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Composites Industry News

News for June 2003


Shikibo Develops New Production Technology

2nd June 2003 0 comments

Shikibo Ltd has developed a production technology for carbon-fiber composite materials that can be used to make large, complex shapes for rocket tail fins, frames and other main components. Shikibo has developed a device that can accurately line up about 600 carbon fibers in one movement and layer them, among other tasks. This enables users to simultaneously and three-dimensionally sew large amounts of carbon fibers. Technically, the device can simultaneously control several thousand carbon fibers and create structures up to 20-30 meters long. The company aims to apply the technology for mass production in four or five years with the cooperation of plane manufacturers and other firms.

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New Porsche Relies on F1 Technology

2nd June 2003 0 comments

The two-seat Carrera GT is potentially up there with the Ferrari Enzo as one of the most powerful, engrossing and costly road cars. Porsche is planning to build a maximum of 1,500 Carrera GTs and says that, globally, a majority of them already have buyers. When they get their hands on their car, they will be able to reach 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and, where such things are allowed, 124 mph in 9.9 seconds. At 5.7 litres, the power unit is a couple of hundred cc larger than Porsche’s sports racing car engine. But impressive though it all is, it is not enough for Porsche. Renowned for the quality, reliability and longevity of its products, it wanted to create something with outstanding road dynamics. So the really high technology element of the Carrera GT is the use of F1 and aerospace materials, particularly carbon fibre, to make a super-light but super-stiff structure. The car’s wheels are made of magnesium and Porsche has even managed to halve the weight of the car’s two carbon fibre bucket seats. Michael Hölscher, Porsche’s Carrera GT Project Manager, says that it is only in F1 that such no-compromise automotive applications are adopted, and that Porsche’s use of new materials and development of existing types to reduce weight and increase strength, has never before been achieved in the development of similar series production cars.

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Flax-and-Earth Houses Enter Testing Stage

2nd June 2003 0 comments

Maori engineers are going back to the land in a $1 million project to build earth houses with flax reinforcing. The project could let whanau and hapu groups build houses more cheaply than present timber construction methods, using earth and flax from their own land. The initial research, which includes building earth and timber houses to the same floor plan for comparison, will be funded by $1.1 million over the next five years from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology’s built environment fund. Project leader Kepa Morgan, 40-year-old associate dean (Maori) of the Auckland University engineering school, had already built two flax-reinforced earth walls in 1996-98, while heading Te Runanga o Ngati Pikiao, a tribal group near Rotorua. “”We had a papakainga [tribal housing] unit,”” he said. “”We had exhausted the cost-efficiencies of timber construction and wanted to look for alternative approaches. “”So we looked at earth. We knew it had problems with ductility [toughness], so we came up with fibre reinforcement with flax.”” The group worked out the best kind of soil to use, the best length of flax and the proportions of flax and earth. When the two walls were tested, the Machines – not the walls – failed. For the next phase, Mr Morgan has teamed with Unitec architecture lecturer Rau Hoskins and two other engineering academics at Auckland University, Manu and Arahia Burkhardt Macrae. They plan to build one earth and one timber house, plus earth garages and laundries. “”With timber we are looking at a 50-year time frame,”” Mr Morgan said. “”If we go to an earth structure, that’s going to have a time frame of 200 years or more, and in that context it’s more appropriate to the inalienable Maori land tenure. “”We are looking for cost advantages over timber and a better quality of environment inside the house – to try and get a more consistent temperature and better control of humidity, which is important for asthma and other things. Timber doesn’t have the mass to hold the heat.”” He said flax was “”compatible”” with earth, whereas reinforcing it with steel or fibreglass tended to develop failures. Mr Hoskins said the flax would be cut into 8cm lengths and mixed into the earth flat on a surface. It would then be compacted into a mould and raised to form a wall, like a concrete slab wall. Mr Morgan said the earth walls and floor of a 100sq m house would weigh about 25 tonnes.

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UK Government Funds £1.4m Project

2nd June 2003 0 comments

The UK Industry Minister Alan Johnson has announced £1.4 million of DTI funding to help a partnership led by Finite Element Analysis Ltd, and Advanced Composites to develop a UK capability for high precision composite moulding. The PRECIMOULD PLUS project will investigate and develop the technologies required to eliminate distortions during manufacture. The “right first time” manufacture of structures made from composite materials is intended to avoid scrap, reduce re-work and assembly costs and reduce time to market. Finite Element Analysis Ltd, developers of the LUSAS finite element system, and the composite materials business Advanced Composites Group Ltd, will be partnered by the UK aerospace companies Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast and BAE SYSTEMS who will evaluate this new moulding technology. Alan Johnson said: “I am delighted that the government can help the development of this important technology. This is a great opportunity for the UK materials industry and highlights how small companies can bring value to our UK aerospace industry. The research will lead to improvements in the accuracy of manufacture of aircraft structures with significant cost savings for the aircraft industry, and will benefit the manufacture of composite components for other applications. Increased use of composite materials in aerospace will reduce aircraft weight and bring environmental benefits such as reduced fuel burn and lower emissions. PRECIMOULD PLUS will research fundamental composite materials and processing issues, the development of predictive modelling of tool shapes and the composite materials to be moulded and the validation of the modelling work on representative composite structures.

