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Composites Industry News

News for August 2002


Americas Cup Yacht Sinks

1st August 2002 0 comments

One of Dennis Conner’s $5 million America’s Cup racing yachts sank in the Pacific Ocean about a mile off shore Tuesday, the Coast Guard said. All sailors aboard the 80-foot yacht were rescued. A salvage crew with a crane and air bags was headed to the scene, said Cathy Harvey, who works for Conner at his Long Beach compound. The boat was below the surface, with only a portion of the mast sticking out of the water, both Harvey and Coast Guard Lt. Jeanne Reincke said. The yacht sank around 1:10 p.m. in 55 feet of water after the rudder broke and left a hole that was too big for pumps and air bags aboard the boat to stop, said Bill Trenkle, a member of Conner’s crew since 1980. “All the guys are fine,” Harvey added. The 59-year-old Conner has won the America’s Cup four times, but not since 1988. He’s also lost it twice. It was Conner’s newest boat that sank, Stars & Stripes USA-77. Christened May 26 in Long Beach, it would likely have been his primary racing yacht in the upcoming America’s Cup competition. Conner’s crew has been training off Long Beach since February for America’s Cup trials that begin Oct. 1 in Auckland, New Zealand. It will be Conner’s unprecedented ninth appearance in the international competition. The only other America’s Cup yacht to sink was oneAustralia, which cracked in two and sank off San Diego during a challenger series race in March 1995. All 15 sailors were rescued after that mishap. America’s Cup contenders can race only one yacht at a time. Conner still has a second boat, Stars & Stripes USA-66, launched in February, that could compete. Harvey declined to comment on what impact the accident would have on Conner’s participation in the America’s Cup. The team will not know the extent of the damage until the boat is recovered and examined, she said.

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Modular Advances in Autoclave Curing

1st August 2002 0 comments

LBBC have substantially simplified the purchasing procedures for specifying and acquiring advanced composites curing equipment. The traditional means of acquiring composites curing autoclaves has required customers to substantially research their performance needs and to specify many technical aspects in sufficient detail from which designers could produce original drawings for an individual one-off assembly. Recognising the major customer concern is to improve their own efficiency levels by the ease with which new capital equipment can be brought on stream, LBBC have identified the needs of composites curing in fairly specific performance bands and have produced a new TC range of Thermoclaves, which are designed and manufactured on a completely modular principle. Instead of needing to calculate many factors of very complex equipment, customers can simply select an “”off the shelf”” complete composites curing solution from a range of five modular models each specifically scaled to cover the performance and capacity needs of easily identified areas of application. The range takes strength from being well tried and tested which avoids an obvious potential problem element of individual bespoke assembly. The area where customers can more readily specify their operating needs is control and here LBBC may have a few surprises. Having their own in-house control facility puts LBBC Thermoclaves® themselves well in control and well ahead in adapting new advances in technology and developing ideas to ease and extend process monitoring. With control such a key factor in managing the complexities of consistency in advanced composites curing, LBBC can equip each modular unit with the precise range of control dedicated to the precise intended application and the customers individual method of operation.

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Lindman launches new window system

