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8 Companies Rewarded for Composite Innovations

  • Sunday, 15th February 2009
  • Reading time: about 9 minutes

This year, eight companies and their partners will receive JEC Innovation Awards awards at the JEC Composites Show from March 24-26, 2009.

The programme was created in 1998 with the goal of promoting innovation. Each year, a jury of renowned international experts chooses the best composite innovations, based on their technical interest, market potential, partnership, financial impact and originality. This year, the winners were selected from the following categories: Raw Materials, Process, Automation, Aeronautics, Building & Construction, Transportation and Environment & Energy. The decision to give prominence to these projects was based on their atypical nature and various noteworthy aspects.

The 2009 JEC Awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday March 24th at 5:00 pm on the JEC Show and will be open to all visitors.

Category: Aeronautics

Winner: A400M cargo door by Premium Aerotec (Germany)
At roughly 7m x 4m, the A400M cargo door is a geometrically complex structural component and the world’s largest primary CFRP structure to be made using the Vacuum Assisted Process (VAP). VAP technology involves using a vacuum to assist the infiltration of resin into the carbon fibre reinforcement.
The innovation lies in the application of this type of infusion process to a very large part. It was previously considered impossible to use vacuum-assisted infusion with a one-shot manufacturing process integrating skin and stringer for large parts. The properties and functionality of the laminate remain the same.
The use of composite materials enabled an integral design approach eliminating thousands of fasteners and lowering the production cost (easier assembly) and weight. The direct benefit to the A400M programme is a higher aircraft payload. This cost-effective construction method can be used for a variety of applications in aircraft primary structures (e.g. pressure bulkheads, fuselage shells) but also in the industrial and transport sector, where it can help to establish composites as an alternative to existing lightweight materials like aluminium.

Category: Building & Construction

Joint Winner: Twintex-reinforced thermoplastic windows by OCV Reinforcements (France, USA)
Partners: Rossi Stamp (Italy), Bouvet & Lorillard (France)
The solution replaces a previous two-step process that involved pultruding profiles and reinforcing these with metal inserts. The new process is somewhere in between pultrusion and extrusion, and allows reinforcing locally with Twintex only where necessary. The profiles are then cut and assembled using standard methods. The new profile manufacturing process simplifies the work without affecting the plant and equipment for window production, and affords great profile design freedom. The windows are stiffer, more cost-effective, and there are no thermal bridges. The technology can be applied to all types of thermoplastic profiles.
All the pre-development work was done in-house by the company’s R&D centre in Chambéry. Thermoplastic window frame manufacturers (Bouvet & Lorillard France) have adopted this process for new products and technologies to reinforce their thermoplastic lineals, especially for large dimensions and/or coloured profiles.

Joint Winner: A façade with an innovative modular system that makes an extensive use of sandwich composites to support both glass and marble elements by Skandinaviska Glassystem AB (Sweden)
Partner: Diab Group AB (Sweden)
This façade for a six-storey office block in Copenhagen presents two entirely different aspects, depending on the viewpoint of the observer. Viewed from one side, the building would appear to have a façade that is basically a glass wall. Viewed from the opposite side, it would appear to be completely finished in marble.
The same effect was required for all four sides of the building. The total area to be covered by the facade is approximately 4,000 square metres.
Instead of taking the traditional approach with a steel latticework onto which the travertine stone cladding and glazing units would be attached, Skandinaviska Glassystem developed an innovative modular system that makes extensive use of sandwich composites to support both the glass and marble elements. The system is significantly lighter than the traditional approach – by a factor of around 4:1 – and well within the permitted building loads. This approach also allows very fast installation by a much smaller team. Further time and cost are saved by the fact that the modules can be installed directly onto the building’s steel-reinforced concrete floors virtually as soon as the floors are complete, and without the need for additional supporting steelwork. The system offers inherent insulation properties, does not rust or corrode, and is basically immune from moisture uptake even if the uninstalled modules are left exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time.

Category: Automation

Winner: Robotic welding system for thermoplastic composites by KUKA (Germany)
Partners: IVW Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe (Germany), Bond Laminates GmbH (Germany), Jacob Composite GmbH (Germany)
This newly developed three-dimensional welding process enables the joining of complex and curved parts adding a quality control system and a high degree of automation. Large, heavy components can be welded using a suitable handling system such as articulated or gantry robots. For weld quality control, the surface temperature of the component is continuously measured. Quality problems such as insufficient heating or gaps in the welding susceptor can be determined by the temperature profile. The system can weld different joint configurations. The different consolidation modes allow welding in positions that are difficult to access. The system is capable of welding different materials and geometries, including threedimensional curved structures. The compact design and the use of an automated handling system allow the reproducible production of complex geometries with curved seams that are difficult to weld with other technologies.
The possible fields of application are in the automotive sector (crash boxes, instrument boards, seat elements or bumper supports) but there is also an another potential field of application in the aerospace sector.