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SP To Launch WE90 At Europe’s Largest Wind Energy Conference

2nd June 2003 0 comments

SP has developed a range of prepreg products targeted at the wind energy market, including WE90 – a high flow, epoxy prepreg suited to the manufacture of thick sections found in wind turbine blade components. WE90 can be cured at temperatures from 85°C as well as rapid manufacture of components through a 45-minute cure at 120°C.

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Interplastic Receives Governor's Safety & Health Award

2nd June 2003 0 comments

Interplastic’s Thermoset Resins Division’s Ft. Wright, Kentucky Manufacturing Plant and Research and Development Laboratory have been awarded the Governor’s Safety & Health Award. The award is presented in recognition of the facilities over 250,000 man-hours without a lost time accident.

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Carbon Fiber Hood for Corvette

2nd June 2003 0 comments

General Motors will offer a carbon fiber hood on 2,000 to 3,000 special edition Corvettes for the 2004 model year. Working with General Motors and Toray Composites, MacLean Vehicle Systems (MVS) has developed, qualified and produced of a lightweight, structurally stiff carbon fiber hood for GM’s 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Commemorative Edition. The hoods are supplied to GM’s Bowling Green, Kentucky assembly plant where they will be processed identically to current production fiberglass body panels. Between 2,000 and 3,000 Corvettes will be fitted with the carbon fiber hood for the 2004 model year. The hoods are produced in West Jordan, UT at MacLean Quality Composites, an operating unit of MVS. “”This application of carbon fiber is a major innovation, marking a significant milestone in performance and value for the industry,”” says Dave Hill, Vehicle Line Executive and Chief Engineer for the Chevrolet Corvette. “”It helps further celebrate Corvette’s racing success, and is a very appropriate addition to the Z06, the Corvette for the extreme performance enthusiast.”” The carbon fiber hood is claimed to represent the first time the material has been used as original equipment for a painted exterior panel on a North American-produced vehicle. Weighing only 20.5 lbs, the carbon fiber hood is 10.6 lbs. lighter than the standard fiberglass SMC hood. The painted, class-A outer skin is only 1.2 mm (0.048 inch) thick, whereas SMC typically runs 2.0 to 2.5 mm thick. The exterior skin panel is fabricated from 100 percent carbon fiber/epoxy prepreg, while the inner structure is a hybrid of carbon fiber SMC and low density fiberglass SMC. The finished assembly has passed all GM requirements for strength, stiffness and durability. The MVS process relies on cellular manufacturing and a combination of automated and manual techniques. As in aerospace components, an autoclave is used, however, the unidirectional carbon/epoxy prepreg, supplied by TCA, is formulated to fully cure in only 10 minutes at 300ºF. This unidirectional epoxy prepreg is a proprietary formulation of G83C quick cure resin and Torayca T600SC standard modulus carbon fiber. The P3831C prepreg was specially developed for GM and meets the stringent structural design and class-A surface finish requirements of the Corvette hood. It also withstands the high temperatures of the prime and paint ovens. The prepreg is automatically cut into patterns and oriented in multiple directions to achieve balanced strength and stiffness properties. A significant challenge for MVS was the development of a mold release compatible with existing GM power wash and approved paint systems without the need to scuff sand or solvent wipe the molded components. To achieve the 2004 model year volumes and provide tooling durable enough for years of aftermarket production, Invar, a nickel/iron alloy was selected for the molds. Following cure, the hood outer skins are removed from the mold, automatically routed, and urethane adhesive robotically applied. The outer skins are bonded to the compression molded inner panels and a primer applied prior to delivery to Bowling Green. The hood is believed to be the highest production volume of a single carbon fiber component using aerospace autoclave technology and the first use of Invar tooling for serial automobile components. “We expect this project is the first of many automotive applications for our carbon fiber technology, from body panels to structural components,” emphasizes Jeff Keller, VP and General Manager, Plastics and Composites for MVS.

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World's First Carbon Nanofiber Bridge Debuts

2nd June 2003 0 comments

University of Dayton (UD) SAMPE Student Chapter members recently constructed what they believe is the world’s first bridge to contain carbon nanofibers, dubbed the ‘World’s First Carbon Nanofiber Bridge’.

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7E7 Team Close to a Decision on Composites