2nd August 2002 0 comments

Lindman, best known for its composite doorsets, has launched a complete suite of windows made in pultruded frame material which is expected compete strongly against PVCu systems as well as commercial aluminium applications. A new company, Lindman Fenestration, will manufacture and supply Pultec Window Systems, made from pultruded, glass reinforced, thermosetting resins, a product at the very cutting edge of plastics technology from a process protected by patents. Lindman will target two markets initially – the housing sector and commercial windows, including curtain walling. Chris Dixon, Lindman’s managing director, says: ‘Fibreglass has long been regarded as the coming ‘Messiah’ for windows and the natural successor to PVCu, although – until now – no other complete system has been offered in the UK. With 15 years’ experience and credibility as the pioneer and established market leader of fibreglass composite residential doors, Lindman has the best platform from which to introduce Pultec.’ The Pultec range is claimed to have many advantages over extruded PVCu, with a 200 per cent increase in life expectancy which should appeal to the more discerning architect in all market sectors where ‘best value’ is required. It is guaranteed for 20 years, but has a life expectancy of over 50 years. The Pultec profile is load bearing, like aluminium, but needs no metal reinforcing inserts, like PVCu. Therefore, far larger windows and glazing screens can be produced than is possible with PVCu – but without the thermal disadvantages of aluminium. For architects who specify aluminium in commercial and public buildings, the appeal of Pultec will lie in its high performance characteristics and the degree of accuracy and detail in the finished product, which is obtained through the state-of-the-art thin wall pultrusion process. Pultec Window Systems will also compete with aluminium on price while providing a more versatile appearance. The systems are available in all today’s popular window designs – traditional open out casements including bay windows, with side hung and top hung vents; vertical sliding sash windows; tilt and turn windows; horizontal sliders for larger applications like schools and hospitals where conventional openings are not appropriate; and patio doors including a full panoramic design. Lindman Fenestration will offer a full installation service. Pultec Window Systems will be available for installation from September 2002 onwards.

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Army Considering New 'Level of Technology' For Apache

9th August 2002 0 comments

The Army is considering a series of upgrade to its Apache attack helicopters that would include a new composite rotorblade. “”We’ve had a composite rotorblade in development for a number of years now and we’re looking also to then bring that forward,”” said Col. Ralph Pallotta. “”The existing rotorblade is 1970s technology, it’s a composite and it’s a metal rotorbalde. It’s got four spars and because of that it’s difficult to assemble and difficult to maintain.”” However, Pallotta cautioned that the Apache’s current rotorblade has demonstrated a lot of resilience, especially after taking hits during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. That resistance will need to be emulated in the new rotorblade, he said.

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IMSA buys Lightfield

9th August 2002 0 comments

The steel company Grupo IMSA has acquired the Spanish Lightfield company, Europe’s second largest producer of fiber-glass reinforced plastic laminates, for an amount of around US$10.4mil. The acquisition, by means of IMSA’s Empresas Stabilit subsisiary, will give Stabilit 65% of the Spanish market, as well as a strong presence in France and Portugal. The purchase is IMSA’s first step in its plan to expand in Europe as Lightfield currently has a 35% share in the total European market.

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ZCL Composites Inc. Accepts Equity Proposal

9th August 2002 0 comments

ZCL Composites has accepted a financing proposal from ARC Financial Corporation. “”This financing sets the stage for ZCL to move to the next level. It is an important step to implement our growth strategy and provides the funds we need to repay our debenture which is due on November 30, 2002,”” says Ven Côté, President & CEO of ZCL. “”ARC is the type of partner that understands our industry and our business and shares our vision for the Company.””

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Researchers at UCLA Create Better Materials by Emulating Spiders' Techniques

