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Composites Industry News

News for 2002


Man-Made Spider Silk Performance Fibers

18th January 2002 0 comments

Nexia Biotechnologies Inc. and the U.S. Army Soldier Biological Chemical Command have reported in this week’s journal of Science that they have made the world’s first spider silk fibers from man-made materials with properties similar to natural spider silk. Spider silk has long been admired by material scientists for its unique combination of high-performance properties including toughness, strength, lightness and biodegradability. Nexia is developing recombinant spider silk, trade named BioSteel(R), for applications in the medical, military and industrial performance fiber markets. “Mimicking spider silk properties has been the holy grail of material science for a long time and now we’ve been able to make useful fibers,” said Jeffrey Turner, PhD, President and CEO of Nexia. “Having achieved this proof of principle, Nexia has now moved toward commercial development for multiple applications such as medical sutures, biodegradable fishing lines, soft body armor and unique material composites. Our strategy is two-fold: to produce large quantities of BioSteel(R) through our proprietary transgenic goat technology and to optimize spinning processes to create a diversity of spider silks with specific properties.” The Science paper, titled “Spider Silk Fibers Spun from Soluble Recombinant Silk Produced in Mammalian Cells” (Lazaris et al., 2002-01-18. Science. Vol. 295:472-476) describes the production of a number of different dragline spider silk proteins via cell culture techniques using silk genes derived from two different species of orb-weaving spiders. The dragline spider silks from these species have been documented to be among the strongest silks reported. The monomer silk proteins from one of these species were spun from an aqueous solution to produce water-insoluble BioSteel fibers. These fibers were tested for a number of mechanical properties and compared to natural spider silk. The researchers found that the spinning conditions used were adequate to produce fibers with mechanical properties similar to natural dragline spider silk including toughness and modulus, but had lower strength (tenacity) than natural spider silk. Toughness measures the amount of energy that the fibers can absorb before breaking and spider silks are among the toughest materials in the world. In effect, initial fibers of BioSteel were able to absorb similar amounts of energy as natural spider silk by stretching farther. The fibers also had good water stability, orientation and were uniform in diameter. “We believe the Science paper will be seen as a landmark article in spinning water stable fibers with good mechanical properties using an aqueous process,” said Jean Herbert, Leader, Materials Science Team at SBCCOM’s Natick Soldier Center. “We and others have been working on spider silk for considerable time and are thrilled finally to have the opportunity to spin synthetic silks and move the field towards real applications. The availability of Nexia’s water-soluble recombinant silk proteins has been a fundamental breakthrough in our ability to spin spider silk fibers.” Scientists at the Natick facility are well-known for their expertise in high-performance fiber application development and their deployment of superior military, and often civilian, systems. The Natick Soldier Center has been working with Nexia under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) since May, 1999 and the results are reported jointly in the Science paper. “These results are remarkable,” said Costas N. Karatzas, PhD, Vice- President, Research & Development at Nexia and senior author on the Science publication. “First, we were able to produce monomers and spin fibers in an aqueous environment thereby mimicking the spider’s way of spinning silk, a process that has been perfected through 400 million years of evolution. Using these water-based BioSteel(R) solutions for large-scale fiber spinning would be considerably more environmentally friendly than using harsh solvents such as those used for most synthetic fiber manufacturing. “Second, the material from mammalian cells was spun into fibers with significant toughness. Scientists have been successful in producing spider silk proteins in bacteria and yeast in the past, but for a number of reasons, have been unable to spin fibers with appreciable properties. Now with the availability of mammalian-derived BioSteel(R) fibers, we can begin to optimize the spinning process in order to tailor BioSteel(R) properties for a wide range of applications. We are grateful to the US Army team at Natick and our other collaborators for their expert guidance in this project,” added Dr. Karatzas. Dragline silk, which comprises the radiating spokes of a spider web, exhibits a combination of strength and toughness unmatched by high-performance synthetic fibers. Dragline silk is three times tougher than aramid fibers and five times as strong, by weight, as steel. Dragline silk is composed of proteins with multiple repetitive sequence blocks that impart its mechanical properties. Spiders can be coaxed to make silk, but attempts to create “spider farms” have failed because of the territorial nature of spiders. BioSteel(R) is eco-friendly both in terms of its composition and its production process. As opposed to most other synthetic fibers, BioSteel(R) is expected to be biodegradable over time in the presence of water making it a promising material for such applications as medical sutures and fishing lines. Additionally, the aqueous production process has the potential to be non- polluting and environmentally friendly in contrast to the manufacturing of other synthetic fibers. “It’s incredible that a tiny animal found literally in your backyard can create such an amazing material by using only amino acids, the same building blocks that are used to make skin and hair,” added Dr. Turner. “Spider silk is a material science wonder – a self-assembling, biodegradable, high- performance, nanofiber structure one-tenth the width of a human hair that can stop a bee traveling at 20 miles per hour without breaking. Spider silk has dwarfed Man’s achievements in material science to date.” Nexia has exclusive, worldwide rights to broad patents covering spider silk genes and proteins and is in the process of developing commercial quantities of spider silk using its proprietary transgenic goat technology. Nexia has developed a number of male and female BioSteel(R) founder goats. Males are being used to expand the herd and females will begin producing milk in the second quarter 2002 to provide increasing quantities of BioSteel(R) for spinning process optimization, product development and commercialization.

