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Composites Industry News

News for February 2006


Spirit AeroSystems to Purchase BAE Systems Aerostructures

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Spirit AeroSystems is to acquire the Aerostructures business unit of BAE Systems, which has operations in Prestwick, Scotland and in Samlesbury, England. Spirit is paying £80 million ($142 million at current exchange rates) and assuming certain liabilities of the business. ”Spirit sees this as an opportunity to diversify our revenue base and accelerate our growth as a world leader in aerostructures and systems manufacturing,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Brunton in a statement to employees. The Aerostructures unit, which will be known as Spirit AeroSystems (Europe) Limited, produces structural components, chiefly on wings, similar to that in Spirit’s business unit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but on different airplane programs. More than 80 percent of BAE Systems Aerostructures’ revenue is earned on Airbus airplanes, including the A320 family, the A330 and the A340. The remainder is from the Boeing 767 and 777, and from the Raytheon Hawker 800XP. BAE Systems Aerostructures employs over 800 people in the United Kingdom, and has a history dating back to the early days of large scale airplane production in Scotland in the 1930s. BAE Systems Aerostructures had revenue of approximately $367 million in 2005. Spirit will continue to focus on winning new work in both its U.S. and European operations. “We will grow our business both by winning new work and by expanding our presence around the world,” said Chief Executive Officer Jeff Turner. “Growth is fundamental to our long-term success as a company.” He added, “We welcome all the new employees to the Spirit family, and we look forward in sharing in our future successes together.We are excited about the prospects that this acquisition opens up for our new company. We are delighted to add Airbus and Raytheon as new customers of Spirit.” Spirit expects to complete the transaction in the first half of 2006.

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New Hull Supplier for Sword Marine JetPac

3rd February 2006 0 comments

To meet increasing demand for the JetPac self-enclosed waterjet, Sword Marine Technology has called upon Advanced Composite Solutions to manufacture its innovative hull. As a leading designer of composite parts for experimental aircraft, Advanced Composite Solutions is able to produce more hulls, which feature additional enhancements. On the cutting edge of propulsion systems, the JetPac is a self-enclosed inboard engine with waterjet, which mounts on the boat’s transom. With its new hull, the JetPac is even more stable, quieter and more buoyant than before. In addition, internal components like the bilge pump are now easier to access for maintenance. The JetPac’s new gel-coated, fiberglass-composite hull is designed to handle over 1,200 pounds of displacement and boasts a fire-retardant, baffled exhaust system. Because the power plant and drive are completely enclosed, no engine fluids can contaminate the environment. The JetPac increases the planing surface of the craft and adds 200 to 500 pounds of positive buoyancy to offset the weight of the engine/drive unit. It sets no lower than the keel of the boat. Unlike conventional sterndrive/jet combinations, the JetPac’s engine is mounted on top of the jet and coupled to the drive by a toothed Kevlar belt system. The large-diameter jet is responsible for the unit’s high thrust and quick acceleration. The entire unit is mounted on the exterior of the boat’s transom and will fit most craft from 18′ to 28′. It is available with 150- or 200-hp diesel power or with 275- or 300-hp gasoline engines.

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All-Composite Spectrum 33 Twinjet Takes Flight

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Spectrum have announced that their next-generation, carbon fibre Spectrum 33 twinjet made its first flight early last month. The Spectrum 33 is a new light business jet that’s built using a carbon fibre construction process that gives it virtually the same size cabin as the most popular, current-production, eight to nine seat light business jets, but at a substantially lighter weight. The Spectrum 33 is designed to cruise at up to 415 knots [477 mph] and fly as far as 2,000 nautical miles. Notably, it is claimed that it will consume half as much fuel as current-production aircraft having the same cabin, range and speed. “This marks an important point in our development program,” said Linden Blue, founder and CEO of Spectrum. “Weight reduction is key to boosting fuel efficiency and lowering operating costs. The first flight of Spectrum 33 is a testament to the dedication and hard work put in by an extremely talented team.” The aircraft was built by a Spectrum Aeronautical and Rocky Mountain Composites [RMC] joint-design team at RMC’s plant on the Springville-Spanish Fork municipal airport, about eight miles southeast of Provo, Utah. Spectrum 33 soared off Spanish Fork’s relatively short, 4,500 ft elevation runway in about 750 ft on its first flight, even though it was using greatly reduced takeoff thrust. It was then repositioned to the Provo, Utah airport, a landing facility with a considerably longer runway. William “Bill” Davies, Spectrum’s Chief of Flight Test and Ian Hollingsworth, another veteran test pilot, were at the controls. “The acceleration and climb performance of the 33 is remarkable,” Davies said. “It has excellent takeoff and landing characteristics.” He commented that the aircraft performed as expected, but that pitch control was not optimum. Spectrum’s engineers, as a result, will modify the aircraft’s flight control system to increase pitch control authority at higher speeds. In about a week, Davies and Hollingsworth will resume testing the aircraft. Davies also noted that “Provo’s longer runway will let us explore handling characteristics beyond what’s possible at Spanish Fork.” Craig Simpson, president of RMC said that the firm’s fibeXtm material and the processes used to build the aircraft, “represent a major leap forward in aircraft structures technology compared to conventional aluminum airframes and existing composite techniques.” The fibeXtm process was pioneered by Larry Ashton, RMC’s Chairman. Once comprehensive testing of the current proof-of-concept aircraft is complete, Spectrum Aeronautical will freeze the design and build production conforming flight test aircraft to be used for certification testing. FAA Type Certification of the Spectrum 33 is slated for late 2007 or in 2008.

