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Composites Industry News

News for April 2006


Special Announcement: Lotus Launches Composite-Bodied Pickup

1st April 2006 0 comments

Lotus Cars’ first light commercial vehicle, an Elise-derived composite-bodied pickup, rolled off the production line today. The Lotus Elise ‘Load Lugga’ is an Elise-derived flatbed that seeks to secure a slice of the ever-growing worldwide market for sportscar-derived pickup trucks. Using a Briggs and Stratton pull-start diesel engine, uniquely supercharged by Lotus’s own engineers, the Elise ‘Load Lugga’ is the first Lotus to marry advanced 4-wheel drive technology with the Lotus design philosophy of ‘performance through lightweight’. A useful 5kg payload, together with an optional towing hitch offering a further 10kg of load-hauling capacity, ensures the new Lotus will be equally at home carrying a small bag of sugar as an expanded polystyrene surfboard. With carbon fibre roof rails and perforated aluminium bull bars ensuring the new Elise derivative looks the part without compromising performance, hopes are high that 0-60mph acceleration is less than 3 seconds, and will have flatbed fans reaching for their chequebooks. An active payload management system, linked to the engine’s oil pressure control module, optimises ride and handling round even the sharpest bend, while big chunky tyres increase ground clearance to an all-terrain-conquering 4 inches. Trevor Houghton-Berry, Lotus Head of Commercial Operations looked to the future. ‘The Elise ‘Load Lugga’ is our first move into the lucrative LCV market and certainly lives up to the Lotus philosophy of ‘change the rules’. We like trucking and we like to truck!’ Mark O’Shaughnessy, Lotus USA Sales and Marketing Director commented, ‘We can no longer ignore Lotus’s big opportunity in the pickup market – we want a slice of the action and are gunning for a 0.0026% market share this year and 0.0027% next. The Elise ‘Load Lugga’ will be known as the F1.50 stateside and we are set to take the market by storm. 200 Lotus Elise F1.50’s in the first year? Bring them on………’

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Alliance Spacesystems to Merge with Vision Composites

2nd April 2006 0 comments

Alliance Spacesystems and Vision Composites will merge to bring together engineering and manufacturing expertise on projects ranging from Mars rover robotics to products for use in applications on Earth.

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Complet Capacity Increased at PlastiComp

2nd April 2006 0 comments

PlastiComp has installed an additional compounding line for Complet long fiber reinforced thermoplastic molding pellets in response to growing interest from customers. The new production line for Complet pellets boosts site capacity by 3 million pounds per year and Plasticomp says that it provides versatility to quickly respond to unique requests and reduce lead times to less than 10 days. Steve Bowen, President and CEO, said, “We are passionate about our vision, and customers continue to support our strategy with increased orders. We appreciate these customers and work extra hard to make them successful; whether that requires speed of delivery, consistency of product, or developing a new compound. Our goal is to raise the bar in meeting or exceeding our customers expectations.” The company is also the source for Pushtrusion direct in-line compounding technology.

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IAR Realise Belly Fairing of Gulfstream G 150

2nd April 2006 0 comments

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) chose the forward belly fairing of the new Gulfstream G150 business jet as a pilot project to apply Liquid Resin Infusion (LRI) to the manufacture of components for manned aircraft. The part has a very complex geometry and measures approximately 2 x 2 meters. Based on the main load cases (aerodynamic pressure and overpressure), a carbon fibre sandwich design using a high-performance Rohacell 71 RIST (Resin Infusion Structural) foam core was chosen. The tailormade structural foam core has 50 percent smaller cells than the Rohacell grades used for prepreg/autoclave manufacture. Due to the significantly lower viscosity of infusion resins, the use of smaller cells leads to less surface resin absorption and helps ensure good skin-to-core adhesion.. The manufacturing concept of the belly fairing is based on multifunctional use of the foam, which serves as the mandrel, preform carrier and structural sandwich core. The NC-machined and thermoformed core segments were provided by the Rohacell Shapes Department and the stitched preform concept was realized by a single-sided robotic tufting and stitching process. The vacuum infusion process uses resin distribution media, and the resin flow strategy for the LRI process was successfully adopted according to results obtained from small-scale infusion trials. The component passed intensive static and dynamic testing plus the required flight testing, and the aircraft received full FAA approval at the end of 2005.

