thermoset and thermoplastic resin.

“With this acquisition we now have the largest distribution network in the US and with this facility in Australia we have the manufacturing capability necessary to address the US military market,” XTEK’s managing director, Philippe Odouard, said.

The new machine will allow the company to ramp up production from the three plates it can make per cycle at the moment, to more than 40 plates in less time, as well as proving production capabilities before expanding in the US.

“Further, the reception we received from the launch of two XTclave manufactured products earlier this year at the SHOT Show in the US was incredibly pleasing. We got confirmation from everyone that there was massive interest for this product at the price point we discussed,” Odouard said.

“This is a huge opportunity to distribute our high-margin ballistic solutions in Australia and export globally, by leveraging our well-established US distribution network.

“We continue to work towards commercial-scale orders, progressing the long-standing relationships we have developed with potential major customers globally as they near the end of the testing and validation process.”

Odouard said XTEK was targeting production capacity of up to $20m in revenue.

XTEK chair Uwe Boettcher said the expansion would not only enable the company to fulfil expected demand for its ballistic products but also allow it to expand into the space industry by being able to make larger more complex shaped parts than are currently available.

XTEK has an MoU with the Australian Space Agency and works with space engineering services company Skykraft to manufacture new parts for of small spacecraft and launcher systems.

“We are starting the research cycle again with the space industry and we see great potential,” Boettcher said.

XTEK can leverage its XTclave technology for space applications because the ultra high process pressure reduces plastic outgassing, which is often considered a limiting factor for lightweight composite use in space. Additionally, it also achieves a higher specific strength to weight ratio.

XTEK has based its R&D operations in Adelaide for the past 13 years, developing the lightweight armour plates and helmets as well as rifles and other defence related products.

XTEK designs and manufactures in-house using the XTclave and other composite technologies to produce a lightweight, high performing sniper rifle for the Australian Defence and Police forces.