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Composites Industry News

News for 2005


New GEnx Engine Advancing Unprecedented Use of Composites in Jet Engines

7th January 2005 0 comments

General Electric Company (GE) has initiated tests for its new GEnx engine that advance the use of composites in jet engines. The GEnx is the only jet engine being developed with both the front fan case and fan blades made of composite materials – a breakthrough that will provide greater engine durability and dramatic weight reduction.

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Self-Reinforced Plastics Making Inroads in the Automotive Industry

7th January 2005 0 comments

A new report by Frost and Sullivan states that unique properties will be the key to success for self-reinforced plastics.

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Airbus Confirm Long Range A350 Plans

7th January 2005 0 comments

Airbus has received approval from its shareholders, EADS and BAE Systems to begin making firm commercial offers to launch customers for two new members of its wide-body Family that will aim to compete with rival Boeing’s 7E7. Due to enter service in the first half of 2010, two years after the 7E7, the A350 models will complement the existing Airbus A330 and A340 product line and are expected to follow the A380 in utilising composite technology for wing design and other structural parts. It is anticipated that the increase in performance capabilities in the A350 will be brought about by an increased use of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and aluminium-lithium alloys. “The long range market is becoming more segmented in terms of size and range. Airbus has listened to its customers, who were interested in the medium size category with greater range to complement their current Airbus wide-body Families. As a result of this demand, we are now pleased to offer the A350, which, in addition to its intrinsic characteristics, is in the unique position of being a full member of a comprehensive airliner family, hence benefiting from an unmatched level of commonality”, said Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard on the occasion of the announcement. “We are now in the unique position to satisfy all airlines’ demands in the long range sector, from the 250 seater to the high capacity A380.”” The market for aircraft in the 250-300 seat category is estimated at some 3,100 new aircraft over the next 20 years, of which Airbus expects to get at least 50 per cent. The A350 will be offered in two versions. The A350-800 will typically seat 245 passengers in a long range three class configuration and have a range in excess of 8,600 nm / 15,900 km) providing ultra long range capability in this “medium size” seating category, and offering the lowest seat mile costs for this less dense long range market. Seating 285 passengers in a similar configuration, the A350-900 will have a range of more than 7,500 nm / 13,900 km, allowing operators to benefit from exceptionally low unit costs in the most competitive mainstream markets. The A350 models will benefit from technologies, materials and manufacturing processes used on the A380, and will draw from composite wing design and Airbus manufacturing know-how. Although eligible for a choice of engines, the initial A350s will be powered by two new generation General Electric engines which, thanks to new technologies, will generate a double-digit improvement in fuel efficiency. Airbus have confirmed that the A350 will typically carry 245-285 passengers over distances of up to 8,600 nm (15,900 km), providing airlines with longer range versions of the A330, which already accounts for over 60% of this market sector and with which the A350 will share a single type rating for pilots. The A350-800 offers airlines a range of up to 8,600 nm (15,900 km) in a three-class, 245 seat layout and under-floor space for six 96 inch x 125 inch (244 centimetre x 317 centimetre) cargo pallets (after provision for passenger baggage). The A350-900 offers a range of up to 7,500 nm (13,900 km) with 285 seats in a three-class configuration. The A350-900 has the lowest seat-mile cost of any like-sized airliner, making it attractive to A330-200 operators, who can easily add the higher capacity aircraft to their fleet and to airlines seeking a substantially more economic replacement for heavier, older twin aisle aircraft. The A350-900 is suitable on routes between all major European and US cities, between all major city pairs within the Asia/Pacific region and between emerging Middle East hubs and all major European, African and many Asian cities. These performance capabilities will be achieved thanks to the introduction of substantial technical and manufacturing innovations, notably those developed and implemented on the A380. Airbus’ proven expertise in the development and application of composites and innovative new materials will be used to incorporate a high percentage of lightweight structural materials, such as Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and aluminium-lithium alloys. For example, the A350 wing will be largely manufactured using CFRP. Furthermore, the A350 wing will deliver exceptional low and high-speed efficiency thanks to cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques and the integration of ‘droop nose’ technology from the A380. Improved manufacturing and assembly techniques, pioneered on other aircraft in the Airbus Family, such as the A318 and the A380, will provide additional weight reduction, while adding structural durability and decreasing maintenance costs. The A350 will follow the same production philosophy as the rest of the Airbus Family, with final assembly taking place in Toulouse.