2nd June 2003 0 comments

Boeing’s 7E7 team is apparently closing in on a decision to use composites rather than advanced aluminum for major structures such as the fuselage. However there are still technical and cost issues that need to be resolved. Mike Bair, 7E7 program vice president, is expected to provide more details of the material choices to be used on the proposed aircraft when he briefs reporters about the plane at next month’s Paris Air Show. Last week, Bair spoke to a group of industry analysts about the 7E7 behind closed doors at Boeing’s investor conference in California. One analyst who sat in on that briefing said Bair told them that composites were likely to be used for major 7E7 structures. Boeing already is quietly working with the Federal Aviation Administration on all-important certification issues for a 7E7 that would use more composites than current jetliners, according to industry sources. The growing use of composite structures on airplanes came under closer examination after the crash in 2001 of an American Airlines jet shortly after takeoff from New York’s Kennedy Airport. The Airbus A300’s tail, made of a non-metallic composite material, snapped off before the plane crashed, killing all 260 people on board and five on the ground. The A300 is an older Airbus model. Boeing jetliners contain composite pieces, but their widespread use for large airframe structures such as the wings and fuselage has been limited. The horizontal and vertical tail of the 777, Boeing’s last all-new plane, is made from composites. The Airbus A380 super-jumbo now in development will make greater use of composites than current Boeing or Airbus jets — but far less than the 7E7 if Boeing decides to go that way. Not including Glare, composites will make up about 22 percent of the A380 by weight, according to Airbus. Glare, which provides about a 15 to 30 percent weight savings over aluminum, is a glass fiber, reinforced aluminum composite. Much of the upper fuselage skin of the A380 will be made of Glare. Boeing has previously said it probably won’t use Glare on the 7E7. Boeing late last year abandoned development of the sonic cruiser in favor of the 7E7, which is expected to be as much as 20 percent more fuel-efficient than today’s jetliners such as the 767. But in addition to engine improvements, some of that efficiency gain will come from the use of new materials. In an interview earlier this year, Walt Gillette, head of 7E7 development for Boeing, said aluminum makers wanted a crack at the 7E7. Some makers of aluminum had showed Boeing new advanced alloys that met Boeing’s weight and strength requirements for the 7E7, Gillette said. In order to perform as well as composites, the new aluminum alloys need to be about 20 to 30 percent stronger that what is currently available. “”We are having a great competition between aluminum companies and composite companies,”” Gillette said at the time. The composite companies have apparently won, although sources said that if Boeing encounters technical problems on a composite 7E7 it could still always use aluminum. It’s not clear, however, how that might affect the efficiency gains. Boeing has said it hopes to name its key 7E7 suppliers and partners later this year. It already has technical agreements with some of the world’s leading composite makers. John Triplett, director of Structural Composites in Frederickson, near Tacoma, appears confident that a new moving-line manufacturing process will be used for the 7E7’s tail and wings. If so, Triplett anticipates that the tail of the new airplane would be made in Frederickson, a state-of-the-art center that produces the aluminum wings for all Boeing models except the 717 — as well as the composite tails for the 777 and the wing tips for the 767. Within the year, the new moving-line process will be applied to the current 777 tail-assembly line in the plant, which will serve as a proving ground for the 7E7. But the Frederickson composites facility is not large enough to manufacture 7E7 wings. Instead, Triplett said, wings would likely be outsourced to a major global risk-sharing partner and Boeing would turn over its new process to that supplier. Any partner given the wing work would have to contribute a hefty sum of development money, which Boeing has made a precondition for major participation in the 7E7 program. Sharing the work would also help secure airplane sales in a key overseas market. Though Triplett wouldn’t comment on where the wing work might go, Japan is the most likely candidate, having the capacity to do complex manufacturing, expertise in composites and a large jetliner market that Boeing dominates and wants to keep. In case the 7E7 is built elsewhere, managers from the fabrication division have been assessing options for shipping components from Frederickson out of state via the Port of Tacoma or rail. Liz Otis, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Fabrication division, said while it is “”too soon to conjecture”” how much of the 7E7 her division would build, the program would bring together suppliers “”who have a great deal of both knowledge and financial wherewithal.”” “”We’ll carve out a much different and more evolved relationship with our suppliers,”” she said. “”There’s going to have to be a greater level of trust and sharing amongst these partners so we get the best answer for The Boeing Company.”” “”The vision seems awfully short-term,”” said Charles Bofferding, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. “”By allowing an outside equity partner, you mortgage your future for a cash inflow now. That’s a way to get today’s product to market, but it isn’t the way to grow in the future.”” Sending wing manufacturing overseas — particularly an innovative process — raises the bar of technology transfer. “”If you can outsource the wings, you can outsource anything,”” Bofferding said. “”It’s a scary and slippery slope to step onto to start outsourcing core competencies. Wing design is certainly one of them.”” But Boeing managers view global outsourcing as simply a necessity given the cutthroat competition with Airbus and the historic industry downturn. The new plane would enter service with airlines in 2008, provided that the Boeing board of directors gives the green light to begin offering the plane to potential customers. That decision is expected late this year or early next. Boeing is talking with airlines about the configuration, size and range of its new plane. It probably will seat 200 to 250 passengers in three classes.

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Alcore Moves PAA Priming In-House

2nd June 2003 0 comments

Alcore has moved the priming line for their aluminum honeycomb into their Edgewood, Maryland facility. For more than fifteen years, the company has chosen to anodize the foil in-house, but apply the primer at an outside facility. After a recent facility consolidation opened up some additional floor space, the opportunity presented itself to put the priming line right alongside the anodizing line, in a move designed to shorten lead times and enhance product quality. “We always had plans to put the two lines under one roof”, said Alan Baldwin, President of Alcore. “By bringing the entire process into our facility, we’re going to have even more flexibility in product mix, as well as quicker turnaround times for delivery.”

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