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Composites Industry News

News for November 2002


Sumitomo Electric Develops High-Strength Magnesium Alloy Pipe

2nd November 2002 0 comments

Sumitomo Electric Industries has developed a high-strength magnesium alloy pipe that is 20 percent stronger than extruded magnesium alloy bars. The pipe’s strength and light weight make it suitable for use in a wide range of applications: automotive and electronic parts, medical and welfare apparatus such as wheelchairs and stretchers, and leisure and sporting goods such as bicycles and tennis rackets. For the time being, SEI expects demand for the magnesium alloy pipe for use as a substitute for high value-added materials that use carbon fiber reinforced plastic. SEI will continue to reduce costs and improve corrosion resistance and seek new applications. Magnesium is one-quarter the density of iron and about two-thirds the density of aluminum.

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1 Billion dollar Market for Specialty Materials in Fuel Cells

2nd November 2002 0 comments

Despite the sluggish economy and pessimism about high- technology sectors, raw material companies and component manufacturers are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel cell development. Fuel cells are electrochemical energy devices that convert the chemical energy released when hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water directly into electrical energy. Production of fuel cells is projected to grow at rates exceeding 40% per year over the next decade. Applications for fuel cells include any device that currently uses electricity (either from batteries or the electric grid) or an internal combustion engine (ICE) for power. End uses range from automobiles and heavy trucks to complete homes and portable electronics like cell phones and laptops. Principia Partners has completed a study of the materials requirements in fuel cells. The report, entitled Materials Opportunities in Fuel Cell Technologies – 2002 and Beyond, predicts that the market for fuel cells could reach $20 billion by 2010, creating an estimated demand for specialty materials of $1.1 billion in that year. There are several major types of fuel cells including: Proton exchange membrane (PEM) Solid oxide (SOFC) Phosphoric acid (PAFC) Molten carbonate (MCFC) Each of these fuel cells is in different stages of development, has different application potential, and utilizes different material technologies. Specialty materials are used to fabricate various components of the fuel cells, including electrodes, current collectors, membranes, bipolar plates, catalysts, and the housings for these components. PAFCs are commercially available and hundreds of units have already been installed in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, utility power plants, and for numerous other large, stationary applications. PAFCs typically use electrodes made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), carbon black and platinum metals. This type uses electrode supports of carbon fiber fabric, silicon carbide (bound with PTFE) for electrolyte support and graphite separators. MCFCs use a liquid solution of lithium, sodium and/or potassium carbonate soaked in a matrix for an electrolyte. Their high operating temperature require anodes of nickel or chromium, cathodes of lithium-nickel-oxide or lithium carbonate and bipolar plates of specialty metals. MCFCs have been successfully used in Italy and Japan for stationary power in utility plants and landfills. PEMFCs are perhaps the most interesting type of fuel cell. They operate at low temperature, have high power density, and can quickly vary output, making them the favored fuel cell for ground transportation applications. They are constructed from a proton conducting membrane usually made of a high temperature polymer such as PTFE, polyethersulfone, ethylene-styrene interpolymer, polybenzimidazole, liquid crystal polymer or polyaryletherketone. They have precious metal catalysts and current collectors/electrode supports of carbon paper or fabric. SOFC is another high power fuel cell, with potential for stationary power, and some potential for use in automobiles. Because SOFCs also operate at high temperatures, they utilize such ceramic materials as yttria-stabilized zirconia electrolytes, bipolar plates of magnesia-doped rare earths, anodes of nickel/zirconia oxide and cathodes of ceria rare earths. The forecast for any of these fuel cell technologies is highly speculative, but that has not deterred all of the major plastics producers, ceramics companies, specialty metals suppliers and carbon products producers from investing heavily in this technology. It’s no surprise since an average PEM fuel cell stack could contain up to 100 pounds of plastics in bipolar and end plates. Obviously, the opportunities for material suppliers is significant. Consequently all of the major specialty plastics suppliers including DuPont, Dow, Honeywell, Ticona, and DSM have extensive fuel cell development programs. Specialty ceramics and carbon fiber/fabric/powder producers also face excellent growth opportunities. That is why Ballard Systems, a leading PEM fuel cell manufacturer, acquired Textron’s specialty carbon products business.

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U.S. Plastic Lumber Railroad Ties to Brazil

2nd November 2002 0 comments

U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp has received a purchase order to supply six hundred recycled Composite railroad ties, trademarked DuraTie, for Brazil. Michael McCann, chief operating officer of USPL, said, “”Although this is not as large an order as we have received from municipal transit authorities in the United States over the last few months, we believe this is a very exciting opportunity for USPL. Our Composite railroad ties have great benefits, including a life expectancy of many times longer than wood, especially in areas of the world with as much precipitation as countries like Brazil.”” National Sales Manager, Dan Brink, stated, “”The engineering group that we have worked with for the last three years has done a great deal of study which included visits to actual test locations, customer installations, and manufacturing facilities here in the United States while researching the benefits of this technology. After evaluating our crossties for the last several years, it is evident that they have made a commitment to the long term economic benefits that our composite rail ties can offer as well as the positive impact on the environment.”” The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association is developing specifications for plastic composite railroad ties.

