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Composites Industry News

News for October 2010


Cray Valley Resins and HFG Technology Make Electric Buses Lighter

1st October 2010 0 comments

The Korean company HFG has developed an electric bus in cooperation with Hyundai Heavy Industries for use in Seoul city, and the bus has now been running since June.

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Bertsche Machining Centre Boosts Hitco Floor Beam Production

1st October 2010 0 comments

To accomplish the complex manufacturing problems of machining and drilling Boeing 787 floor beams to the requisite tolerances and to meet the required production rates, Hitco turned to Bertsche to develop a complex 5-axis profile beam milling machine for the purpose. Hitco Carbon Composites was selected as one of the suppliers to Boeing 787 program for floor beams manufactured from CFRP. The cured floor beam profiles are sawed, edge routed, cut to length and drilled. They are manufactured as ship sets in a demand driven on-off manufacturing environment, each ship set corresponding to an airplane order. Floor beams in an airplane are those structural members that run crosswise down the length of the airplane. The length of the beam (the width of the airplane) varies as the airplane widens in width going from front to centre of the airplane and then narrows again moving to the rear of the aircraft. While having a similar cross section the each beam is manufactured for different length and has a different hole drilling pattern dependant on the attaching connecting structural elements. In an effort to keep floor beam weight to an absolute minimum, the design of a floor beam is further complicated by gauge (or in this case layup thickness) reduction from end to centre of the floor beam. The floor beam also has a recess section in the centre third section which serves to route wiring and plumbing in the airplane form fore to aft. Bertsche’s 5 axis machine features automated part setup, part program control of all work holding fixtures, a wave milling feature and 100% part inspection. The work holding fixtures can clamp beams of varying web width, varying flange length and programmable web thickness datum surfaces. The fixtures themselves are repositionable so that they can be prepositioned as part of an automated CNC setup program as well as moved out the way during machining operations to provide better access to certain areas of the floor beam for cutting and drilling operations. The fixtures are individually controlled but also operate as coordinated groups that open and close, lift and retract and reposition in synchronous fashion for part loading sequences, when machining or when measuring parts. Parts are machined dry. Dry machining is the preferred method of manufacture by the airplane manufacturers to avoid composite material swelling due to coolant absorption by material exposed from cutting. Coolants, especially oil base coolants can interact with the composite material causing the material to swell and the formation of residue that then must be cleaned after part machining. Dry machining also has an advantage because dust containment and removal is an easier problem to solve than preventing dust sludge buildup when the plastic material and cutting fluids forms a sludge that adheres to every crevice and nook in the machine. For dust containment all machining is done in a fully enclosed machining compartment with integral dust collection hoods that capture air borne dust, directing it out of the machine into a dust filtration system. Composite slugs, chards and similar material are swept into a debris collection chute with a debris pusher device as part of an automatic cleanup cycle. A set of large HEPA filters cleans the air to a safe level and a dust collection drum makes for easy machine cleanup and dust disposal. Now in full production, the machine drills, mills and saws complete floor beams on all sides in a single setup. The finish machined product is inspected using a full function metrology software package integral to the HMI front end PC. Parts are inspected for dimensional accuracy and statistical data are collected with complete tracking history created for each manufactured part. While current production rates are already four times faster than by previous methods, continued program optimization and process improvements are being implemented by Hitco with the expectation that floor beam manufacturing times will be reduced by at least another 50%, in the future.