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Infusion Demonstrated for Structural Marine Parts

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Saint-Gobain Reinforcements & Composites, Assocompositi and Cantiere NAUTIVELA srl, have developed the hull of the VIF (Italian Sailing Federation) 555 school boat in an infusion process. The point of the exercise was to show that it was possible to obtain good parts with the right combination of products, resulting in high performance in processing time, reproducibility and mechanical properties of the finished laminates. The structure is based on a sandwich made with SG Reinforcements Chopped Strand Mat, Unifilo continuous filament mat for optimum resin flow speed, and ±45 & 0/90 Biaxial fabrics for high mechanical performance. Process characteristics, mechanical properties and surface aspects were analysed by Saint-Gobain Reinforcements’ Application Centre for Closed Mould Processes in Besana Brianza, Italy. Infusion and mechanical trials showed how this technology optimised the resin/reinforcement ratio in terms of surface finish and mechanical properties. The support of Assocompositi and its industrial members enables development and dissemination of composite processes, in particular infusion technology, towards small and medium sized companies that do not have enough resources to achieve a technological breakthrough internally. This case study is being presented during the fourth edition of the marine show, Seatec in Marina di Carrara, Italy at the time of writing.

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Cellbond and Araldite Impact on Crash Test

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Cellbond and Araldite adhesives are playing a key part in car safety tests with bonding technology deployed in the creation of crash test barriers. The barriers face high pressure impact as the safety of new car designs is scrutinised as their manufacturing becomes of vital importance in gauging the performance of any new models. Cellbond Composites Ltd specialises in constructing crash absorption barriers – the company was one of the first to use aluminium honeycomb calibration in deformable barriers. The different segments are fused together using Araldite adhesives. “Working closely with the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory we have been active in the development of state-of-the-art crash absorption barriers,” said Dr Mike Ashmead, founder of Cellbond Composites Ltd. “To ensure the barriers can withstand the impact needed to imitate a real vehicle collision, we need to work with an adhesive that can perform under hard-hitting conditions. Araldite adhesives deliver repeatedly offering guaranteed strength against high impact testing,” Cellbond, working in close collaboration with its customers, has been instrumental in the development of new technologies to further enhance vehicle safety testing. The company provides a full range of deformable crash test barriers which includes frontal, side impact, pole and rear tests. The road safety tests have led to a safer design of vehicles, whereby they absorb energy and keep the occupant compartments intact. Cellbond is committed to continuously improving their barriers, to make advancement in car safety possible.

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Composite Courses and Training Centre Launched

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Dark Matter Composites is now running a range of composites courses aimed at the hobbyist and enthusiast, run at the company’s new workshop in Harpenden. A variety of courses are run throughout the week and at weekends, and include wet lay-up laminating and composite repair. Further courses covering pattern making, mould making, resin infusion and pre-preg laminating are planned for the near future. The courses are designed for beginners, using materials and methods that can then be applied safely and successfully in a small workshop, according to course leader Rodney Hansen. All courses include simple theory and demonstrations to aid understanding and a high level of practical application.

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BYK-Chemie Focuses on Nanotechnology

3rd February 2006 0 comments

BYK-Chemie will be presenting its nanotechnology based additive range for the first time at nanotech 2006 in Tokyo later this month.