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3D Systems Provides Competitive Tools

18th January 2002 0 comments

3D Systems Corp. has joined forces in a technology and marketing alliance with Penske Racing for its NASCAR Winston Cup programs. Penske Racing uses 3D Systems solid imaging technology to build prototype parts for Winston Cup Series cars driven by Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman. The process enables Penske engineers to produce new parts easily and quickly from computer-aided design (CAD) data — a necessity for making quick adjustments to improve the performance of their cars between racing events. As part of the marketing alliance, Penske uses an SLA(R) 5000 system and a ThermoJet(R) solid object printer from 3D Systems. The machines, in use and on display at Penske Racing headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., create concept models, visual aids and wind tunnel models, as well as aid in the production of final assemblies fitted on the racecars. According to Nelson Cosgrove, lead engineer for Penske Racing, the SLA system allows Penske Racing to create highly detailed components for the aerodynamic research program. “Many of the pieces that we create for the wind tunnel model have integrated pressure tappings, which allows us to measure pressure changes in components that would have been impossible with other manufacturing methods. “Stereolithography has some clear advantages over carbon fiber or fabricated aluminum components when it comes to flexibility and ease of manufacturing,” Cosgrove added. “The SLA 5000 system gives Penske Racing the tight accuracy required for scale model testing, giving us an immediate competitive advantage.”

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Sprint is Marine Product Of The Year

18th January 2002 0 comments

On Friday 4th January, SP Systems was presented with the British Nautical Awards Marine Product of the Year for its SPRINT technology. The BNA recognize the best in British boating in eleven categories, including Yachtsman of the Year, Young Yachtsman of the Year and Sailboat of the Year. SP Systems’ SPRINT is a new material and processing technology that has been used on boats such as the Nautor 45 foot Swan and the prototype for the new RNLI Fast Slipway Boat. SP Systems’ Managing Director, Paul Rudling, who received the award on SP’s behalf, said, “”We are delighted to win this award especially so against such strong competition. This is a very exciting technology for which we have great hopes and we believe that it will have a significant impact on the marine industry.”” SPRINT technology allows high quality composite components, with high mechanical properties and very low void content (typically 0 – 0.5%), to be produced rapidly and economically. SPRINT materials consist of dry fibre reinforcements, into which a thin precatalysed resin film has been inserted. When a vacuum bag is applied, the dry reinforcement provides a path for air to be extracted from the material, from between the SPRINT layers and from the mould surface. During the heat cure cycle the resin film softens, flows into the air-free reinforcement and yields a composite component with high fibre content, very low voids and excellent surface finish.