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NASA Webb Telescope Composite Structure Passes Extreme Tests

1st October 2010 0 comments

The composite structure of the Webb telescope has recently survived exposure to extreme cryogenic temperatures, proving that the structure will remain stable when exposed to the harsh environment of space. The ISIM, or the Integrated Science Instrument Module flight structure, will serve as the structural heart of the James Webb Space Telescope. The ISIM is a large bonded composite assembly made of a light weight material that has never been used before to support high precision optics at the extreme cold temperatures of the Webb observatory. The Webb telescope will orbit at a Lagrange point nearly one million miles from Earth, a place colder than Pluto where rubber behaves like glass and where most gasses are liquid. At this point in space, the Webb telescope can observe the whole sky while always remaining in the shadow of its tennis-court-sized sunshield. Webb’s components need to survive temperatures that plunge as low as 27 Kelvin (-411 degrees Fahrenheit), and it is in this environment that the ISIM structure met its design requirements during recent testing. “”It is the first large, bonded composite space flight structure to be exposed to such a severe environment,”” said Jim Pontius, ISIM lead mechanical engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. When fully integrated, the roughly 2.2-meter (more than 7 feet) ISIM will weigh more than 900 kg (nearly 2000 lbs) and must survive more than six and a half times the force of gravity. The ISIM structure holds all of the instruments in very tight alignment, using a carbon fibre/cyanate-ester resin system for the structure’s 75-mm (3-inch) diameter square tubes. “”We engineered from small pieces to the big pieces testing all along the way to see if the failure theories were correct. We were looking to see where the design could go wrong,”” Pontius explained. “”By incorporating all of our lessons learned into the final flight structure, we met the requirements, and test validated our building-block approach.”” The Mechanical Systems Division at NASA Goddard performed a 26-day test to specifically test whether the car-sized structure behaved as predicted as it cooled. The test was a first for NASA Goddard because the technology needed to conduct it exceeded the capabilities then offered at the centre. “”The multi-disciplinary (test) effort combined large ground-support equipment specifically designed to support and cool the structure, with a photogrammetry measuring system that can operate in the cryogenic environment,”” said Eric Johnson, ISIM Structure Manager at NASA Goddard. Photogrammetry is the science of making precise measurements by means of photography, but doing it in the extreme temperatures specific to the Webb telescope was another obstacle the NASA engineers had to overcome. Its thermal contraction and distortion were precisely measured to be 170 microns when it reached 27 Kelvin (-411 degrees Fahrenheit), well within the design requirement of 500 microns. “”We certainly wouldn’t have been able to realign the instruments on orbit if the structure moved too much,”” Johnson said. “”That’s why we needed to make sure we had designed the right structure.”” The same testing facility will be used to test other Webb telescope systems, including the telescope backplane, the structure to which the Webb telescope’s 18 primary mirror segments will be bolted when the observatory is assembled.

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Araldite System Makes World Beating Racing Bikes

1st October 2010 0 comments

Working with Huntsman, BMC has designed and produced the impec, a machine-made carbon racing bike frame which uses a high-end Araldite resin system, to meet the most rigorous demands of racing cyclists. In conventional frame building, racing bikes are assembled by hand in the manufacturing process, using hundreds of carbon mats. The carbon tubes of the impec have been woven using a purpose-built, patented robot, minimising the opportunity for error. BMC developed and patented new manufacturing methods and technologies for all stages of the impec frame. This provides the scope for automatically manufacturing carbon tubes that are tailored to specific loads, a technology that BMC has called Load Specific Weave (LSW). The density of the weave can be influenced by the varying speed with which the robot feeds the loom, allowing the material to be optimised to meet the specific requirements of each particular zone, weaving carbon fiber into tubes of the exact shape, size and form required. The carbon fiber braids that comprise the bike’s frame are wound into tubes in a specially developed robot fed machine which guarantees the highest level of precision. The tubes are connected by newly developed shells to form a highly stable frame. These shells are made from ultra-lightweight, high-strength composite materials, comprising a high content of carbon fibers to withstand extremely high loads at a minimum weight. They double up as a key design element which BMC has called the Shell Node Concept (SNC), which also means that the impec is visually distinct from any other racing bike. The high-end Araldite resin system is injected to impregnate the braids, with temperature management allowing a decrease of the resin viscosity during the injection process and an acceleration of the cure before the frame is extracted from the mould. In order to meet all these requirements, the resin must have a low viscosity, short curing time and good fibre impregnation capability. In addition, it must be able to satisfy the mechanical properties required to ensure that the frame is tough, stiff and able to withstand shock without developing micro-cracks. The high-end Araldite resin system fulfilled these criteria. Andy Rihs, owner of BMC said: “The innovation and passion behind the impec puts it years ahead of the competition. Our technology has allowed a degree of perfection that was previously unimaginable. The quantum leap is even visible to the naked eye in the cross-section of the tubing. Impec is short for “the impeccable bike”. Because it’s made by machine, it’s the first truly flawless and most aesthetically pleasing racing bike in the world.”

