Crane Composites Establishes New Thermoplastic Composite Facility

16 September 2005

Crane Composites is establishing a new manufacturing facility which will produce continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastic composites (CFRT).

The new product will be sold under the Zenicon Thermocomposites name with production commencing in January 2006 at its new 91,000 square foot site located in Joliet, Illinois.

Crane Composites also manages Kemlite Company, the leader in fibreglass reinforced panel technology to the Transportation, RV and Building Products Industries.

Jim Simmons, formally Vice President Sales/Marketing at Kemlite Company and now Executive Vice President of Business Development, Crane Composites, has spearheaded the growth initiatives. According to Simmons, “Crane Composites’ primary mission is to replace traditional materials with composites in a wide variety of industries.”

The new manufacturing facility will produce panels utilizing the patented and licensed DRIFT process to form the basic panel raw material inputs.

“This advanced technology creates affordable, fully impregnated, low void content, continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastic tape that is used to produce the finished Zenicon Thermocomposite panels,” stated Bob Barney, Crane Composites Vice President of Technology.

“This is an exciting new opportunity for Crane Composites. We are taking a leading edge technology position in the industry with reinforced thermoplastics,” said Dan Colbert, Crane Composites President. “We will be producing the most technically advanced composite product on the market which will open up a wide range of markets and product applications.”

The finished panel product can be made up to 110” wide in either 500’ coils or individually sized panels. Thickness will depend on the end use physical property requirements. The panels can be produced with a wide variety of thermoplastic resins including polypropylene, Nylon and PET along with reinforcements such as fibreglass, carbon or aramid fibres.

Applications will be for flat panels or the panels can be thermoformed into structural shapes. Various surface and backside functional finishes are also available. Large sandwich panels can be made utilizing a wide variety of core materials, such as thermoplastic honeycomb, foam, wood, or metals. There are many potential applications in the Transportation, Construction, RV, and Marine markets, just to name a few.

The panels have many advantages over short fibre, long fibre, and continuous woven fabric reinforced thermoplastics. “The continuous reinforcement gives the panels incredible strength for the least amount of raw material,” according to Barney. “Because the fibre reinforcements are uniformly and consistently fully wetted, we gain excellent physical properties. Additionally, since the panel reinforcement is oriented in 0-90 degree layers and not woven, glass-to-glass physical property erosion and the woven look on the panel face are eliminated.” Fibre content may be varied from 40% to 80% depending on the strengths required for an application.

Crane Composites can provide test materials in small sizes prior to full scale production.

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