Category: Environment & Energy

Winner: Sea-wave energy converter designed to produce electricity by 3B Fibreglass (Belgium)
Partners: Fred Olsen Ltd. (Norway), Gent University (Belgium), Spiromatic (Belgique)
The device consists of a floating platform with oscillating buoys on the water surface. Fred Holsen Ltd. decided to work as much as possible with composite materials for the structural parts and for the energy-extracting and power take-off system’s moving parts.
The main challenges for the lifetime and cost/performance properties of this applications are the corrosion resistance (marine environment), the cyclic load fatigue/ageing (blades, moving parts, turbines, etc.), the robustness, impact and resistance to survival load conditions (storms and possible climate changes), the maintenance, and the cost effectiveness of final components, modules and systems. The natural properties of Advantex and HiPer-tex fibreglass enable and enhance the level of required performance.
3B is reinforcement supplier and advisor within the development team. The next step is to finish defining the materials for the structural parts. The device is a component of the Wave Hub project, which aims to create the UK’s first offshore facility to demonstrate and validate the operation of arrays of wave-energy generation devices. The launch is planned for 2010.

Category: Process

Winner: Thermoplastic tape placement process for in situ consolidation by Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe GmbH (Germany)
Partners: Airbus Composite Technology (Germany)
The automated placement head can lay down thermoplastic composite tapes even on complex, double-curved structures to make a part. The main advantage is that the part is finished without requiring autoclave cure, thereby saving on energy and production time (50%). Because there is no limit on part size, there is less need for assembling components. The use of thermoplastics eliminates the problem of limited shelf life for the material used and facilitates cleaning.
The development process started with the concept in 2000 and continued with the automation process, perfecting of the process simulation tools, and achieving accurate placement on double-curved geometries while producing the same performance level as with an autoclave-cured part. The last phase of development involved the laser-diode heating process. A multi-tape head is under study in collaboration with Viper machine manufacturer Cincinnati Machines. Airbus has just ordered several Viper machines from Cincinnati.

Category: Raw Materials

Winner: Two new resin systems for composite parts in fuel cells by Huntsman Advanced Materials (Switzerland)
Partners: GrafTech Inc. (USA), Ballard Power System (Canada), Case Western University (USA)
Huntsman Advanced Materials developed two new resin systems meeting the stringiest requirements for composite parts used in high-performance fuel cells for automotive (benzoxazine-based chemistry) and power station (bismaleimide-based chemistry) applications. This has allowed Huntsman’s partners to develop a new generation of fuel cells for a wide variety of needs and applications. Standard metal bipolar plates can be replaced with bipolar plates made from graphite composite materials in fuel cell applications.
The graphite composite bipolar plate using the new resins has the following advantages compared with the metal bipolar plate: superior corrosion resistance, lighter weight for greater efficiencies, long operating life (no PEM (proton exchange membrane) poisoning because of low ionic levels in the resin systems), and consistent electrical performance (no insulating surface is formed).

Category: Transportation

Winner: High-pressure hydrogen storage tanks for vehicles, manufactured using a new, highly productive process by Profile Composites Inc. (Canada)
For faster production, resin transfer moulding into a dry fibre preform is used in place of filament winding. Bayer developed the resin specifically for this application. A significant and successfully achieved goal was to develop an improved failure mode for the tanks under high-pressure burst. Tank production currently takes 20 minutes instead of 6 hours when using filament winding. The process lowers production costs through automation and improved equipment productivity. The possibility for increasing the production rate capability means that high-pressure hydrogen and gas storage could become commercially feasible. As continuous process improvements are applied and more advanced equipment is developed, the production cycle time for this highly robust and repeatable process could be reduced to under 10 minutes. The process production rate would then be 24 times higher than with filament winding, so there is a huge market potential in the transportation field.
As the methods were proven with basic control, they were implemented in semi-automated systems developed by Profile and MAG. This approach led to full-scale tanks produced with the complete process approach. Commercial launch is planned for the coming year. Product development is ongoing for 10,000-psi tanks and larger tank sizes as per the Toyota requirements.

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