This article addresses the requirement to generate solid hexahedral finite element meshes for modelling composite components with complex geometric shapes. Standard commercial finite element pre-processors are not capable of unambiguously defining the material orientations in such situations. This has necessitated the development of a purpose written pre-processor, which extrudes solid elements with element orientations that accurately match complex doubly curved geometries. An efficient methodology for the creation of the mesh has been outlined through the combined use of the dedicated software and MSC PATRAN. An example presented shows that this technology has been successfully used to model a representative vane from a gas turbine engine.