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Fast Re-usable Silicone Bags for Vacuum Moulding

1st October 2010 0 comments

A new system available through Bentley Chemicals that features spray-on, or brush-on, “instant” silicone bags that can be used over and over again for moulding composites under vacuum is already bringing major production benefits. Bentley say that the bags can be easily made by the operator in as little as 30 minutes and the process is much faster, cheaper and greener than the traditional methods widely used in aerospace, automotive and marine composite moulding. It has been estimated that the new process is already saving up to 90% of labour costs. The Company has already helped to pioneer its use in motor racing – working closely with a racing team, it has been able to help them dramatically reduce the time taken to mould complex composite parts – and it is now working with a major marine manufacturer to research how the system can benefit its production processes. The silicone has been developed by Smooth-On in the United States and the bags are created by either spraying or brushing the special silicone onto a composite profile already sitting inside the mould. Once it has cured, the bag is simply peeled away and stored ready for use in the vacuum process. “We know that this new silicone bag system has major potential for many composite moulding applications currently using the vacuum process,” commented Richard Watson from Bentley, “we are looking forward to working closely with fabricators to see them reap the major benefits that it can bring.”

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New Process Provides Surface Finish Without Lacquer Coat

1st October 2010 0 comments

Prodrive has developed an answer to the problem of lacquer deterioration on visible carbon composite components – eliminate the lacquer completely. As well as increasing cosmetic durability and reducing cost, Prodrive say that the new process delivers an exceptional surface finish that is thought to be at least equivalent to the best lacquered finishes. Until now, the demand for a smooth, high gloss finish on composite parts has necessitated spraying a lacquer coat over the finished surface. Unfortunately, any surface chips (e.g. stone chips) can cause the lacquer to delaminate from the carbon substrate, leading to unsightly white blotches. “It’s highly unsatisfactory if a large panel, like a diffuser, has to be replaced after a few thousand miles due to cosmetic deterioration when the part is, functionally, still serviceable,” comments Gary White, Prodrive’s composites engineering manager. “We now have a finish which is so good that we can dispense with the lacquer entirely so we have multiple benefits: piece part cost reduction, better durability in service and improved consistency of appearance.” The long term quality of finish on composite parts is of great importance both to discerning buyers of premium road cars and to prominent motorsport teams wishing to project a professional image, but achieving this has not been easy. “In twenty years of working with composite parts, I’ve never seen such a consistent, high gloss surface finish produced without lacquer,” advises White, “we call it AA finish quality because it sets a new standard of excellence.” To achieve the exceptional finish, Prodrive analysed the fundamental process steps required to produce a carbon composite part and identified the parameters that affect surface finish. One of the key areas is very precise control of the interface between the component and the mould. As each of the composite layers (the plies) is added to the mould, there is a possibility of air bubble entrapment which hinders both adhesion between plies and seating of the outermost layer against the mould surface. Prodrive achieves their finish by the use of carefully developed values of pressure, temperature and duration for this phase of the manufacturing process. “We have established a set of process conditions that give the best possible consolidation of the outer layer against the mould surface,” says White. “We also pay particular attention to the mould surface finish and have developed an appropriate ‘prepreg’ specification with our supplier.” [prepreg = a curable mix of fibres and resin] The first production application of the Prodrive Process is the supply of various panels and assemblies for a new European supercar. When the company’s engineers approached Prodrive, they assumed that a lacquered finish would be essential. White takes up the story, “all their quality processes were based on a lacquered finish. The issues you control with an unlacquered surface are completely different. For instance, spray finishes can suffer from runs and fish eyes; non-sprayed finishes can suffer from pin holes. We wrote new quality standards for them to reflect this, and they were delighted; they not only received top quality parts from us but developed their supplier quality standards for the future.”