9th August 2002 0 comments

Researchers at UCLA believe that the secret to creating stronger, better materials may be solved by studying an unlikely source: the common spider. Engineers can improve the design and processing of materials by emulating some of the spider’s web-spinning abilities, enhancing the functionality of a medley of products, from tennis rackets to stealth bombers, according to Thomas Hahn, mechanical and aerospace professor at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Frank Ko, a materials engineering professor from Drexel University. “”Spiders are remarkable in a number of ways,”” said Ko, who is spending a sabbatical at UCLA. “”The silk they produce has a rare combination of strength and toughness, meaning that not only can it hold relatively heavy objects, it can stretch great lengths without snapping.”” Lab tests by Ko revealed that spider silk is also highly resistant to degradation and can be spun in air or underwater. Both the fibrous form of spider silk and its extremely fine nature – as fine as .02 microns – also hold distinct advantages. For engineers asked to design materials for today’s consumer and industrial markets, reproducing the properties inherent in spider silk is very attractive. “”Normally we can make material very strong, but at the expense of toughness. And we can make things very tough, but at the expense of strength. Combining the two characteristics – as the spider does – is our challenge,”” Hahn said. In January, Ko, who has spent years examining the engineering properties of spider silk, joined his longtime friend and colleague Hahn at UCLA to conduct a number of research projects, influenced in part by their fascination with the spider. Hahn, for example, is taking nanoparticles provided by UCLA chemistry professor Richard Kaner and putting them into polymers to make stronger and more functional nanocomposites. Starting with a basic polymer – similar to the biological material the spider uses to spin its web – Hahn adds nanoparticles with certain properties to tailor composites for different functions. “”A spider has the impressive ability to change the properties of the silk it produces for different tasks,”” Ko said. “”There is a similarity to what we are trying to do.”” For example, by adding graphite nanoplatelets, Hahn can create a material with greater electromagnetic capabilities, including high conductivity, an important property for aircraft. “”You would no longer have to worry about electromagnetic waves and electrostatic charges that can interfere with the performance of electronic components,”” Hahn said. And the alternative could have dangerous consequences. “”If lightning strikes a wing that is made of poorly conducting materials, it will leave a big hole in the wing,”” he said. The ability to add functionality to a composite benefits a host of industries. Hahn, who has worked closely with the U.S. Navy and Air Force for 30 years, points out that in the aerospace industry in particular there is a strong incentive to use high-performance materials. Space applications, satellites and stealth aircraft all require high precision, temperature control, stiffness control, stability and radar absorption. Though such tailoring of materials has long been common using micron-sized particles, Hahn uses nano-sized particles to add functionality. “”When you use micron-sized particles, strength is decreased,”” Hahn said. “”Using nanoparticles may allow us to add function such as electromagnetic properties without sacrificing strength.”” Ko explained further. “”In general, nanotechnology allows us to get down to something called the quantum effect. This effect describes how performance can be enhanced exponentially, chemical reactions can occur much more quickly, electrons move faster, heat is conducted much better. Because of the fineness of the material, and the cohesion between the atoms, the material is much stronger,”” he said. In other words, things are enhanced. Sensors can detect parts per billion instead of million, batteries last longer without recharging and a stiffer tennis racket can improve a player’s game. While Hahn experiments with adding functionality to nanocomposites, Ko is focused on fibers and nanocomposites in fiber form. Ko believes that an important aspect of spiders’ silk is the fibrous form it takes. While a spider is able to manufacture its strands of silk with seemingly no effort, humans must use processes such as electrostatic spinning, or “”electrospinning,”” to make nano-scale fibers. Electrospinning is a process capable of producing fibers less than 100 nanometers in diameter – 1000 times smaller than a human hair. An electric charge is used to “”spin”” a liquid polymer from a needle-shaped device onto a ground plate. The resulting nanofibers are of substantial scientific and commercial interest because the ultra-fine spun materials provide unusually high porosity and surface area, with very small pore sizes. The advantage of the fiber form, Ko said, is that fibers can make very conformable, flexible structures. “”A solid sheet, for example, cannot be conformed in as many ways as a fiber-shaped structure can,”” Ko said. “”Think of a piece of paper compared to a string. In fiber form we can shape it into more geometric shapes.”” For the same reasons Hahn inserts nano-sized particles into a polymer to enhance its properties, Ko says nano-scale fibers are in many ways better than larger micron-sized fibers. “”Nanofibers have more surfaces to work with,”” Ko said. “”When you have very small-diameter material in a linear form, you get a lot of surfaces and more reaction sites for a chemical to attach to, and to react with. So you get a lot more interaction from the material for the same amount of mass.”” Potential applications for materials made with nanoparticles are well-known and wide-ranging, including notebook computers, hydrogen energy storage, building construction and drug delivery. The field of electronics is being affected as well, with wires and electronic devices shrinking in size but growing in power and speed. Consumer and industrial product manufacturers are even using nanotechnology as a marketing tool, with one Los Angeles sporting goods shop selling tennis rackets with “”carbon nanotubes”” in the handle. Spiders may hold yet more answers for engineers working to make better materials and ultimately, improved products, suggests Ko, who considers the arachnid’s silk to be one of nature’s most impressive materials. “”We can learn much from the spider,”” Ko said. “”There are still mysteries left to solve.””

