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Finalists in JEC Composites Innovation Awards Programme 2006

20 January 2006

The finalists in the JEC Composites Innovation Awards for 2006 have been announced for the best processes, applications and products featuring composite solutions, based on technical interest, market opportunities and partnership potential.

The JEC Group created its JEC Composites Innovation Awards in 1998. The programme gives out awards to the most innovative composite solutions in the following categories: Aeronautics & Space, Construction, Ground Transport, Energy & Industry, Sports & Leisure, and two new categories this year, Environment and Process.

“In the composite sector, innovation is a matter for large companies and SMEs alike,” said JEC Group General Manager Frédérique Mutel. “The results of the 2006 competition are proof of that: along with the multinationals, SMEs constitute an essential element in innovation dynamics. One trend (among others) is the increasingly widespread use of carbon fibre. Industry also seems to be taking environmental issues into consideration. And this year, we note new advances in industrial process development and a concern for optimising costs, as well. The ground transportation sector is showing a greater interest in composites, because composites provide valid solutions against metals, particularly in terms of fire safety and graffiti control. And industries with limited series are developing solutions that are adapted to the requirements of short-run production.”

In 2006, the JEC Composites Innovation Awards programme will reward successful partnerships selected among the following finalists.

Aeronautics & Space

Huntsman Advanced Materials (Switzerland), University of Sheffield (United-Kingdom), and Rolls Royce (United-Kingdom): Filling hollow fan blades with a vibration-damping composite material. The compressor fan blades on large engines for civil aircraft are hollow. Until now, honeycomb or line-core materials have been used to fill in and maintain the cross-sectional profile as the blades flex. This solution is being replaced by an epoxy-amine composite filled with special cavity fillers (syntactic composites). The new solution is easier to apply and it provides improved dynamic damping compared to existing solutions. It is also less costly. The product was put on the market in 2005, in particular on the Airbus A380 aircraft. New-generation engines will gain from the innovation.

xyz Prototypes (France), Resoltech (France), Sicomin (France), and Apigs (France): All-carbon “Ile de France” drone. The drone is an aircraft with a 6.36-m wingspan. It can fly as high as 5,000 m in altitude. All-carbon composites provide the best performance-to-weight ratio. Several other aircraft are being considered based on this drone. These would have a passenger capacity of four, and up to 8-10 seats.

Think Composites network: Stanford University (United-States), Itochu Corporation (Japan), Industrial Technology Center of Fukui Prefecture (Japan), and Mitsuya Company (Japan): Thin ply laminates, a new way of designing and manufacturing a composite part by alternating thin plies with thicker ones by means of a special new machine. The drawback to the current method of making composites by stacking reinforcement plies is that the plies tend to be too thick. This can lead to micro-cracking and delamination, especially when holes are drilled in the composite. If reinforcement is inserted in the form of thin plies – typically 0.03 mm thick for a 12K fibre – these disadvantages disappear. The solution is especially advantageous for aircraft wings and fuselage. The combination of rapid ply lay-up and a simplified arrangement provides significant time and cost savings, and the parts become competitive with comparable metal structures.

Ground Transport

Jupiter Plast (Denmark), and Siemens Mass Transportation (Germany): Front end for the Avanto tram-train model, an impact-resistant composite structure which complies with the requirements of the DIN 5560 crash standard. The combination of urban and suburban traffic creates specific requirements in terms of nose design for the lead coach, where the conductor sits. This low-weight front end is the first composite structure to comply with the requirements of the existing crash standard. A vacuum-infused sandwich construction combining a Rohacell foam core with a fire-resistant methacrylic resin was used. The nose, which can withstand a 30-ton frontal impact, bends in a controlled way that leaves the conductor protected and does not deform the coach. The first parts for the Avanto Tram-train will be delivered in 2006.

Alcan Composite Core (United-States), Toyota Motor Corporation (Japan), Toyota Technocraft (Japan), GH Craft Ltd (Japan), Toho Tenax Co. (Japan), and Mitsubishi Rayon Co. (Japan): IMTS bus. The bus is made entirely in carbon fibre, providing exceptional stiffness and fire resistance (exterior flame), as well as good heat insulation compared to a metal structure. The attractive rounded shapes were made possible by the use of carbon prepreg and Baltek balsa core material. The special design for mechanical properties includes variable thicknesses to withstand different loads. One of the parts was made in a mould with integrated heating system. The sandwich/core technology cut 30% off the development time. It also made the tooling costs 80% lower than for a metal construction.

