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Composites Industry News

News for June 2006


White Young Green Develop Composite Motorway Gantries

9th June 2006 0 comments

The Specialist Structures Group of White Young Green (WYG) has been working for the last 2 years with Atkins and the UK Highways Agency to develop FRP composite structures for motorway sign and signal gantries. The composite gantries have been developed as an alternative to conventional steel or concrete structures providing significant benefits in ease of transportation, durability and through-life costing. With spans of up to 50m using a one-piece all-FRP beam, this project will certainly be breaking new ground within the construction industry. Steve Sexton, Atkins’ project manager commented, “The use of FRP has enabled an aesthetic low maintenance lightweight gantry design to be developed. The design is significantly lighter than an equivalent steel or concrete gantry and provides advantages in the design, ergonomics, transportation, installation and maintenance, which coupled with the vastly superior durability and whole-life cost benefits, makes the use of FRP a viable option.” The whole of the primary load-bearing structure of the main beam is to be produced in FRP. WYG Specialist Structures, who specialise in the design of composite structures, are responsible for the engineering and analysis of the FRP structure. “This has been a very challenging project, not just because of the technical issues to be addressed, but to achieve the tight budgets necessary to compete with conventional materials,” WYG’s Project Manager for the FRP Gantry project, Dr Mark Leaity added. “The potentially large number of gantries to be built has enabled lower cost, automated manufacturing processes, such as Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) to be selected for certain components and resin infusion to be used for others to achieve very high-quality laminates. We hope that this project will come to fruition and it should lead to other significant applications of FRP Composites in the construction industry, such as major bridges and complete building structures.”

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GE Partner with MSU on Composite Parts

9th June 2006 0 comments

General Electric Company (GE) has teamed with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) to pursue the fabrication of advanced composite jet engine components in Mississippi. “”For 30 years, GE has advanced the use of composites in jet engines,”” said David Calhoun, GE Vice Chairman. “”We are very pleased to work with state and development leaders to bring this advanced technology facility to Mississippi.”” During 2006-2007, GE will create an incubator program with the Mississippi State University (MSU) College of Engineering. There, GE will work with the MDA and MSU to demonstrate the necessary capabilities for producing composite components for commercial and military jet engines. Upon successful completion of this phase, GE will establish a production facility in Mississippi. GE and MDA are evaluating potential sites in Mississippi. The facility is anticipated to open in the 2007-2008 timeframe and is expected to employ approximately 200 people at full rate production. GE introduced its first composite fan blades in jet travel in 1995 with its GE90 engine on the Boeing 777. The GEnx, a new GE engine under development to enter service in 2008, will have both composite fan blades and a composite fan case. Composite components are also in GE’s advanced military engines. Due to the success of the GE90 and GEnx engines, the production of GE’s composite components is growing. The Mississippi facility is expected to produce composite fan blade platforms (made of carbon fibre and epoxy resin) for the GEnx engine. These platforms are installed in between the front fan blades at the base of the blades. The Mississippi facility will also produce composite components for GE military engines, including components for the F136 engine for the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program.

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Materials Science Brings New Forest Product Opportunities

