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Hexcel Celebrates its 60th Anniversary at JEC 2008

  • Tuesday, 8th April 2008
  • Reading time: about 4 minutes

At the JEC composites show in Paris Hexcel celebrated the company’s 60th anniversary by promoting the latest composite innovations for aerospace and industrial markets.

Hexcel’s founders, Hughes and Steele, were awarded their first contract in 1948 by the Wright-Paterson Air Force Base for research and development into honeycomb for military aircraft radomes. Hexcel today is the result of the merger of a number of companies with experience in carbon fibre, reinforcement fabrics, resin formulation and honeycomb technologies, who continue to innovate and provide a range of high performance composite material solutions to industry.

At this year’s JEC show Hexcel’s promotion was organised into three themes: growth; innovation for aerospace; and innovation for wind energy and selected industrial markets.

In the Growth category Hexcel will focus on the opening of three new plants this year: an aerospace prepreg facility in Nantes, France; the first ever carbon fibre plant in Spain; and an industrial prepreg plant in Tianjin, China, that will supply the wind energy market.

Hexcel is also in a major expansion phase having announced a $180 million investment programme to increase the company’s carbon fibre capacity to 7000 tons by 2010. This expansion will meet the accelerating demand for carbon fibre composites driven by market growth and the increasing penetration of these materials, particularly in commercial aerospace.

Hexcel already manufactures more high strength Intermediate Modulus (IM) fibre than any other producer in the world – a fibre that is used widely in the manufacture of aerospace primary structures.

Hexcel is also investing in additional NC machining capacity to support its engineered core product line. HexWeb EC is honeycomb that has been formed, shaped, machined and bonded to achieve precise, complex shapes that meet customers’ requirements. Hexcel is investing to meet the growing requirement for 5 Axis NC machining to support the base business, to prepare for build-rate increases and emerging aircraft platforms. Hexcel’s 5-Axis NC machines range in size to support a broad range of products from parts less than 0.6m in length such as tail rotors to larger parts such as slats and rotor blades that can exceed 9m. Hexcel also keeps pace with latest CATIA V5 CAD/CAM software and uses VERICUT software for machine simulation and NC programme optimisation.

In the Innovation for Aerospace section Hexcel promoted its HexWeb Acousti-Cap noise management system for engine nacelles which won the JEC award for aerospace in 2007. Hexcel also promoted its HexTOOL composite tooling material, showing video footage shot at Hexcel customer, Touchstone, demonstrating how the material is processed. Hexcel’s HexMC carbon fibre/epoxy aircraft part manufacturing capabilities was also promoted and a range of parts manufactured with HexMC for Boeing were on display.

Redux 870, Hexcel’s two-component, gap filling high performance liquid shim adhesive was also promoted at the show. Redux 870 was developed to support Airbus requirements for new aircraft programmes and has recently achieved AIMS qualification 10-07-001.

Under the Innovation for wind energy and selected markets section Hexcel promoted its new prepreg for wind blades, HexPly M19. According to Hexcel, this innovative system, available with glass or carbon fibre reinforcements, is a major step forward in prepregs for wind energy as it cures in 15-20% less time than current products used for the same application. Less energy is therefore required to cure the prepreg and production times are increased. There are also savings in mould costs as less expensive tooling resins and coatings can be used along with a cheaper tooling support system. Overall cost savings of up to 10% are achievable per mould and the moulds are more durable with an increase in cycle life of up to 30%. HexPly M19 has the same excellent mechanical and handling properties as the established HexPly M9 range and is suitable for shells, spars and the root end.

Hexcel also promoted its new range of surfacing prepregs for automotive and wind energy applications. HexPly XF3 is a lightly reinforced surfacing film that they say provides excellent surface finish for the bodywork of performance cars. It is ready to paint with minimum preparation and compatible with Hexcel’s epoxy prepregs for automotive applications, adapting to a range of cure cycles from 100 to 140 C.

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