Cetim Cermat (France), Spitzer Eurovrac (France), and Rousseau SA (France): SK tank for bulk powder products. The tank is 12 m long and 3.5 m in diameter, holds 65 m3, and weighs 1,200 kg empty. It is made using filament winding and RTM techniques in vinylester and polyester resin, with HS-carbon and glass woven or mat reinforcements. The cylinder can replace metal versions. Current tanks are made mostly of aluminium. The composite tank weighs 600-800 kilograms less than an aluminium one, allowing a greater payload and therefore cutting down on the cost of transport. Also, when the trailer travels empty, less fuel is consumed. The corrosion resistance is higher, and the vacuum resistance increases tenfold. Composite tanks could replace aluminium ones within ten years.

Process

Ford Motor Company (United-States), Aston Martin (United-Kingdom), and Sotira (France): F3P-RTM process for an eight-panel, Class A application for the Aston Martin DB9. The robotized F3P Ford Programmable Preforming Process is used with chopped fibres to produce the preforms. The preforms are then used in an RTM process to obtain Class A parts directly. The robots are programmable off-line, which saves time and avoids collisions. VOC emissions are reduced. Some of the panels integrate several different functions and the process generates very little scrap (under 1%). Sotira currently produces about 15,000 parts per year and plans to reach 34,000 parts annually.

DLR (Germany), Bolle und Cords Elektrotechnik GmbH (Germany), and Volkswagen AG (Germany) : Industrial liquid resin infusion (LRI) machine. The project involves the industrialisation of the infusion process. It places an emphasis on automation, precise control of parameters (notably for temperature), and healthy working conditions (the resin circulates in a closed loop). The goal: to obtain outstanding process reproducibility and therefore, a high degree of quality and consistent results, while reducing production scrap. The process is fully automated. A high-temperature/pressure-resistant camera system serves to observe resin flow and to detect flaws in-line.

MFTECH (France), Material (Belgium), and Kuka (France): Filament winding machine based on the use of an industrial robot to produce small and medium-sized parts. The process makes use of a Kuka industrial robot controlled with Cadwind software. Two types of machine were developed. The first one is for a more standard filament winding process with one or more rotating mandrels and uses a six- or eight-axis robot for filament placement. The second is a newer design, where the robot itself handles the part being wound opposite a stationary device that unwinds the filament.

Energy/Industry

Thibaut (France), Design & Co. (France), and Ouest Composites (France): T 818 Access, the first in a new line of machining and polishing equipment for stone and other hard materials. Thanks to the use of composites, it was possible to obtain attractive shapes that integrated several different functions. For example, the front panel opens up completely, folding down into steps that give access into the machine for placing or removing the stones. This productivity-enhancing feature is unique in the market today. The shaping potential of composite materials allows an extremely user-friendly machine, with minimum floor space requirements and better integrated accessories and wiring.

Mikkeli (Finland), Tehomet (Finland), and Fibrocom (Finland): Lighting pole with controlled energy absorption characteristics to make impacts with vehicles less dangerous. Thanks to the composite pole’s channel structure, it was possible to combine lower weight, high strength, high static rigidity, good energy absorption properties, and excellent impact behaviour, and still maintain competitive production costs. The pole can blend in with the urban landscape. Given Europe’s specific impact standards – the pole achieved the best EN 12767 classification – the European market is being targeted.

Control Techniques Ltd (United-Kingdom), Terzi Stampi (Italy), DSM-DADC (Netherlands), Mitras Automotive (United-Kingdom), and Menzolit Ltd (United-Kingdom): SMC parts for the power supply of variable-speed equipment. The parts, traditionally made from painted metal, are designed to house electronic power components operating in a hot environment (80°C, with peaks up to 120°C for some components). The appliances are also subject to impacts and vibrations up to 10-18 g. The inherent properties and design/shaping potential of SMC (the modular concept is suitable for producing several different models) meet the market’s requirements in terms of cost and profitability. The mould was designed to manufacture a comprehensive range of parts (SP4 to SP7). The parts are 5 mm thick, 310 mm wide, 231 mm high and 510 mm long for the SP 4 model, and up to 1,130 mm long for the SP 6 model.

Environment

Saint-Gobain Vetrotex (Brazil) and RGF Projetos (Brazil): Pole top equipment for power lines. At the top of each line pole, there are always technical parts, usually made of wood or metal, for supporting the electrical wiring. Here, the idea was to replace them with thermoplastic composite parts made from recycled material. The base material used is 58% recycled polypropylene mixed with 40% SFC-100 glass fibre cut into 25-mm lengths and 2% additives to improve stability and weatherability. Environmental protection was a notable concern, since recycled PP was used as material and the parts themselves are recyclable. The parts have an expected service life of 50-80 years, thanks to their high strength.