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Composite Technology Days Comes To Europe

2nd November 2002 0 comments

Structural Composites Europe and Boeing have announced Composite Technology Days to be held November 13-15, 2002 at Composite and Technology Valley in the Netherlands. The program is designed to help support and advance the composites industry in Europe. The industry renowned Certified Composite Technician class will be held on November 13th and 14th. This certification program was developed by the Composite Fabricators Association (CFA) as part of its role to provide composite industry education. Scott Lewit CCT-I, President of Structural Composites, Inc. (USA) will be the instructor for the class. On November 15 the program moves to Closed Molding and Resin Infusion. The program features the infusion of a 5.5meter boat. Presentations on resin infusion and alternative closed molding process will give participants a practical view as to more environmentally friendly alternatives to open molding. The Infusion Workshop is free of charge. Space for both the CCT Class and the free Infusion Workshop is limited. Composite and Technology Valley is located in den Haag near Delft.

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Investments at CTL

2nd November 2002 0 comments

Due to the increase in the work load at CTL and the purchase of a new 250kN Zwick testing machine in May 2002, they will be moving into a new 500m2 test facility in the Spring of 2003. The new facility is located in Spiddal, Co. Galway, some 10 miles from their current location. They have also invested in ultrasonic ā€œCā€ scan equipment which will enable them to carry out NDT of monolithic test laminates, specimens and also sandwich components. This equipment is due for delivery early in the New Year. Their new website is also now on line.

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First 'Snunit' trainer aircraft land at Israel Air Force base

2nd November 2002 0 comments

The first three GROB G-120-AI trainers (“”Snunits””) were received thus week at the Hatzerim Israel Air Force base during a ceremony attended by the Commander of Israel Air Force, Elbit Systems management and other guests. The ten-year contract for operation of the aircraft was awarded to Elbit Systems by The Israeli Ministry of Defense in February 2002. Snunit Aviation Services, a company established by Elbit Systems and its subsidiary, Cyclone Aviation, will operate the new aircraft. GROB, the company that manufactures the “”Snunit””, is based in Germany and has been active in the field of aviation for three decades during which it has delivered over 3,500 aircraft to private customers and Air Forces all over the world. The “”Snunits”” will be integrated into the flight-training curriculum of Israel Air Force Flight Academy, replacing the currently used “”Pipers””, and may also be used for training phases now performed by the “”Tzukit”” aircraft. The “”Snunit”” is a modern trainer, built of composite materials and has excellent aerobatics capabilities and high safety levels.

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High Court Upholds Ford Case

2nd November 2002 0 comments

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday let stand a $290 million verdict against the Ford Motor Co. over a deadly 1993 rollover accident involving a Ford Bronco. The justices decided without comment not to review an appeal from the automaker, which in court papers called the verdict the nation’s largest personal injury award ever affirmed by an appeals court. The case involved a crash of a 1978 Bronco near Ceres, about 80 miles south of Sacramento, in which three members of the Romo family were killed and two others injured. The verdict was meant to punish Ford for what an appeals court found was “despicable conduct.” The Romo family’s attorney, Joe Carcione, said Ford knew the Bronco “would crush flat as a pancake in a rollover.” Ford attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr., echoing business interests that had urged the state’s high court to overturn the verdict, said the justices missed an opportunity to rein in runaway verdicts. “This is an extreme and unconstitutional award,” Boutrous said. “We plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn it.” “We think that it is obvious that putting on the market a motor vehicle with a known propensity to roll over and, while giving the vehicle the appearance of sturdiness, consciously deciding not to provide adequate crush protection to properly belted passengers constitutes despicable conduct,” Justice Steven Vartabedian wrote for the appeals court, which ruled 3-0. “Such conduct could kill people.” The Bronco’s roof was made partially of steel and fiberglass. As the vehicle rolled, the steel collapsed, killing Ramon Romo, the passenger in the front seat. The fiberglass also broke loose, striking and killing his wife, Salustia, and his child, Ramiro. All three were wearing seat belts. Two other children not wearing seat belts were thrown from the Bronco and injured. In its appeal, Ford said one juror was influenced by a TV news show in which lawyers alleged the automaker would rather litigate cases than correct defects. Ford also charged that another juror, during deliberations, described to fellow panelists an “omen” in which she dreamed that her child, and fellow jurors’ children, were killed by a Bronco. The verdict could have a serious effect on Ford’s bottom line. Chairman and chief executive William Clay Ford Jr. announced plans Monday to cut $1 billion in spending after reporting a third-quarter loss of $326 million.