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International Composites Design Competition & Exhibition

2nd April 2006 0 comments

A new international design competition and a travelling exhibition of composites has been started, under the title Composites-on-Tour-2, a follow-through initiative on the 2002 Composites-on-Tour that won a European Commission Descartes Prize for Science Communication. With Composites-on-Tour-2 K.U.Leuven and Design Vlaanderen opted for an uncompromising international approach. This opened the design competition up to designers from all over the world and the exhibition travels with the prize winners of the Brussels design competition from Brussels to Paris, Barcelona, Budapest, Ljubljana and Eindhoven. It may even go as far afield as Korea and Japan. This crossborder strategy promotes international networking between designers and commercial and industrial circles. Such globe-straddling cross-pollination often leads to innovative product development. Composites-on-Tour-2 also seeks to bring science closer to a broad public. The design exhibition has a fellow traveller in the form of a small scientific exhibition that explains how scientific research into composites and the ensuing product innovation shape our daily lives. In a fluent, interactive manner visitors are shown how composite materials are produced and why they have such fantastic properties. The initiators behind Composites-on-Tour-2 are K.U. Leuven and Design Vlaanderen. They submitted this project for subsidies with the European Commission, which selected it from a good 50 entries and included it in its ‘Science and Society’ programme. Prof. Dr. Ignaas VERPOEST is the coordinator of this project. Six European partners provide their active support: • The Hungarian Design Council. • The University of Technology and Economics of Budapest, Hungary. • The Biennial for Industrial Design (BIO), Slovenia. • The JEC Group (Journals and Exhibitions on Composites), France. • The Barcelona Design Centre (BCD), Spain. • The Design Platform Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Thanks to these partners the exhibition may be visited in six countries in Europe. They saw to it that the competition jury will include some of the most eminent scientists and designers who are active in the field of composites in Europe. In May and June 2006 the initiators and partners will be organising various workshops on composites in their respective countries. These workshops will mainly target designers and enterprises.

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JEC Review: New Materials from Hexcel

2nd April 2006 0 comments

Hexcel’s stand at JEC this year reflected the company’s recent announcement that it is investing $100 million to increase the company’s global carbon fibre capacity by about 50%. The investment programme involves building a carbon fibre plant near Madrid, Spain; adding an additional carbon fibre line to Hexcel’s Salt Lake City, UT facility; and creating additional PAN Precursor capacity at Decatur, AL. Hexcel promoted some of its newer technologies at the show, including HexMC, a high performance sheet-moulding concept specifically designed for compression moulding. With a high carbon fibre volume, HexMC is suited to industrial and aerospace components where complex 3-D shapes limit the use of typical fibre reinforced matrices/reinforced laminated composites. HexMC is being used for applications where previously metal was the only solution; for parts with abrupt change of cross-sectional thickness; and applications where co-curing of elements is desired, i.e.; metal inserts or mixing with other materials. HexMC enables composite parts to be produced in an automated process similar to SMC moulding, with zero material waste. HexMC parts on display on the Hexcel stand included parts manufactured by French bicycle manufacturer, Time, a company that has used HexMC to replace many aluminium parts with composites. Hexcel also launched HexTOOL, a new patent pending composite tooling material based on HexMC technology. This enables machineable composite moulds to be produced and is competitive with conventional composite tools and metal moulds, including INVAR. The launch product is made from high strength carbon fibre and HexPly M61 BMI resin, which is a very tough, high temperature system, providing better resistance to degradation (micro-cracking) than epoxies when submitted to thermo-cycling. The lay-up of the tooling involves minimal labour and time (i.e. no debulking) on a master mould that does not have to be dimensionally accurate. The “as cured” tool is then machined to final desired shape. The removal of cured material on the tool surface does not change the quasi isotropic characteristics of the whole laminate, unlike with composite moulds made of prepreg fabrics. Thus the dimensional integrity of the mould is maintained. Another new material promoted by Hexcel at JEC was HexWeb CRF, a commercial grade aluminium core (ACG/3003) with a Chromium free foil treatment that provides the same level of mechanical and corrosion resistance properties as the previous chromium treated product. HexWeb CRF is designed to help customers to comply with new environmental legislation that limits the use of any products containing chromium, particularly in the automotive industry, including RoHS Directive, End-of-life vehicles Directive and REACH Regulations. One such customer is AFL Honeycomb Structures, who have been involved in the field of energy absorption since the early 80’s and pioneered the concept of honeycomb core applied to vehicle safety testing. HexWeb CRF exhibits uniform crushing characteristics and the honeycomb is used by AFL in the manufacture of a full range of aluminium honeycomb deformable crash test barriers, a sample of which will be displayed on Hexcel’s stand at JEC. Other exhibits on the Hexcel stand at JEC were: Composite chairs from the famous French designer, Philippe Starck, produced by Ronda High Tech (Italy), in carbon fibre prepreg and incorporating HexMC for contoured parts and structural reinforcement. A new cost optimised axle module for composite leaf springs, developed by Magna Steyr, Graz, with coil springs, stabiliser bar and stabiliser link rods replaced by a single transversal leaf spring. This is manufactured in HexPly M10 glass prepreg that is particularly suitable for the impregnation of heavy reinforcements and the manufacture of thick laminates. Top of the range car interiors manufactured using I.T.A.C. (Integrated Technology Advanced Carbonfiber), a technology developed by ATR Group for the manufacture of composite parts using standard prepregs, such as HexPly M52. Straight Z frame Preform & Injected part (demonstrator part for fuselage frame programme) demonstrating Hexcel’s Dry Fibre Placement technology. Thermoplastic laminate moulded from TowFlex direct-coated 3K 5HS AS4/PPS fabric. Thermoplastic load floor section in glass/N6 unidirectional TowFlex, with in rib tips overmolded with chopped glass/N6 TowFlex. Demonstrator part proving enhanced TowFlex properties for T-ribbed sections that can be translated into automotive load floor and running board applications.