9th June 2006 0 comments

New avenues for wood fibres are being opened up by cellulose-based nanofibres, which can be used to produce extremely strong and modifiable materials, backed by growing pressures such as environmental requirements for natural materials in future. “”Forest cluster companies operating in Finland are on the look out for new forest products. In order to be able to meet the challenges of these companies we need to improve the current level of know-how in wood-based products and wood processing at molecular level. New territory has been charted for example in the areas of composite and nanomaterials,”” says Professor Janne Laine of the Helsinki University of Technology’s Department of Forest Products Technology. Interest in cellulose-based nanofibres is primarily driven by its environmental value as a biomaterial. It is also known that nanomaterials can be used, for example, to achieve strength properties which are not attainable with particles of bigger size classes. Furthermore, the smaller the particle is, the bigger the surface area, which in turn increases the desired interactivity with other materials. “”One of the main application targets for new materials is the car industry, which wants to use lightweight cellulose fibres in car interior panelling. Estimates in terms of volume of the natural fibre requirement of the European car industry in 2010 are extremely substantial,”” says Laine. Professor Laine’s research team is one of five teams involved in examining and developing cellulose-based nanofibres as part of the Finnish-Swedish Wood Material Science and Engineering research programme. According to Professor Janne Laine, the Nanostructured Cellulose Products research project has shown that wood fibre can be used to make an extremely versatile range of materials, both for traditional wood processing industry products as well as for totally new applications. Cellulose fibres (30 micrometers wide, 2–3 millimetres long) consist of nanometre-scale microfibrils (4 nm wide, 100–200 nm long). The chief objective of the project has been to produce uniform quality nanofibre (microfibrillated cellulose, MFC) from cellulose fibres by combining enzymatic or chemical treatment with mechanical processing. The second objective has been to attempt to functionalise the surfaces of the microfibrils, e.g. by means of polymers in order to be able to utilise the converted fibrils in as many materials as possible. The third objective has been to demonstrate how cellulose fibrils can give totally new properties to a range of different materials. The project has achieved an 80 percent reduction in the energy requirement of microfibrillar cellulose manufacture as compared to levels formerly claimed in literature. In addition, enzymatic pre-treatment combined with specific mechanical treatments has produced microfibrils of extremely high and uniform quality. “”We’ve succeeded in modifying the surfaces of microfibrils e.g. by means of different polymers, which has, for instance, enabled us to make their surfaces more electrically charged. Microfibrils give considerable toughness and strength to traditional paper products even in small quantities. Correspondingly, microfibrils, as so-called nanocomposite structures, form an extremely high-strength material (e.g. film) the plasticity (elasticity) of which is possible to regulate for example by means of starch,”” says Laine. “”Cellulose microfibrils can also be used to make ultra-light materials. By combining fibrils with conductive polymers, we’ve been able to make cellulose based structures which conduct electricity. It’s also been possible to coat microfibrils with a thin layer of titanium dioxide, which makes the material photocatalytically active. Titanium dioxide coated microfibrillar cellulose could be used, for instance, in solar cells and applications in which self-cleaning surfaces are needed, such as filters.”” The multidisciplinary projects focusing on basic research involved in the Finnish-Swedish research programme Wood Material Science and Engineering have studied the raw material properties of wood and means to improve the material properties of wood and fibres. The ongoing projects focusing on innovation-targeted research and development process and develop wood raw material into innovative and eco-efficient products, materials and processes, e.g. for the use in construction, packing, pharmaceutical and food industries. The programme ends in 2007. Projects within the programme are funded with a total of 20 million euros.

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Polystrand Product Enables In-Mould Reinforcement

9th June 2006 0 comments

Samples of thermoplastic components augmented with Polystrand in-mould reinforcement will be shown this month in Chicago at NPE 2006, where Polystrand is exhibiting for the first time.

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Major Ambulance Order for UVModular.

9th June 2006 0 comments

Over the next two years the Scottish Ambulance Service will take delivery of up to 180 Volkswagen LT46 coach-built GRP-bodied ambulances.

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MHI Completes Factory for Boeing 787 Wing Boxes

9th June 2006 0 comments

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has completed the construction of a fabrication factory in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, for the composite-material wing boxes of the Boeing 787. In combination with an adjoining assembly factory to be completed this September, the fabrication factory will form the company’s new composite wing centre, where integrated manufacturing will span from parts forming to wing box assembly. The fabrication factory has a total floorspace of approximately 47,000 square meters (506,000 square feet) – roughly 210 meters long and 170 meters wide – with a ceiling height of 35 meters. Its state-of-the-art equipment includes contour tape lay-up (CTL) systems for layering of composite-material tape, one of the world’s largest autoclaves that bake and cure the layered materials at high temperature and under high pressure, and jet cutting machines to process the cured parts. Upon inauguration, the factory will initially be operated by approximately 500 employees. Full-scale production is expected to commence this July. MHI also recently completed the construction of a factory to manufacture composite-material skin stringers, converting part of the existing Yamatomachi Plant at its Shimonoseki Shipyard and Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Production of the 787 wing boxes will be conducted through close coordination of the company’s three factories in Shimonoseki and Nagoya. MHI has engaged in research and development in the area of composite materials for a long time and already boasts a solid record in supplying various components, including those used in long-haul business jets, Japan Defense Agency aircraft and rockets. Based on this experience, MHI is now taking responsibility for the wings of the Boeing 787, an aircraft that is expected to attract orders for more than 1,000 units over the next 20 years.