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Adam Aircraft Fuselage for Display

18th January 2002 0 comments

Adam Aircraft Industries has completed the first fuselage for the CarbonAero.. Mounted on a wheeled frame, this portable display model will convey the actual look and feel of the cabin interior and exterior to prospective buyers. According to schedule, the display fuselage will debut in April at the 2002 Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In at Lakeland Florida. After that it’ll run a gauntlet of trade shows, conventions, and exhibitions through the end of the year. According to Tom Wiesner, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, “”We plan on displaying this CarbonAero interior at Oshkosh, NBAA, MMOPA, and the AOPA Expo.”” The six-place CarbonAero offers the performance of a twin with the simplicity of a single-engine and the amenities and interior comfort of a jet. Among its state-of-the-art technological advances, this centerline thrust twin features a carbon composite structure.

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Resin Systems Inc Strengthens Advisory Board

18th January 2002 0 comments

Resin Systems Inc. has made two additions to its Board of Advisors who will play an important role in the Company’s pending commercialization of the Version resin line. Mr. Doug Hubbard, with over 30 years of experience in the composites industry, stated that, “”RSI has developed a modified urethane resin that is significantly changing the way pultruded profiles are processed””. His early years focused on research and development; quality control and production management. The last 15 years have been spent primarily in the area of sales, marketing and management with positions as District Manager of Ashland Chemical and presently, as North American Distribution Manager, Baltech Corporation. Mr. Hubbard is a member of the Society of American Material and Process Engineers and a past member of both the Pultrusion Industry Council and a member of the Board of Directors of the Composites Fabrication Association. Mr. Vern Kallenborn joins RSI in the capacity of both Consultant and Board Member. Mr. Kallenborn has over 40 years experience in the pultrusion segment of the composite industry. He has had extensive experience in all areas of pultrusion, including, developmental research, process chemistry, product manager, manufacturing manager, sales and tooling design. He has successfully founded and sold two pultrusion companies. “”When I first saw a part pultruded out of Version, it was obvious that the resin was a cut above the standard pultrusion resins currently in use”” according to Mr. Kallenborn. RSI is a chemical technology company, which has developed a line of specialized resins for the production of a broad range of products made from composite materials.

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U.S. Cement to Distribute Basalt Fiber

18th January 2002 0 comments

Hightec, Inc’s wholly owned subsidiary is planning to distribute basalt fiber products to the concrete industry. The company has recently received samples of ten products that it plans to distribute to the concrete industry. They include: Basalt Fiber in continuous filament roving, and twisted yarn. Basalt fiber chopped in 2 mm and 1″” length suitable for concrete reinforcement and replacement of polypropylene and steel fiber Basalt fiber in mesh form suitable for use in reinforced pipe, pillars, or replacement of wire mesh products Basalt fiber in mat form for insulation Basalt fiber in woven fabric form suitable for high temperature, high strength replacement of Kevlar products Basalt fiber in 1/2″”, 3/4″” and 7/8″” composite rebar (round, I-beam, and T-Beam) suitable for replacement of steel rebar.

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PPG Reports On Fourth Quarter

18th January 2002 0 comments

PPG Industries reported today fourth-quarter net income was $83 million, on sales of $1.91 billion. This compares with fourth-quarter 2000 net income of $126 million, on sales of $2.1 billion. For all of 2001, PPG’s net income was $387 million, including a $101 million pretax restructuring charge in the first quarter. Excluding the charge, income was $458 million. Sales were $8.2 billion. Net income for all of 2000 was $620 million, including aftertax charges totaling $38 million, to write-off an equity investment and rationalize an automotive replacement glass distribution venture. Excluding the charges, net income was $658 million. Sales were a record $8.6 billion. “”We anticipated a difficult year by accelerating actions to cut costs and conserve capital. Our financial discipline and continuous drive to improve efficiency have not reduced our commitment to technology and service,”” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Raymond W. LeBoeuf. “”One of PPG’s fundamental strengths is the continuous improvement of business processes, which is particularly important in times such as these, when market conditions are weak and the timing of the recovery is uncertain. Following the restructuring and work force reductions begun last year, we’re developing plans to take additional restructuring actions in the first quarter of 2002, in the range of $60 to $90 million before taxes. These actions will include work force reductions and the closing of facilities or portions of facilities no longer needed as a result of improved business processes.”” In the glass segment, sales were down 14 percent mostly on lower volumes, especially in fiber glass. Despite the positive impact of pricing and manufacturing efficiencies, earnings also fell.