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JEC Review: Lanxess Launch Full Service in Glass Fibres

2nd April 2006 0 comments

The Lanxess chemicals Group showcased its entire spectrum of glass fibres at the JEC Composites Show in the French capital. The company presented various high-quality grades that differ both in the formulation of their surface treatment (sizing) and in their diameter and length. Lanxess offers its glass fibers as chopped strands and milled fibers, both of which are ideal for reinforcing thermoplastics, polyurethanes and thermosets. In addition, the Lanxess stand focussed on sizing development, bulk transport and pneumatic conveyance. In addition to the production of basic resins, monomers, compounds and blends, Lanxess also produces glass fibres, transported in bulk road containers from the plant in Antwerp/Belgium to Germany for compounding.

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JEC Review: Saint-Gobain Vetrotex Uniconform

2nd April 2006 0 comments

Saint-Gobain Vetrotex launched the Uniconform product at the show, a product dedicated to closed mould technologies, Saint-Gobain Vetrotex claims that the product offers several technical advantages, including the fact that it is conformable, mechanically bound, seamless and 100% continuous filament glass mat. Production of Uniconform will begin in April 2006. The estimated closed mold market is about 10,500 tons per year. 30 to 35% of these tons are dedicated to the RTM light process which represent a significant target for the Uniconform product.

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JEC Review: AGY Targets 50% Increase in S-2 Glass Capacity

2nd April 2006 0 comments

In response to continued growth in the use of high performance glass fibres in a variety of applications, AGY said it plans to increase S-2 Glass reinforcement capacity by 50 percent in the next 18 months. The expansion plans include new forming equipment for the popular high performance reinforcement. In addition, AGY President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Mattscheck said a project already underway will make available more assembled roving, the reinforcement used in the HJ1 composite armor process for ballistic panels. The project currently in progress will increase the company’s winding and related processing equipment for roving by 80 percent and be in operation during the second quarter. He also said the company has a 2006 goal of increasing manufacturing productivity for S-2 Glass reinforcements by 15 percent. When the new processing equipment is combined with other capacity expansion projects completed in the past two years, the company expects to provide at least 25 percent more high performance glass reinforcements to the market this year compared to 2005. “The new plans, projects and productivity improvements to increase S-2 Glass capacity are additional examples of our commitment to maintain a steady supply of the product to the market,” said Mattscheck. “We continue to invest financial and human capital to meet the current requirements of the market and to fuel the product development pipeline.” In October 2004, AGY announced a multi-phase expansion of capacity for S 2 Glass products that included a series of projects to optimize efficiency and install new production equipment that year and in 2005. Those programs were designed to deliver approximately 25 percent additional production capacity. Before they were completed, however, AGY added to and accelerated the pace of those projects – they were all completed by July 2005 and increased overall capacity by 35 percent during an 18 month period. Some benefit was realized in 2005 and the full benefit will be available in 2006. “With the new processing equipment in place,” added Mattscheck, “AGY will have additional flexibility in its product mix to respond to market changes. This will enable us to fully capitalize on the total forming capacity we now have in place and plan to add in the next 18 months.” In addition to assembled roving, S-2 Glass reinforcements are available in yarns and forming cakes – all produced at the AGY facility in Huntingdon, Pa.

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JEC Review: New Matte Finish Water-Based Mould Release

2nd April 2006 0 comments

Axel announced a new water-based semi-permanent mold release that yields a consistent matte finish on moulded parts. The new Axel product is designed to provide release for many parts without requiring reapplication of the mould release. The most significant feature of this new semi-permanent mould release is that it ensures that a matte finish can be maintained on the parts produced throughout the moulding cycle. This is particularly important in applications like wind blade production. “In the past the surface of each part that was produced exhibited more sheen than the one previously moulded. Now, that W-7837D is used, the fifth part appears just as matte in finish as the first”, says Nancy Teufel, AXEL’s Global Product Manager. XTEND W-7837D is an aqueous emulsion of proprietary resins and reactive surface modifiers. The product can be applied by spraying or wiping on to the mould surface at either ambient or elevated temperatures and allowing a brief cure. The new mould release is said to be suitable for use on a variety of mould substrates including FRP, aluminium and steel, and can be used in the production of polyester, vinyl ester and epoxy parts processed at temperatures up to 425°F/ 220°.

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