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Researchers Develop New Nanofabrication Technique

9th June 2006 0 comments

Researchers have developed a new technique that could provide detailed information about the growth of carbon nanotubes and other nanometer-scale structures as they are being produced. The technique offers a way for researchers to rapidly and systematically map how changes in growth conditions affect the fabrication of nanometer-scale structures. Instead of a large furnace that is normally used to grow nanotubes as part of the chemical vapour deposition process, the Georgia Institute of Technology researchers grew bundles of nanotubes on a micro-heater built into an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip. The tiny device provided highly-localized heating for only the locations where researchers wanted to grow the nanostructures. Because the resonance frequency of the cantilever changed as the nanotubes grew, the researchers were able to use it to accurately measure the mass of the structures they produced. The next step in the research will be to combine the growth and measurement processes to permit in situ study of mass change during nanostructure growth. “There are hundreds of materials – electronic, magnetic and optical – that are grown using a similar thermally-based technique,” said William P. King, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Mechanical Engineering. “By growing these structures on cantilevers, we will be able to determine exactly what is happening with the materials growth as it occurs. This could provide a new tool for investigating the growth of these structures under different conditions.” Using arrays of cantilevers operating at different temperatures would allow researchers to accelerate the process for mapping the kinetics of nanostructure growth. Because the cantilevers can be heated and cooled more rapidly than a traditional furnace, batches of nanostructures can be produced in just 10 minutes – compared to two hours or more for traditional processing. “We can change the structures being grown by rapidly changing the temperature,” explained Samuel Graham, also an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Mechanical Engineering. “We can also change the kinetics of growth, which is something that is difficult to do using conventional technology.” By demonstrating that carbon nanotubes can be growth on an AFM cantilever, the technique also provides a new way to integrate nanometer-scale structures with microdevices. The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, and has been reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters. King, Graham and collaborators Erik O. Sunden, Jungchul Lee and Tanya L. Wright began with an AFM cantilever fabricated in their Georgia Tech lab. The cantilever had an integrated electric-resistance heater whose output temperature could be controlled by varying the current. Actual heater temperatures were measured to within four degrees Celsius using Laser Raman thermometry. Calibration of the cantilevers over a large temperature range using Raman spectroscopy was a key aspect of the success of this research, allowing the first detailed temperature maps of these devices, Graham noted. The researchers used electron beam evaporation to deposit a 10 nanometer iron catalyst film onto the cantilever. After heating, the iron film formed islands that provided catalytic sites for growing nanotubes. The cantilever was then placed into a quartz tube, which was purged of contaminants with argon gas. The cantilever heating was then turned on and the temperature held at approximately 800 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. A combination of methane, hydrogen and acetylene – precursors for carbon nanotubes – was then flowed into the chamber. Only the cantilever tip and the reaction gas immediately around it were heated, leaving the remainder of the experimental set-up at room temperature. After removal from the tube, the cantilever was examined using a scanning electron microscope, which showed vertically aligned carbon nanotubes growing from the cantilever heater region. The nanotubes ranged in length from five to 10 microns, and were 10 to 30 nanometers in diameter. Although the entire cantilever was coated with the iron catalyst, the nanotubes grew only on the heated area. A temperature gradient on the heater created differences in the types of nanotubes grown. Both before and after the growth, the cantilever was vibrated so its resonance frequency could be measured. Those measurements showed a frequency decline from 119.10 to 118.23 kHz after the nanotubes were grown on the cantilever. After the resonance measurements were made, the cantilever was heated beyond 900 degrees Celsius in air to burn off the nanotubes. When the resonance frequency was measured again, it had changed to 119.09 kHz, showing that the frequency drop had been due to the mass of the nanotubes. From the change in the resonance frequency, the researchers were able to calculate the mass of the carbon nanotubes they had grown as approximately four picograms (4 x 10-14)kg. “We are working on integrating the growing and weighing of the nanotubes so we can do both of them at the same time,” said King. “That would allow us to monitor the materials growth as it happens.” Once the two processes are integrated, the researchers expect to increase the number of cantilevers operating simultaneously. Cantilever arrays could allow many different growth temperatures and conditions to be measured in parallel, accelerating the task of charting the growth kinetics to determine the optimal settings. “This is a platform for materials discovery, so we could test tens or even thousands of different chemistry or growth conditions in a very short period of time,” King said. “With a thousand cantilevers, we could do in a single day experiments that would take years using conventional growth techniques. Once the right conditions were found, the production process could be scaled up.” The scanning electron microscope image showing carbon nanotubes growing on the heated portion of an atomic force microscope cantilever.