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Jordan Introduces the New Air Jordan XVII Experience

25th January 2002 0 comments

Jordan, a division of Nike, Inc. is introducing the Air Jordan XVII, the newest addition to the 17-year-old Air Jordan basketball shoe franchise. This high-performance shoe is the flagship product for the Jordan brand. “”We set out to make the Air Jordan XVII an instrument for the discerning basketball player, in the same style that a jazz musician would use an instrument to perform,”” says Gentry Humphrey, footwear marketing director. “”We addressed and met all of the athlete’s performance areas — traction, support, comfort and fit.”” Key features (and benefits) of the Air Jordan XVII include a full-length carbon fiber mid-foot shank plate for arch support.

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How Robots are used in Composites Industry

25th January 2002 0 comments

Increasing costs and environmental regulations have forced composites manufacturers to consider robotic automation for the application of fiberglass chop and gel to a variety of products including boats and tubs. Overall, robots can provide several key benefits when compared to manual application methods. Variations in the amount of material used for manual application of resin or fiberglass leads to excessive expenses through warranty costs, part re-work, production delays, part fit and performance problems. There are robots designed specifically for industrial coating applications such as fiber reinforced plastic processes. Robotic application provides consistent material delivery control which reduces material variation and increases part production consistency. As a result, material costs and lay-up times are significantly reduced. Manual fiber chop applications can lead to repetitive motion injuries and prolonged exposure to resin fumes and fiber chop can potentially cause other physical complications. In addition, strict EPA regulations to employee exposure and styrene emissions to open molding materials have increased. Inconsistent application of gel coat results in the reduction of product quality and performance. Gel coat applied too thickly can cause product cracking; if it is applied too thin, the gel coat may not cure properly, or bleed through of the fiber reinforcement may occur. Automation ensures that materials are applied consistently, which helps manufacturers improve quality and reduce warranty costs. Taken from an original article by Fanuc Robotics

