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Foam Matrix Inc. has received a 2002 Supplier Innovation Award from Boeing for developing low-cost lightweight wings with structural foam technology.
Phantom Works, the advanced research and development unit of Boeing, presented the prestigious award to Foam Matrix President Kent Sherwood at a formal ceremony held Jan. 23, 2002 at the Boeing Long Beach Management Association, Long Beach, Calif.
“”Innovation is the main ingredient in everything we do at Foam Matrix,”” said Sherwood. “”To be honored for this by Boeing’s Phantom Works is a tribute to our people, who continue to demonstrate why we’re in business.””
Phantom Works’ John P. Bishop, director, supplier management and procurement, said, “”Foam Matrix earned this recognition for the innovative design and production of the wings for the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) program. The high-strength lightweight concept based on Foam Matrix technology provides an attractive alternative to conventional wing designs.””
UCAV is a revolutionary Air Force program designed to augment high-performance manned fighter aircraft with autonomous unmanned fighters capable of self-controlled guidance and decision-making. This new concept is expected to drastically change modern air warfare.
Foam Matrix technology is the result of initial approaches to foam structures by the company’s founder, Kent Sherwood, for making better recreational products like surfboards. Sherwood soon recognized that the lightweight, strength, and cost-efficient qualities of the technology were ideal for aerospace. By the mid-1980s, the company was producing contoured structural foam parts for home-built aircraft. By 1988, Foam Matrix was molding foam cores for fins used on the Pegasus air-launched rocket, and a few years later had teamed with one the world’s largest aerospace companies to produce flight surfaces for an important missile program. Today, wings and other contoured control surfaces, such as those for the Boeing UCAV program, are the primary focus of Foam Matrix.
In wing production, the ribs, stringers, electrical conduit and other wing parts are machined into a single mold tool as part of the patented Foam Matrix Core(TM)(FMC) System. The entire wing, including all integral parts, is molded to final shape as a single one-piece foam core.
After curing, the foam core is wrapped in composite fibers and returned to the FMC mold tool for resin injection. After a final cure, the wing is removed from the tool complete and ready for assembly to the aircraft.
Benefits of the FMC System include sharply reduced parts count, seamless construction, short production-cycle time, light weight and very low cost. The FMC System is highly reproducible, and this translates into high consistency of product quality, an essential ingredient in aerospace applications.
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