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Nature Suggests a Layered Composite for Artificial Bone

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Researchers supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), have harnessed the unique physics of sea water as it freezes to guide the production of what could be a new generation of more biocompatible materials for artificial bone. As published in the January 27 issue of the journal Science, the researchers used this novel technique to produce a thinly layered composite structure that more closely mimics the natural scaffolding of bone. The scientists said their initial, proof-of-principle scaffolds are desirably ultra lightweight and up to four times stronger than current porous ceramic implant materials. According to Dr. Antoni Tomsia, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. and senior author on the paper, the still nameless freezing technique, with further technical refinements, could churn out even stronger materials and could be scaled up to fabricate larger structures, such as replacement hips and knees and a variety of dental materials. He also noted that it easily could be adapted to make layered composites for variety of industrial purposes, ranging from airplane manufacturing to computer hardware. “Freezing is the engine that drives the production process,” said Tomsia. “But the engine is undiscriminating in the composites or polymers that it fabricates.” The freezing technique reported this week builds on two longstanding research challenges in orthopaedics and the related field of tissue engineering. The first is the need for better, more biocompatible materials to serve as artificial bone. Most current materials, such as metal, were originally developed for non-medical purposes and thus poorly match the natural architecture of bone and other tissues, sometimes triggering inflammation and chronic soreness in the joint. The second challenge is to figure out how to make porous scaffolds for bone regeneration with enough strength for load bearing applications. Tomsia said strong, porous structures would allow cells to infiltrate into the implant, adhere to it, and more fully integrate with the synthetic material. “Our bones are made of organic and inorganic materials that individually aren’t very strong,” said Dr. Sylvain Deville, a member of Tomsia laboratory and lead author on the paper. “But when nature weaves them together at the nanoscale, the scaffold structure of bone is quite strong and durable. The question is how can people learn to make composite materials on the same micro scale as nature?” Deville said he and his colleagues arrived at a possible solution a few years ago while reading up on the physics of sea water. As an ice crystal forms in sea water, it pumps the salt, pollutants, and other impurities out of the crystal and into the narrow channels of the forming ice layer. The impurities gather in the channels and remain trapped between the horizontal layers of ice. The scientists discovered in the laboratory that the forming ice crystals would pump out virtually any extraneous material, including various ceramics, the building blocks of many composite structures. According to Dr. Eduardo Saiz, an author on the paper and a member of the Tomsia laboratory, if they sublimated the ice and removed the water, “we found what remains are plates of hydroxyapatite,” a ceramic biomaterial commonly used to make artificial bone. “We found the faster we froze the water, the thinner the plates, or wafer-like layers, would be,” said Tomsia, whose laboratory redesigned a freeze casting machine to better control and accelerate the freezing process. A freeze casting machine enables a ceramic structure to be fabricated into complex shapes. “It took us about one year to go from layers of 100 microns down to about a micron,” Tomsia added. “That is almost down to the level that nature makes its composites.” Although the laboratory’s proof-of-principle composite was small and cube shaped, Tomsia said he and his colleagues are now working to refine the freezing process and build larger structures, hopefully one day advancing to the design of a hip implant. They stressed, however, that it would be impossible to put a time frame on when they might reach this point. “Nature has so much to teach us about making strong materials,” said Tomsia. “Evolution occurred over millions of years, and nature does not make mistakes.” The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is part of the US National Institutes of Health.

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Cracking the Secret of Fracture Instabilities

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Researchers from Max Planck Institute for Metals Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have performed atom-by-atom investigations of how cracks propagate in brittle materials

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Core Molding Technologies to Expand Ohio Plant

3rd February 2006 0 comments

Core Molding Technologies plans to expand its Columbus manufacturing operation to support two new programs for existing customers. These programs, in the heavy-duty truck market are scheduled for launch in 2007. “”These new programs are the result of our ability to better meet the needs of our customers,”” said James L. Simonton, president and chief executive officer. “”We are proud of the efforts and commitment of our employees to win these new programs and we are pleased to be successful in a competitive manufacturing environment.”” Annual revenue from these programs is anticipated to ramp up to approximately $15 million by 2009. Core’s expansion plans include a $4.6 million investment in machinery, equipment and building modifications. These plans are contingent upon final approval of state and local incentives. The new programs are projected to add up to 80 new employees by 2009. Core Molding Technologies, Inc. is a compounder of sheet molding composites (SMC) and molder of fiberglass reinforced plastics. The Company’s processing capabilities include the compression molding of SMC, resin transfer molding, multiple insert tooling (MIT) resin transfer molding, spray up and hand lay up processes.

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