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Hartlepool Recognises E&F Composite Contribution

14th January 2005 0 comments

A UK composite solutions and moulding company has collected a prestigious regional business award following the success of a strategic business u-turn. Hartlepool’s E&F Fibreglass business started off some 25 years ago specialising in the manufacture of fibreglass and polyurethane. But despite winning the Hartlepool Business of the Year Award in 1998, E&F were faced in 2001 with a strategic rethink following competition in their main market, tank containers, that threatened the survival of the company. Following a significant strategic rethink, E&F proceeded to re-invent itself as a composite solutions provider whilst maintaining the flexibility and innovation that remains part of the E&F philosophy. This vision led to a number of change initiatives, including a company re-branding exercise; major investment in closed mould technology; investment in 5 Axis CNC trimming technology; and development of people within E&F to support these investments. Now one of the top five composite moulders in the U.K., E&F currently employs 77 people and has now set up a second site (12000ft ) dedicated to the moulding of caravan parts for the leading manufacturer in the UK market, Swift Group. The Hartlepool Business Awards are held every 2 years to celebrate local achievement, supported by corporate sponsors such as the HSBC. Winning the Best Business 2004 Award largely reflects the success of the decision to transform the business, and the investments that were made in new closed mould technology and 5 axis CNC trimming capability.

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New Guide to Measure Environmental Impacts of Composites

14th January 2005 0 comments

A green guide to composites has been produced by two UK organisations to steer composite production towards a more eco-friendly future. The green guide to composites, available both as a publication and as a dynamic web based tool, has been developed by NetComposites and the Buildings Research Establishment, and part funded by the UK Department for Trade and Industry. The guide is an environmental profiling system for composite materials and products, which aims to further our understanding of the environmental and social implications associated with the manufacture of composite materials. The Guide published this week, has been produced as the output from a collaborative project, ‘A simplified guide to assessing environmental, social and economic performance for the composites industry (COMPASS)’, part funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry through the Sustainable Technologies Initiative. The production and content of this document has also been steered by a number of organisations, representing a cross-section of the composites industry. Whilst different processing techniques, such as closed mould processes, have sought to address some of the problems associated with composite processing, and alternative natural fibres such as hemp growing in popularity, there still remains some confusion in the industry as to the level of benefits that these alternatives provide. The paper and web based versions of the guide will enable the composites sector to not only understand the environmental and social impacts associated with composite production, but will also assist with the decisions made about material and process choice. Whilst Saint Gobain Vetrotex ,one of the organizations involved in the projects steering group, does not operate any of the processes studied in the compass project, Peter Thornburrow from Saint Gobain Vetrotex, was quick to comment on the usefulness of the guide for the industry. “The results of COMPASS will enable us to advise our customers on the environmental aspects of their chosen processes in manufacturing composite parts, and to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of alternative methods, with the knowledge that our advice will be based on sound, scientific, evaluation techniques.” The materials and processes modelled in the guide are rated from A (good) through to E (poor). Twelve different environmental impacts are individually scored and totalled to give an overall environmental impact summary rating. Two social impact ratings are also given. The environmental data in this Green Guide to Composites is generated using a technique known as Life Cycle Assessment. LCA is a method of measuring the environmental impacts of a product through its life cycle, often from the cradle to the grave. However, this Green Guide to Composites has studied the life cycle impacts from cradle to factory gate. Within the system boundaries for the LCA, three typical product types have been chosen to reflect a range of different components commonly manufactured using composites: A double curvature panel– this has a surface area of 1m2 with a panel stiffness equivalent to a 4mm thick chopped strand mat laminate. A flat sandwich panel– measuring 1m x 8m with a 25mm thick core, having a panel bending stiffness equivalent to a sandwich panel with a 4mm thick chopped strand mat skin. A complex moulded component– with a volume of 770cm3. Similarly, production processes and materials have been selected to provide a balance between systems that are commonly used across the majority of the composites industry and emerging materials with the potential to provide an environmental benefit. For this reason, materials such as hemp fibre and self-reinforced polypropylene have been included in the guide, but materials that are more specific to a single sector (eg aramid fibre) have not been included. Within each specific process there are still many processing variations (eg methods for mixing, curing and trimming) in addition to the material choice possibilities. To enable fair comparisons, a base case has been selected for each process. This is used throughout the guide to allow the merits of each process variation to be assessed. When undertaking the studies for the guide, data on impacts from the use of raw materials, energy, manufacturing and emissions associated with the product system under investigation were combined to provide an overall impact in each of the 12 environmental and 2 social impact categories. This approach provided a detailed breakdown of the performance of the product system across the common environmental and social categories. Within each product type, the results for each issue are then compared. For each issue, there will be a range, with the lowest (minimum) and highest (maximum) impact identified. The Green Guide to Composites is now available for under £30 GBP, more details available here The web version of the guide can be accessed from within the NetComposites site within our composites tool section here