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Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

9th August 2002 0 comments

Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Technical Services Division, based in Greenbelt, MD, has been awarded a two-year $22 million contract for engineering support services for NASA’s upcoming Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission. Under the contract, which Orbital will carry out at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Kennedy Space Center, the company will develop payload integration hardware for the Space Shuttle and provide engineering support for actual mission operations. For the upcoming HST servicing mission, Orbital is developing a new lightweight composite carrier unit to maximize the payload capacity of the Shuttle, increasing the amount of hardware that can be installed into the space-based telescope. “”Orbital’s continued involvement in the Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions is a real source of pride for all Orbital employees,”” said Mr. Richard Hicks, Orbital’s Vice President and head of its Technical Services Division. “”To play a role in maintaining one of man’s greatest accomplishments in space is a very rewarding experience. We look forward to offering our continued support to Lockheed Martin and NASA in the next servicing mission of this marvelous observatory,”” Mr. Hicks concluded. Orbital is one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of affordable space systems for commercial, civil government and military customers. The company’s primary products include low-orbit, geostationary and planetary spacecraft for communications, scientific and remote sensing missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense boosters that are used as target and interceptor vehicles. Orbital also offers space-related technical services to government agencies and develops and builds satellite-based transportation management systems for public transit and public works agencies, as well as private vehicle fleet operators.

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Goodrich Ships Composite Sonar Domes for USS Virginia Submarine

9th August 2002 0 comments

Goodrich shipped two composite sonar domes to General Dynamic’s Electric Boat Corporation for installation on the US Navy’s new Virginia class of fast attack submarines. Manufactured at Goodrich’s Jacksonville, Florida, Engineered Polymer Products Division facility, these large composite structures house and protect the sonar transducer — a highly sophisticated piece of technology that serves as the virtual eyes and ears of a submarine. According to Jerry LaReau, Division President and General Manager, “”This shipment culminates a six-year, $21 million effort which included process design and qualification, tooling design and fabrication, company-funded facility improvements and, finally, the manufacturing of the domes. We are extremely pleased to be a member of Electric Boat’s team and proud to supply these critical components for the US Navy’s most advanced submarine.”” During a ceremony commemorating the shipment of the domes, Blair Decker, Manager, Materials Management at Electric Boat Corporation, added, “”Today is a proud moment in the production of the First Virginia Class Submarine, the dedicated men and women of Goodrich are delivering the first sonar domes to Electric Boat. This major milestone culminates thousands of hours of hard work and dedicated effort by the Goodrich team. Electric Boat and the U.S. Navy are proud to have worked side by side with the Goodrich employees in reaching this exciting event and we look forward to a continued relationship in the future. The city of Jacksonville should be proud of the contribution that this facility has made to the defense and security of the United States of America.”” Goodrich is currently under contract for an additional three domes and expects to supply the order by December 2003. Goodrich has been supplying sonar domes for surface combatants and submarines to the U.S. Navy and other allied navies around the world for over thirty-five years. The company also specializes in the design, development and manufacture of advanced composite products and acoustic materials for other naval, aerospace and commercial applications. With 2001 aerospace sales of $4.2 billion, Goodrich Corporation is a leading worldwide supplier of aerospace components, systems and services. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Goodrich is ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the “”Most Admired”” aerospace companies and is included on Forbes magazine’s “”Platinum List”” of America’s best big companies.

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Silmar Brand Volume Enhanced Resin Introduced

9th August 2002 0 comments

Interplastic Corporation’s Thermoset Resins Division’s Cast Polymer Development Laboratory have introduced the latest Silmar® brand resin, SIL94BA-2000 Volume-Enhanced Resin. This new marble/onyx resin was designed for dual-purpose applications. It is claimed to have the unique ability to uniformly encapsulate microscopic air within the matrix, enabling parts to be lighter. As a corollary, matrix volume will increase while resin consumption will decrease. A typical marble manufacturing operation should see a parts increase of 5 to 7 percent. In addition, parts appear brighter.

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