GE Develop New Composite Materials for Train Interiors

03 December 2004

GE Advanced Materials has signed a joint development agreement with China Railway Long Dragon New Composite Materials Co. to co-develop high-strength, flame-retardant components for passenger train interiors based on new Azdel Rail-Lite composite.

The new composite can also help provide interior parts with low smoke and toxicity performance and improved sound-release properties. Under the agreement, GE will supply the material in multiple grades for potential applications such as interior panels, sidewalls, ceilings, floors, and other large interior train parts.

The agreement marks a significant strategic relationship between GE and China Railway Long Dragon. The Chinese company is the biggest original equipment supplier for all new passenger rail car interiors being developed to support China in refurbishing interior trim components used on its national railway system in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China Railway Long Dragon is the leader of the country’s railway interiors industry with products that span the country’s 14 railway administrations.

“The excellent mechanical properties and flame, smoke, toxicity, and heat-release performance of lightweight AZDEL Rail-Lite composite is our high-performance solution to the infrastructure challenges that China Railway Long Dragon is trying to address,” said Melanie Cook, GE Advanced Materials’ marketing director for Transportation. “This agreement is a great example of how GE technology can help China improve the safety and efficiency of its rail transportation system.”

The new AZDEL Rail-Lite composite is a low-pressure, thermoformable, lightweight sheet comprised of long glass fibres. The material has been developed to help enable sturdy, lightweight components, panels, and structures that exhibit excellent flame, smoke, toxicity, and heat and sound-release performance.

Roughly half the volume of an AZDEL Rail-Lite composite structure is comprised of air, giving the new material exceptionally low weight. This may help reduce the weight of finished parts – and, therefore, help reduce fuel consumption – for potentially significant cost savings. The new product technology is translatable to other industries, such as aircraft and building and construction. New products based on this technology are now under development at AZDEL and GE.

“Materials technology for passenger trains and other transportation segments has turned a corner with the commercial launch of our new AZDEL Rail-Lite composite,” said Melanie Cook, GE Advanced Materials’ marketing director for Transportation. “No other product that we know of available today can deliver the same outstanding balance of flame, smoke, and toxicity performance with the light weight and excellent mechanical properties of this new material.”

According to Ken Forden, president, AZDEL, Inc., “The synergies of GE’s materials expertise, PPG’s fibre technology, and the patented wet chopped fibre process pioneered by AZDEL, have enabled us to develop a whole new family of advanced composite materials that meet growing global demand for improved flame, smoke, and toxicity performance. AZDEL Rail-Lite composite has been very well received and is the first of several new high-performance products AZDEL and GE plan to introduce in the future.”

When parts formed from AZDEL Rail-Lite composite are exposed to flame, it quickly chars while emitting very low levels of smoke. The char and glass fibres also create a surface barrier to the flame, similar to that of a ceramic material. Because of this, AZDEL Rail-Lite composite will not catch fire and drip, like lower performing competitive products or thermoplastic sheet type materials. This quality is quickly becoming essential for applications on trains, subways, and other mass-transit systems where fires have claimed many lives in the past.

“China Railway Long Dragon is delighted to have GE’s advanced material expertise and resources on this project,” said Chen Yue, president of China Railway Long Dragon. We fully anticipate the unique properties of AZDEL Rail-Lite composite to drive significant growth, infrastructure expansion, energy conservation, and passenger safety benefits for our products.”

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