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MAAX Completes the Acquisition of Aker Plastics

2nd November 2002 0 comments

MAAX Inc has finalized the acquisition of the shares of Aker Plastics Company, Inc., the third largest manufacturer of fiberglass bathroom products in the United States. Solidly established since 1967, Aker Plastics also manufactures acrylic bathroom products. It operates three plants: one in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and two in Plymouth, Indiana. Together they cover a total area of 365,000 square feet and employ some 800 people. The Company serves a distribution network of plumbing wholesalers and benefits from an excellent reputation for quality and service. The transaction is for a total consideration of US$78 million subject to certain adjustments, including US$64 million on the closing and US$14 million in notes payable over a three-year period. MAAX Inc. is a leading North American manufacturer of bathroom products and accessories, spas and kitchen cabinets.

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SETC Sets Guidelines for China's Building Materials Industry

2nd November 2002 0 comments

State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) poses new guidelines for the development of building materials industry in the near future, specifically including the commercialization of fiberglass products. 1. Dry-cement and bulk-cement making companies should focus on technology improvement to develop production lines with daily output reaching 2,000 or more tons, and to establish new dry predissociation kiln production line. Dry-processing cement lines with daily output exceeding 4000 tons are encouraged. Grog base should be built in the area which are rich in limestone. Modern cement grinding factories should be built near the cement markets. And bulk cement and commercial concrete mixing stations should be developed. 2. About new wall materials, the State encourages the development of concrete block lines with an annual output over 50,000 cubic meters per shift. Bubble-filled concrete block lines with annual output of 100,000 to 200,000 cubic meters should be developed. Sinter product lines with annual output of 15 million blocks, board material of both weight bearing and decorative and light-weight board line with an annual output over 150,000 square meters should be developed. 3. Develop the commercialization of wide fiberglass products and their use in transportation, electronic, energy and construction fields. Develop biological, medical and industrial filtration materials based on fiberglass to meet the demand for biological purification and industrial dust elimination. Develop various fiberglass products of high performance and multifunction. Develop fiberglass textile material. Develop the reinforced steel-substituting fiberglass which can be used as anti-corrosion materials in sea and wet salty air. Develop multi-axial knitted basketworks for vessel manufacturing and the production of blades of wind-driven generators. 4. Regarding non-metallic mines, government encourages to build large mineral processing bases and develop high value-added products in order to take part in the international competition. Develop material ultra-thin processing, purification, surface processing technologies. Develop plumbago high-purity micro powder, low-sulfur and expandable plumbago, liquid plumbago, plumbago absorbing materials, stuffing materials of pencil stone, calcium carbonate and kaolin, environmental protection materials made up of clay and the non-metallic nanometer materials.

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Flight 587 Probe Focuses on Tail

2nd November 2002 0 comments

The investigation into the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in New York last year involves many complex technical questions. The National Transportation Safety Board’s four-day public hearing on the accident began on Tuesday. NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said the agency probably won’t decide the probable cause of the crash until next year. It was the first crash of an Airbus aircraft in North America. Investigators have ruled out terrorism as a cause, as well as engine failure, fire and contact with birds. The plane crashed 103 seconds after taking off for the Dominican Republic from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The jet twice ran into the wake of a Boeing 747 five miles ahead of it, according to the NTSB. The rudder began to swing back and forth violently. Seven seconds later, the tail fin, which was made of a nonmetallic composite, started to break off. The plane plunged into a residential neighborhood. It was the first time the NTSB was aware of the in-flight failure of an aircraft’s major structural component made of composite materials. Investigators have learned since the accident that sharp rudder actions can put sufficient stress on the tail fin to cause it to snap off. In addition, the NTSB found that very slight pressure on the rudder pedal can cause severe rudder movements when flying at high speeds, which pilots may not have been aware of. Rudders help to keep a plane on course during landing or taking off in crosswinds and in case of engine failure; they’re rarely used at higher speeds in flight. The safety board urged the Federal Aviation Administration in February to make sure pilots are trained that moving the rudder back and forth may be dangerous even at low speeds previously thought to have been safe. The FAA agreed to the recommendation. Carol Carmody, the safety board’s acting chairwoman, said investigators are focusing on what caused the rudder’s movements and why the tail sheared off. The board will try to determine: Should the aircraft’s rudder be redesigned? Were the rudder movements caused by overreaction from the pilot to the turbulence? What are the psychological and physical effects of wake turbulence on pilots and on planes? What role did the tail’s nonmetallic composition play in the accident?

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