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Ashland Support Carbon Fibre Solar Car

14th January 2005 0 comments

A solar-powered vehicle from the University of Michigan and supported by Ashland Specialty Chemical, was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Named MomentUM1 by the Michigan Solar Car Team, the car represents the innovative transportation materials and tailored solutions of Ashland. The vehicle, which uses Ashland’s Arotool 2001 resin and gel coat for the tooling, is made with a carbon-fibre epoxy body. “The University of Michigan was looking for low shrinkage and heat resistance in the creation of its solar-powered vehicle, and we were happy to deliver with our line of resins and gel coats,” said Larry (Dean) Doza, national sales manager, Ashland Composite Polymers.

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Ariel Develop Lightweight Performance Atom Sports Car

14th January 2005 0 comments

Ariel have developed a lightweight sports car with a defining tubular steel structure. Atom, the first Ariel production for 27 years, has been designed purely for ultimate driving performance and weighs only 500 kilos (approximately half the weight of a Ford Fiesta). Ariel, founded in 1898, is more widely known for their famous square 4 motorcycle and early Grand Prix cars and highly regarded for their technical innovation and advanced engineering. The Atom is the brainchild of Simon Saunders (46), Director of Ariel and a consultant automotive designer. Originally working on motorcycles, before designing for GM and subsequently Aston Martin, Saunders is uniquely placed to understand the requirements of the enthusiast who is looking for a pure performance vehicle. “”The Atom is designed to give the thrill of a single seat racing car or motorbike while remaining safe, legal and practical,”” says Saunders. The design of the Atom is based on the exposed bronze welded tubular steel space frame, which has been designed using sophisticated computer modelling and testing techniques and developed in a wind tunnel. The chassis construction also provides improved safety levels, being reinforced by integral front and rear rollover tubes. “”Safety is often a low priority on vehicles of this type and we were adamant that primary and secondary levels of safety on the Atom were kept as high as possible,”” says Saunders. All cars are also equipped with ‘E’ or FIA 4 point full harness seat belts. Bodywork has been kept to a minimum, but does consist of several composite panels to reduce weight, expense and repair costs. “”Exposing the mechanical components allows most adjustments, including suspension, to be made easily and quickly without removing any body panels”” says Saunders, “”but passengers are also fascinated to watch the steering, suspension and wheels working as you drive.”” The composites used for the car are all non-structural and primarily made up of cladding using polyester chopped strand mat. Saunders suggested to NetComposites that they would consider using carbon fibre panels in future production models especially with a view to keeping the weight down. Saunders added that use of carbon fibre for the Atom chassis was ruled out, certainly at this stage, as the Atom’s iconic reputation is based on its unusual tubular steel structure, which they would be reluctant to change. ”The problem with producing a similar tubular chassis, made from carbon fibre for example, is that there are research and development costs in producing a single carbon fibre mould, which they would need to get right pretty much first time. Such and exercise may prove to be too expensive a venture for small companies and too much of a risk.” Saunders added that any further development of composites would be with a project other than the atom.

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GE Advanced Materials Selects Schneller to Co-develop Interior Rail Structures

14th January 2005 0 comments

GE Advanced Materials has selected Schneller, manufacturer of engineered decorative laminates, to co-develop new grades of Indura GTform decorative laminate for interior rail applications formed with a Azdel Rail-Lite composite.