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Dow Increases Epoxy Resin Price in North America

9th June 2006 0 comments

Dow is raising prices in North America for a wide selection of its epoxy resin products. From July 1, 2006, Dow will increase off-list prices for DER 300 series liquid epoxy resins and DER 500 series brominated epoxy resins by $0.08/lb, and for DER 600 series solid epoxy resins and solid solution epoxy resins by $0.06/lb.

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Microphase Coatings Launches New Resins and Coatings

9th June 2006 0 comments

Microphase is launching three new families of high performance resins and coatings built on work performed for the US Military. Thermablock 2.3 and NANO are thermal barriers which Microphase say can withstand 2000 degrees F and do not generate smoke. Thermablock 2.3 is an excellent insulator and Nano is a very hard top coat. Thermablock FRC is a resin with the same fire barrier propertie, that can be used in closed moulding and prepreg processes. The company has also launched Phasecoat UFR and Bare Bottom which are new, environmentally friendly foul-release and non-foul marine bottom coatings that contain no metals. Micophase say that all products exhibit excellent adhesion and can be sprayed or rolled with conventional equipment.

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Alcoa and DuPont Collaborate on Hurricane-Resistant Architectural Panels

14th June 2006 0 comments

Alcoa and DuPont have collaborated to develop a new fibre-reinforced product for the commercial building and construction market that provides protection against the damage of hurricane wind-borne debris. The two companies have joined forces to introduce a new product that incorporates both companies’ strength in materials technology, by introducing a thin layer of Kevlar fabric between the aluminum skins and polyethylene core. Called Reynobond with Kevlar, it is designed to withstand wind-borne debris and wind speeds common in hurricanes up to a Category 3 storm, with wind speeds up to 130 mph. Alcoa say that Reynobond made with Kevlar brand fibre acts as a safety net by helping to protect the facades of buildings from hurricane-propelled debris, frequently the main cause of hurricane damage. “”Partnering with DuPont provided Alcoa the opportunity to enhance our lightweight, widely used Reynobond aluminum composite material to a new level of usage by inserting DuPont’s ultra strong Kevlar fabric into the architectural panel,”” said Eric Bassel, President of Alcoa Architectural Products. “”This market-driven collaboration between two well-known technology and industrial leaders was essential in enabling the successful launch of this new, multi-material product. Deep fundamental knowledge of their respective materials and close collaboration on interface performance were key in developing this unique product,”” said Alcoa Vice President and Chief Technical Officer Mohammad Zaidi. “”Because threats to people’s livelihood are dynamic and evolving, we continue to put DuPont science to work – in this instance, collaborating with Alcoa on an innovative new product that helps protect people, property and business operations,”” said William J. Harvey, vice president and general manager, DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems. “”Through this science-based collaboration, DuPont and Alcoa combined their extensive expertise, product knowledge and market experience to accelerate the design-to-market process.”” Alcoa has successfully tested panels of Reynobond with Kevlar that have passed rigorous simulated hurricane impact tests conducted by Hurricane Test Laboratory, LLC in Florida, including the “”large missile impact test,”” involving a 9-pound 2X4 timber traveling at 50 feet per second, as stipulated by the Miami-Dade Building Code.

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