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Becker Marine Develop Composite Rudder Flap and Stock

1st October 2010 0 comments

Becker Marine Systems, along with Bureau Veritas, is using carbon composites to develop propulsion components with new or better properties According to Becker, carbon fibre provides two main advantages: Weight savings of more than 50 percent enable easier handling during transport and assembly, making this suitable for advanced naval applications focusing on light-weight structures. In addition, a reduction of raw material waste of 60 percent compared to forged steel helps achieve a lower carbon footprint. Due to the huge potential of composite materials it is expected that the number of composites and their application in merchant shipping will rise in future. For smaller components, like rudder flaps, composite materials enable the manufacture of hull surfaces with better propulsion properties, as a slim design provides less drag and improved lift. Composite rudder flaps are available for all types of Becker high-efficiency rudders such as FKSR, SA/SC and Heracles rudders. Becker also offers composite material for rudder stocks (pictured). The weight of a rudder stock for a 8,400 TEU container ship e.g. can be reduced from 72.2 t to 26.6 t by using the new material. By specially adapting the fibre arrangement to meet the requirements for each different type of rudder, Becker ensures long equipment service life at the lowest operating costs.

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2010 European Market Almost Recovered to 2008 Levels

1st October 2010 0 comments

According to a report by AVK, the 2010 market for fibre composite plastics / composites is expected to considerably exceed predictions made in late 2009. By the end of 2010, the entire production volume of the European market considered in this context is likely to increase by approximately 25 % as compared to the previous year. This development reveals a surprisingly rapid recovery almost to the level seen in 2008. However, not all companies or even all countries are profiting from this generally positive trend in quite the same way. Growth rates may vary considerably, depending on the areas of component application, the production / processing techniques, and the company size. Markets continue to be highly dynamic. On the one hand, additional growth impetus is to be expected wherever economically efficient weight reductions may be realised. On the other hand, the fact that market developments are so difficult to predict means that investments that are frequently required for business expansion are sometimes cancelled or postponed. Composites still possess an enormous unexhausted potential in conjunction with the sustainable substitution of ‘traditional’ materials. Fibre-Reinforced Plastics: Market Data and Market Development in 2010 As in the year before, the German association AVK – Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V. (Federation of Reinforced Plastics) once again conducted a survey in 2010 in order to obtain data regarding production volumes for fibre-reinforced plastics throughout Europe. In order to obtain comparable data, the ‘entire’ European market analysed in this context was once more limited to those countries that are explicitly familiar to raw materials suppliers interviewed in this context. Market data collection focused on glass fibres for reinforcement that are still dominating the market in quantitative terms, being used for about 90% of the entire composites volume. After its collapse in 2009, the CRP market is clearly recovering in 2010. It hit the bottom of the economic recession but has picked up significantly in the meantime. By 2011, the market is expected to recover to levels last seen in 2008. The long-term predicted annual growth of the global market between 2013 and 2018 is 12.0 %; up until 2015, market revenues may more or less double to about 14 x 109 Euros from 2009 [ACM]. Thus, the industry is now facing a limited phase with less revenues – and should not forget to invest in the future. After all, if the demand increases quite as drastically as anticipated, new, quick automatic production techniques will be needed to satisfy the need. The crisis has come to an end and the market is going to pick up soon. Owing to the predicted high growth rates in all market segments, it is important to address recycling questions as soon as possible so as to efficiently cope with future CRP waste. In the aviation sector as well as in wind energy, reutilisation of CRP or GRP is still uncommon. Although alternative strategies are available, energy production and recovery is currently the state of the art. The volumes produced now do not yet constitute a major problem. In the automotive sector, on the other hand, CRP is competing with aluminium and steel. Both are excellent materials from an ecological point of view, since they may be molten down and reused practically indefinitely. Long-term sustainable solutions are to be found regarding the predicted growth of the fibre composite market. Initial attempts have been made. In Stade, for instance, a CRP Recycling Center – the first of its kind in Europe – is being built in conjunction with a research and development project. This location is targeted for the commercial material recycling of waste materials containing carbon fibres. All of this shows a medium-term to long-term trend towards the development of sustainable recycling technologies. The report s authored by Dr. Elmar Witten, Managing Director of the AVK – Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe (Federation of Reinforced Plastics).