RS Technologies (Canada), Dow Chemical (Canada), Fiber Glass Industries (United-States), and JNE Welding Ltd (United-Kingdom): Filament-wound transmission tower in glass-fibre-reinforced polyurethane resin, made using a proprietary process from RS Technologies. The company needed to make power-line towers 9-60 metres in height, and the wide range of heights led to considerable research into methods for designing and producing the towers. Two different lengths of module were chosen, with different diameters. The desired height is obtained by stacking the different types of module. Besides the efficient production process, the most remarkable aspect is the durability of the towers, estimated at 80 years compared to a maximum 10-40 years for wooden or metal poles. The towers are more lightweight and their advantages include electric insulation properties, corrosion and UV resistance, and weatherability.

Sports & Leisure

2 win (France), Fritsch & Associés (France), Plastic Processing Alternatives PPA (France), and St Gobain Vetrotex (France): Twincat, a 4.60-m mass-produced sports catamaran made of Twintex glass-fibre-reinforced thermoplastic. Specifications for the boat emphasised low weight, structural stiffness, and resistance to seawater, sun, and impacts. All the requirements were met through the use of Twintex material and a close-mould process. The first prototypes were displayed at the Paris Boat Show, in December 2005, and production will start in 2006.

Schappe Techniques (France), Thermofusion GmbH (Germany), and Carbonfunctions VertriebsGmbh (Germany): The Mantis HE electric caddy, an electrically-operated golf caddy with a tube structure made of TPFL® carbon-fibre reinforced thermoplastic. Bladder Inflation Moulding (BIM) is the process used. This consists in inflating a bladder inside the composite tube, which is held in place within a closed mould. The caddy has two 90-watt motors and two 6.5-Ah accumulators housed in the wheel area that give enough autonomy for an 18-hole course. The caddy is lightweight, easy to unfold at the course and to fold back up to place in the car. It requires short cycle times compared to a thermosetting solution. The caddy was launched in 2005, following two years of development.

KKG Katamaran Konstrucktions GmbH (Austria) and High modulus England (Great-Britain): The Nano Speed Needle power catamaran. This catamaran with streamlined cabin can be used for private recreational purposes. Five different models are planned, ranging from 21 feet to 66 feet. The structure is made of vacuum-bag-moulded carbon/epoxy over a foam core. The hulls were designed to cut smoothly through the water without generating large waves, eliminating the need for powerful propulsion units. The shapes that can be created using composites would be impossible with traditional wood solutions. Several prototypes are being demonstrated in Austria and Dubai.

Construction

Holland Composites Industrials BV (Netherlands) and their partners, Solico BV (Netherlands) and Octatube International BV (Netherlands): Roof of Tel Aviv’s Yitzak Rabin Center, designed by architect Moshe Safdie. A five-part construction using BLOB (Binary Large Object) architecture, made of glass/polyester composite with foam core. The largest part is 35 m long, with a 9-m-long cantilever. Each segment was vacuum-infusion moulded over CNC-machined blocks of polystyrene. The lightweight wings were made in Holland and transported from Antwerp to Ashdod (Israel), then assembled on the ground to be hoisted up to the roof in a single piece. The structure took less time and handling equipment to put into place than a standard solution. The Yitzak Rabin Center was inaugurated in mid-November 2005.

Woold SAS (France) and their partners, Simpson Strong Tie (France) and Ensam (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers de Cluny (France): 2D- and 3D-bendable beam with glass/carbon composite bracing, designed for use with prefab zinc and copper roofs. The outer boards consist of a eucalyptus and douglas-fir wood sandwich, reinforced by a glass (750 g/m2)-epoxy laminate. The sinusoidal bracing is a one-piece glass (750 g/m2) and UD carbon (600 g/m2) composite part. The elements are assembled with composite rivets. Beam length is adjustable up to 7.5 metres by increments of 25 cm. The beam is 4.60 m long, 23 cm high, 12 cm wide and weighs only 9.6 kg. It is 35% more lightweight than a laminated beam.

BBA (Black Bull AS) (Norway), Reichhold AS (Norway), Loe Betongelementer AS (Norway), Tele Bryggen AS (Norway), and Selco Tek AS (Norway), Kamenny Vek ( Russia): CR (composite reinforcement) frames, designed to replace steel as reinforcement for concrete structures. Here, a granular material (sand) is deposited over a continuous-carbon-or Basalt-fibre/thermoset resin reinforcement at the end of the curing process. The sand sticks to the resin, to serve ultimately as a mechanical bond with the concrete. Unlike pultrusion, which is slow, yields a smooth surface making adhesion to concrete more difficult, and produces only straight profiles, the process here is designed to produce many different shapes. At 16 m/min or an automated 50 to 100 m/min, the production capacity is also much higher than for pultrusion (30 times faster). The reinforcement weighs less than 1.5 kg. It is thus four times lighter than steel, yet has higher reinforcing properties. The first products, composite reinforcement for three floating concrete pontoons (3 x 13 m), were launched in the market in 2005.






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