14 June 2016
14 June 2016
Carver Non-Woven Technologies will begin a rolling start-up at its new manufacturing facility on 1 July 2016, and expects to be in full commercial production of high-quality, single- and multi-material non-woven products for both R3 and the broader North American composites industry by 15 July 2016.
The new plant is situated on an 18-acre/7.3-hectare site in a building that is 165,000 square feet/15,329 square metres in size, which Carver explains will provide it with plenty of room to expand should demand for the new products grow.
According to Carver, it is unique in how it approaches many aspects of the design and production of non-wovens. Firstly, the company's complete production line is fully automated, which it says is unusual for the non-wovens industry ― from initial debaling, fibre opening, blending, and carding, all the way through to finished packaging. As a result, Carver is able to produce non-wovens with low-variance weight (density) as well as superior dimensional stability and mechanical properties. This leads to non-wovens that are more consistent and mechanically more efficient (meaning a lower density non-woven can be used in a given composite part without sacrificing tolerances or mass). This, in turn, can have the follow-on benefits of reducing both cost and mass of finished applications in either thermoset or thermoplastic composites.
Furthermore, Carver explains that it uses up to three different opening processes during initial fibre handling, which leads to better, more open fibres and more consistent fibre length (owing to less fibre damage) as well as a more homogeneous fibre architecture in the finished composite part.
Carver says its team is also unique in terms of the broad range of fibre types it works with, including E-glass fibre, bast natural fibre (e.g. tossa jute and others), carbon fibre, basalt fibre, and thermoplastic fibre, including virgin and 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyamide (PA, also called nylon), polypropylene (PP), polylactic acid (PLA), as well as high-density and low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE).
Carver also claims it is one of the first companies to offer carbon fibre needled non-wovens in a multitude of blends at considerably lower costs than with conventional wrap-and-resonate processes. During non-wovens production, the fleece mats are typically coated with thermoset binder resins, including an acrylic/latex binder, which itself confers unique properties including specific colorants when the mats are subsequently impregnated with thermoset resins prior to forming. Carver's dual-web configuration enables the company to formulate products using different binder types, including the novel option to combine two different resin formulations in a single-fibre architecture.
High levels of flexibility have been designed into the new facility in order to allow the Carver team to be able to respond to customer needs by offering products with areal weights ranging from 300 to 2,400 grams/square-meter (gsm) using numerous fibre types, blends, and layering. In fact, Carver says it is able to achieve blend ratios from 80%/20% to 20%/80% for natural fibres and other fibres (such as fibreglass, polymeric fibres, or even carbon fibre). Typically, natural fibre blend ratios above 70% for non-crimp fibres are unusual, but Carver says it can currently achieve up to 80% thanks to the quality program with which the team selects its natural fibres and the care with which the fibres are subsequently handled, which preserves fibre length and minimises damage both to the fibres and to the card itself.
The diversity of available fibre types helps Carver offer both single- as well as multi-fibre and layered (hybrid) mats thanks to the company's specially designed production line. That system is capable of simultaneously running up to six different fibre types, all of which can be commingled either in a single layer, or in a structure featuring up to three different fibre types each on top and bottom sides of the non-woven mat. For greater design flexibility, these hybrid fibre combinations may be the same or different areal weight depending on customer requirements. Carver explains that this also allows for fibre architectures that mix non-melting and melting fibres where the latter become the final part's resin matrix after preheating just prior to forming in a cold tool. An application in which hybrid mats are increasingly used is automotive underbody shields, where high-impact polymeric fibres are used on the road-facing side and a hybrid mixture of more structural and acoustical fibres (including glass, carbon, basalt, polyester, and/or natural fibres) are used on the vehicle-facing side of the non-woven architecture.
Carver says its knowhow with respect to commingling and homogenisation of hybrid mat technologies led to collaboration with equipment suppliers to customise many piece of equipment being used at the new plant. The new production facility features state-of-the-art technologies, including the latest developments in fibre opening, blending, carding, cross-lapping, and web drafting, web scanning, and needling.
"We're very proud of the amount of flexibility, new technology, and custom-modified equipment this new facility represents," notes Mark Glidden, President, R3 Composites and Carver Non-Woven.
"To achieve this level of competence right from the start, our organisation has made a substantial $13-million dollar [USD] investment. If our products really take off the way we believe they will, then our five-year plan calls for us to make an additional $20-million dollar investment to expand our operations. Others may say that sounds overly confident, but I can share that for the first time in 35 years of doing business, our company has a letter of intention from an automotive OEM stating that as soon as we're operational, this company will buy three-million square-meters of product per year from us. We have similar letters of intent from tier suppliers for the RV [recreational vehicle] industry. We are well on our way to filling our capacity for the first phase of our line, and we've just opened the doors."
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Following its strategy to address composites end-use industries specifically, JEC Group is organising The Future of Composites in Transportation, a two-day event taking place on 27-28 June in Chicago.