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Hexcel Annual results

25th January 2002 0 comments

Hexcel Corporation reported results for the fourth quarter and full year 2001. For the year, the Company’s net loss was $433.7 million, compared to net income in 2000 of $54.2 million. Results for 2000 included a gain on the sale of the Bellingham aircraft interiors business of $68.3 million ($44.3 million on an after tax basis). Excluding business consolidation and restructuring expenses, impairments of goodwill and other purchased intangibles, and the gain on the sale of the Bellingham business, the Company’s pretax loss in 2001 was $13.5 million, as compared to pretax income in 2000 of $17.6 million. Commenting on Hexcel’s fourth quarter results, Mr. David E. Berges, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “”In the fourth quarter, the Company began to dramatically reshape itself to adapt to the new business realities of the post September 11th world. We are well on our way to removing $60.0 million in cash fixed costs. Also during the quarter, we completed the closure of one of the two plants targeted for elimination, reduced inventories by 20%, reduced our capital spending to approximate 60% of depreciation and reassessed the value of all of our assets resulting in several impairments. While the personnel cuts are particularly painful, it is important to note that they are well targeted. Four of the top eleven executive positions have been eliminated (36%), over 30% of the corporate staff has been reduced and almost 20% of all other fixed and indirect positions are being eliminated. R&T, sales and customer service functions were the least affected by the fixed cost actions, and direct labor will only be impacted by customer demand and productivity initiatives. Critical customer programs, growth markets, and strategic research projects have been well funded and staffed.”” Mr. Berges continued, “”I am particularly pleased with our ability to reduce inventory ahead of the decline in customer sales. Our vertical integration allowed us to take immediate action from composite structures, through prepregs and fabric operations, and all the way down to fiber manufacturing once we had visibility to aerospace customer build rate adjustments. While this quick action had a serious impact on absorption and the resultant gross margin, it minimizes the risk of experiencing the kind of multi-tiered inventory glut that the entire electronics industry supply chain suffered from in 2001. With the benefit of lower fixed costs and more normalized inventory to sales tracking, we anticipate recovering from the anomalous fourth quarter gross margins as 2002 progresses.”” Mr. Berges noted, “”We are also pleased with the solid support the banks behind our Senior Credit Facility have continued to provide. I am convinced that in addition to our strong share position and the long-term growth prospects for our markets, our aggressive restructuring actions demonstrated that Hexcel does not intend to be a victim of the external challenges 2001 delivered. Mr. Berges concluded, “”The impact of this radical reshaping obviously had a devastating impact on the final quarter of 2001. I trust that those who follow us will recognize that the tragedy of September gave us little choice. We cannot always control events, but we can control how we react to them.”” Commercial Aerospace. Sales of composite materials and reinforcement products to Airbus, Boeing and regional aircraft producers began to decline as the quarter progressed due to the anticipated supply chain inventory correction associated with the scheduled 2002 decline in commercial aircraft build rates. Revenues for the 2001 fourth quarter were $124.2 million, 3.9% lower than 2001 third quarter revenue of $129.2 million. For the full year, Hexcel experienced 8.0% revenue growth in this market from higher aircraft build rates in 2001. Space & Defense. Revenues for the 2001 fourth quarter of $39.7 million were 12.5% higher than the prior quarter and 19.9% higher than the fourth quarter of 2000. Revenues for 2001 were $143.3 million, up 11.1% from 2000. Electronics. Sales for the 2001 fourth quarter were $11.6 million, down 74.8% from the fourth quarter of 2000. The 2001 fourth quarter revenues remained depressed reflecting the continued impact of the severe industry downturn and inventory correction working through the global electronics market, as well as intense competition for the remaining low levels of customer demand. Industrial Markets. Sales were $63.6 million in the 2001 fourth quarter compared to $55.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2000. The 15.2% increase in revenues year over year is evident in both the Company’s reinforcement products and composite materials segments and reflects, among other things, continued strength in soft body armor, wind energy and new automotive applications. Revenues from recreational applications declined in line with the softening of the global economy. For the year, the Company’s consolidated revenues were $1,009.4 million, compared with consolidated revenues on a pro forma basis of $1,036.8 million for 2000. Revenues declined 2.6% year over year reflecting the severe industry downturn and inventory correction in the electronics market, with sales to that market down $104.2 million or 57.5% year on year. Commercial aerospace revenues were up $40.1 million or 8.0% year on year. Revenues in the space & defense and industrial markets were up 11.1% and 9.8%, respectively, and reflect continuing strengths in these markets. Pro forma revenues give effect to the sale of the Bellingham business as if the transaction had occurred on January 1, 2000. To respond to the forecasted reductions in commercial aircraft production and the continued weakness in electronics, Hexcel announced a major restructuring plan on November 7, 2001. The plan targets a 20% reduction in cash fixed overhead costs, or $60.0 million, as compared to then current spending rates and results should be visible in the Company’s second quarter 2002 performance. The plan also provides for the reduction of direct manufacturing employment as customer orders decline. The cash fixed cost reductions are primarily being achieved through company wide reductions of managerial, professional, indirect manufacturing and administrative employees along with organizational rationalization. The majority of the actions necessary to effect this cost reduction had been taken by the end of the quarter and the Company will complete virtually all of these actions in the first quarter of 2002. As a result, at the end of 2001, Hexcel employed 5,376 people, down almost 15% from September, and we expect to reduce that number to approximately 4,500 by the end of 2002. The fourth quarter 2001 restructuring plan has resulted in a $47.9 million charge to earnings for the Company with cash costs expected to approximate $35.0 million. Cash costs of approximately $3.0 million were incurred in the fourth quarter. The balance will be incurred over the next four quarters. The Company also incurred business consolidation expenses of $3.2 million during the quarter primarily relating to its previously announced actions to close its Gilbert (AZ) and Lancaster (OH) pre-preg manufacturing plants. The closure of the Gilbert plant was completed during the quarter ahead of schedule and it is anticipated that the Lancaster plant closure will be completed in the second quarter of 2002.

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