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Hexcel launches new products for Automotive, Wind Energy and Aerospace

15 April 2003

At this year’s JEC, Hexcel Composites’ promotion focussed on new products for 3 major markets: Automotive, Wind Energy and Aerospace.

Automotive

The first competition racing car to use composites was driven by Emerson Fittipaldi in 1968. It was built with Hexcel’s aluminium honeycomb. The McLaren M26 was the first Formula 1 car built using prepreg - from Hexcel - in many areas, including the cockpit sides and front cowl, the nose cone, the airbox over the engine, the radiator air scoops, part of the floor and the fuel tank areas. Composite structures have extremely good impact resistance and it is thanks to the development of the composite chassis that many drivers have survived high speed crashes.

HexPly M35-4 is Hexcel’s new prepreg matrix system, specifically developed for all motorsport applications, including series sports cars. This tough epoxy system provides good thermal properties (up to 205°C), excellent shock absorption and mechanical properties, making it ideal for chassis and any stressed parts. The wide range of prepreg forms, from fabric to unidirectional tape, makes HexPly M35-4 suitable for most requirements. Combining excellent drape and tack with a solvent-free resin system; HexPly M35-4 is the ideal solution for anyone seeking optimal performance. HexPly M35-4 is currently under evaluation with leading F1 teams.

These days the benefits of composites are no longer restricted to racing drivers. Hexcel’s composite solutions are also making road cars safer. HexWeb EM is Hexcel’s new honeycomb material, manufactured from recyclable polypropylene and polyester/nylon non-woven fabric. This new honeycomb is being used by Hexcel to manufacture energy-management countermeasures, protecting automobile drivers and passengers with a cost-effective solution. Carefully selected HexWeb EM material meets the requirements of the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 201Un, for rollover, and FMVSS 214, for side impact, while preserving the greatest amount of headroom and interior space in the vehicle. Until now Hexcel’s aluminium honeycomb, HexWeb CRIII, has often been the only material capable of achieving the necessary protection required in the space allotted by the stylists. HexWeb EM increases the range of materials available. HexWeb EM pads are supplied as completed parts ready to be bonded into place on a headliner or other interior trim. Pads can be supplied with pre-applied face sheets or as open cells in final trimmed condition. Customers include Dayton Polymeric, Lear Corporation, Findlay Industries, Intier Division of Magna Industries and Collins and Aikman.

Redux 641K is a high temperature modified epoxy film adhesive that cures at 175°C. A leading automotive manufacturer is using this film adhesive for series car component production. Redux 641K was selected due to its quick cure cycle at high temperature, together with its good peel and shear performance. Redux 641K enables a fast-moving production process, needed to meet the volume automotive standards. Redux 641K has a very low volatile content and excellent out gassing properties. It is available in a variety of supports, to suit the application.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is an important growing market for Hexcel Composites, which contributed 14% of European sales in 2002. Hexcel’s product offering for wind turbine blades includes glass and carbon fibre prepregs and resins optimised for infusion processes.

Hexcel has extended its resin range for wind energy, to meet the requirements of customers seeking to reduce production times in some areas and smooth their production output. HexPly M11 and M11.5 have been developed to adapt to low pressure processing, whether curing takes place at 70°C or 140°C. The main advantage of these systems is their rapid cure cycle at low temperatures: only 3.6 hours at 80°C or 8.7 hours at 75°C.

HexPly M9F resin systems are another new development for wind turbine blade manufacturers. These formulated epoxy systems are suitable for low pressure moulding processes. The resin systems are highly versatile, permitting a range of processing temperatures from 85°C up to 150°C. HexPly M9F systems are a further development of Hexcel’s well-established M9 range, already widely used in the manufacture of wind turbine blades. The new epoxy formulations contain no environmentally harmful resins, or hardener components, which are classified as category 3 carcinogens or mutagens according to new EU product safety legislation. HexPly M9F resins are fully compatible with Hexcel’s standard M9 systems, in terms of properties and performance.

Aerospace

Hexcel Composites continues to develop new products to meet the requirements of the aerospace industry. HexPly M41 is a halogen-free, fast-curing phenolic matrix system, developed to meet the latest Fire, Smoke and Toxicity (FST) and OSU heat release requirements for aircraft interior parts. Typical applications are wall panels, flooring, ceiling panels, galleys and toilet modules. HexPly M41 is available with different tack levels, enabling a variety of manufacturing processes to be employed, such as daylight press, autoclave, vacuum bag or crushed core processing. Typical HexPly M41 cure cycles are 30 minutes at 135°C for flat panels, or shorter times for crushed core – 4 minutes at 160°C or 7 minutes at 140°C. The low temperature cure cycles allow Tedlar film to be co-cured with the prepreg.

Hexcel Composites has introduced new technology to produce very narrow, accurately slit prepreg tape at its manufacturing plant in Parla, Spain. Along with automatic tape lay-up, aircraft manufacturers will increasingly use slit tape for design optimisation and weight reduction. These technologies are enabling the further penetration of composites in the aircraft industry as they become more cost-competitive with metals. Hexcel is already producing slit tape for Airbus, in widths as narrow as 3.2mm, using HexPly 8552/AS4 unidirectional prepreg. HexPly slit tape is also undergoing qualification for space programmes.

Other New Products

Hexcel Composites is a supplier of pressed unidirectional glass laminates to the ski and snowboard industry. To the established product range, Hexcel has now added newly developed pressed needled laminates with unidirectional glass fibre. Using a unique needling process, unidirectional glass rovings are fixed in place, without any destruction of the yarns. The properties of the needled laminates are therefore comparable to unidirectional prepreg laminates. The behaviour of the fixed glass rovings in the laminate allows a wide range of processing methods to be used, such as stamping and punching, without any deterioration of properties, or risk of laminate being destroyed. By controlling the needling process it is possible to adjust softer flexural properties of the ready cured laminate.

Hexcel has developed two new Intermediate Modulus (IM) fibres to complement its well established IM6 and IM7 fibres. The new Magnamite products have the references IMC-12K and IM7C-12K. Magnamite IMC is targeted at the non-aerospace market and exhibits typical properties of 800 ksi tensile strength and 42msi tensile modulus. Magnamite IM7C is targeted at the aerospace industry and exhibits typical properties of 840 ksi tensile strength and 42msi tensile modulus. Both fibres are in production and available for evaluation.






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