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Owens Corning Unveils Ultrablade High-Performance Fabrics

1st October 2010 0 comments

Owens Corning has introduced Ultrablade fabric solutions to help enable the market transition to longer, lighter and stiffer wind turbine rotor blades. The new solutions, which will be commercially available in January 2011, are intended to help designers remove nearly a metric ton of reinforcement and resin from 2.0 megawatt (MW) wind turbines compared to same-size blade sets made with traditional E-glass. According to Owens Corning, compared to standard fabrics, Ultrablade fabrics in epoxy resin can: • Reduce spar weight by up to 18 percent while keeping length constant • Increase blade length by up to 6 percent • Improve blade stiffness by up to 20 percent • Decrease blade thickness by up to 6 percent to increase aerodynamic efficiency and generate higher torque for driving turbines • Reduce total blade weight by up to 5 percent to ease the load on the turbine and tower, and enabling turbines to operate effectively at lower wind speeds “Ultrablade fabric solutions give designers much more freedom in developing longer blades for today’s large turbines,” said Dr. Chris Skinner, director of global technical marketing for OCV Technical Fabrics. “As the market continues to move to larger-capacity wind turbines needing longer blades, designers can use a combination of several improved properties in different areas of a blade,” continued Skinner. “They can choose to increase blade length for any given weight while keeping the thrust constant and assuring sufficient tower clearance. At lower wind speeds, weight-saving Ultrablade fabric solutions can help increase a blade’s aerodynamic lift, torque and energy output. The end-result will be higher annual energy production from optimized blade designs using high-performance fabrics.” The company is using a distinctive PINK stitching to identify Ultrablade fabric in the marketplace. Ultrablade fabric solutions will be produced in a number of the company’s facilities globally. In China, the products will be manufactured at plants in Changzhou and Doudian. At the end of 2009, wind power in China accounted for 25.1 gigawatts (GW) of electrical generating capacity and the country has identified wind power as a key growth component of its economy. China is now the largest producer of wind turbines and the second-largest producer of wind power, after the United States. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, China is expected to remain one of the main drivers of global growth in the coming years with annual additions of more than 20 GW by 2014. This development is supported by a very aggressive government policy and the growth of the domestic industry. The Chinese government has an unofficial target of 150 GW of wind capacity by 2020.

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New Technical Standards from Brazilian Marine Industry

1st October 2010 0 comments

Last week the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT) hosted the first meeting to review the current rules and regulations for recreational boats in composite materials, at the request of Brazilian Boatbuilders Association (ACOBAR). Approximately 180 technical representatives and over 60 professionals involved in the segment of construction of small craft were invited for this first meeting where the Vice President of ACOBAR, Mr. Jorge Nasseh, was elected chair of the board and coordinator of the new standards which will take one year to be finished. “Although the deadline is relatively tight we have a well prepared staff to meet this goal.” said Mr. Nasseh. The first standard edition of NBR-14574 – Rules and Regulation for Recreational Boats in Composites with less than 24 meters was developed 10 years ago, under the management of Mr. Jorge Nasseh. The new proposal will now include industry conformity standards for boat measurement and weight, owner/operators manual and hull identification number. On top of the new divisions the upcoming edition will have a full coverage of composite construction and internal arrangements. The new ACOBAR project has the support of the largest local builders and it will create performance objectives that contribute to small boat safety.

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