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JEC Review: New Materials from Hexcel

  • Sunday, 2nd April 2006
  • Reading time: about 4 minutes

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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