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Thermwood

Case Study: Fiber-Tech Increases Ballistics Panel Applications

15 January 2008

Composite panel fabricator Fiber-Tech has significantly increased its participation in ballistics and military applications over the past few years due to homeland security concerns and the need for troop protection in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The same AOC Altek polyester resin Fiber-Tech uses for commercial panel applications is employed in Fiber-Tech ballistics armour.

“We use a similar fabrication process but for ballistic applications produce panels which are solid fiberglass and resin,” says Fiber-Tech Vice President of Technology Bob Pfeifer. “Laminate thicknesses are one-eight-inch to one-and-a-quarter inch (0.32- to 3.2-centimeters), depending on the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) ballistic rating required for a given application.”

The NIJ has a rating system for different projectiles or “threat levels.” The higher the rating or threat level, the more resin and fibreglass Fiber-Tech uses in order to produce a thicker ballistic panel. Using fibreglass woven roving in AOC resin, Fiber-Tech’s solid ballistic panels have passed NIJ Standards 0108.01 criteria.

Fiber-Tech’s largest ballistic panel job so far was the production of ceiling tiles designed to resist mortar shrapnel in soft-sided structures using the Altek resin in 0.5-inch (1.3-centimeter) thick laminates.

From manufacturing sites in Washington, Ohio and Michigan, Fiber-Tech produces large, flat composite panels for the transportation, marine, military, construction, and corrosion resistant markets among others, with transportation as a mainstay.

The majority of the composite panels for Penske and U-Haul trucks in the past 18 years were fabricated by Fiber-Tech using Altek unsaturated polyester resin. “Penske and U-Haul began using composite walls in the late 1980s and have since gone to 100% FRP (instead of aluminium) walls for their consumer rental truck bodies,” explains Fiber-Tech Vice President, Sales, Wayne Durnin.

Fiber-Tech produces large, structural panels manufactured in a wet-layup process. “We’re not just gluing components together,” Durnin says. “We manufacture the entire composite in one complete process to produce a seamless, structural panel, cured under heat and pressure.”

The closed-mold fabrication process used by Fiber-Tech is a combination of vacuum bagging and infusion. Fiber-Tech differentiates itself through its ability to produce very large panels and to do so quickly. The company can fabricate panels up to 11-feet wide and 60-feet long (3.4 by 18.3 meters) for use in truck bodies and architectural applications. “We build the largest panels in the marketplace so we can maximize the yield from our panels,” Durnin points out. “If a customer needs four-foot by eight-foot (1.2-by-2.4-meter) panels, we can manufacture parts that are eight feet by 56 feet (2.4 by 17 meters) and cut them to customers’ exact specifications.”

“We really wanted to use the same resin in our ballistic applications as we do in our standard products,” explains Pfeifer. “Even when we went to a 30% resin ratio for ballistics, we were able to stick with our established fabrication process and the same Altek resin from AOC.”






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