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General Motors Reinvent the Automobile with Sequel

14th January 2005 0 comments

General Motors next-generation fuel cell power system helps Sequel achieve a 300-mile range and 0-60 mph acceleration in less than 10 seconds, while emitting only water vapour. “”Sequel is the first fuel cell vehicle in the industry that delivers the range and performance people expect from their current vehicles, bringing us that much closer to commercialization,”” said Byron McCormick, executive director of GM’s Fuel Cell Activities. The fuel cell power module consists of the actual fuel cell stack, the hydrogen and air processing subsystems, the cooling system and the high-voltage distribution system. This power module delivers 73 kW of high-voltage power for the electric traction motors, as well as auxiliaries like HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), by-wire electronics and the battery. “”The system design has evolved and the components are becoming simpler, which is helping drive down the cost of technology and bringing us one step closer to reality,”” said Daniel O’Connell, head of GM Fuel Cell Product Engineering in Honeoye Falls. Hydrogen introduced into the fuel cell is now directly converted to electric power to drive unprecedented torque control of all wheels. The two rear wheel hub motors including two inverters, as well as the power inverter module for the front electric motor, are developed by GM’s Advanced Technology Center in Torrance, Calif. A high-voltage, lithium ion battery system provides extra power to the three electric motors during acceleration. It also stores power regenerated during braking to help extend the vehicle’s overall mileage range. Engineers at a GM fuel cell facility in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, integrated the fuel cell propulsion system into the vehicle package. The engineers linked the drive motor development with the rest of the system for a complete, vehicle-level, system solution. This led to an increase in the overall efficiency. It makes more power with less hydrogen, improving the performance and day-to-day operation. GM’s next-generation fuel cell also uses a new air intake system that is more efficient, quieter and lighter than its predecessor. The fuel cell stack, along with the cylindrical hydrogen storage tanks, is housed in a unique “”skateboard”” floor. Additional radiators are located under the Sequel’s hood, directly behind the headlights, and in the rear of the vehicle, behind the taillights. These necessary design features help pull heat away from the fuel cell system, allowing Sequel to operate in hotter ambient temperatures. “”A fuel cell system is more efficient than an internal combustion engine, but its energy conversion is totally different and requires much more heat to be removed via the coolant,”” said Lothar Matejcek, project manager, GM Fuel Cell Activities, Mainz-Kastel. “”With its three openings in the front, the extra opening for the HVAC and the two additional openings in the rear, you can easily recognize that Sequel was designed for heat rejection. We expect excellent performance at high ambient temperatures, typical of what you would experience in the desert.”” Within the novel skateboard floor are three cylindrical tanks. The carbon-fibre material, supplied by Toray Industries, of Tokyo, Japan, is strong and wraps the all-composite tanks. It provides a storage tank that is lighter than comparable metal tanks. The all-composite tanks have been validated to extremely stringent safety and performance standards representing harsh operating environments. “”Our skateboard chassis with the three-tank design is an excellent approach to providing a vehicle with a 300-mile vehicle range, without compromising overall interior and trunk space for the customer,”” said Chris Borroni-Bird, director of GM’s Design and Technology Fusion Group and program director for Sequel. “”Hydrogen storage technology will continue to evolve and, as improvements are made, we will translate this into greater range and smaller packaging designs.”” Hundreds of GM engineers and researchers and nearly 200 suppliers around the world have contributed to the technology infused in the Sequel’s fuel cell power module and propulsion system. “”The giant strides in efficiency and production viability, as seen in Sequel, simply would not have been possible without this large network of capabilities,”” said McCormick. “”Bringing these great minds together for such an important cause demonstrates GM’s commitment to fuel cells.””

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University Research in Carbon Fibre Promises New Commercial Applications

14th January 2005 0 comments

The University of Tennessee Space Institute’s newest research promises numerous commercial benefits including durable materials for improved road pavement and transportation systems. Armed with a $950,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, UTSI will develop new low-cost carbon fibre production technologies with varied commercial applications. “We’re fortunate that our Professor Ahmad Vakili has been working for several years with the U.S. fibre industry, helping them solve problems that require the expertise of an aerospace engineer,” Dr. Joel Muehlhauser, UT assistant vice president and dean of research and development at UTSI, said. “This has resulted in a unique opportunity to pursue such efforts at UTSI.”

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