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Composites Industry News

News for August 2007


NP Aerospace in £71 Million Trade Buy-Out

11th August 2007 0 comments

NP Aerospace (NPA), one of Europe’s largest thermoset moulding companies, has undergone a £71 million trade buy-out (TBO) backed by one of its major suppliers, Morgan Crucible plc. The deal signals the start of a new expansion phase for the company and gives the management team the support required while Morgan Crucible acquires a significant minority stake. It also provides an exit for The Carlyle Group, the global private equity house which bought the company for £30 million from Reinhold Industries in 2005 and has supported the NPA team in achieving their long term goal of becoming an independent company. Barclays Bank is providing funding for the management team. NP Aerospace supplies composite moulded products to the aerospace, medical imaging, automotive and defence industries. The company’s products, which are based on a range of advanced composite materials and proprietary production technologies, include ballistic resistant helmets and body armour, low x-ray absorbent medical structures and light-armoured vehicle structures. NPA’s armoured vehicles have been used by the MoD, Police and various news teams together with its body armour and helmets for over 20 years. A key aspect in the NPA success story is their speed and ability in bringing innovative products to the market whether it be a new explosive ordinance suit (EOD) for the army or a new composite couch top for the medical industry, their products always become a significant competitor in their sector. Founded in 1926, NP Aerospace was originally part of Courtaulds and is based in Coventry, England and Amman, Jordan and has over 200 employees. It will continue to operate as a standalone firm with a UK board led by chief executive Roger Medwell, who has run the business since 1978 when he was appointed as general manager. NP Aerospace’s chief executive Roger Medwell said: “NP Aerospace is known for being at the forefront of technology and there are numerous opportunities to develop our offering still further. We have plans for major expansion and the buy-out will put in place the conditions we need to fulfil these. The partnership with Morgan Crucible will help us to access new technologies and markets and give us the support we need to flourish and grow. The Midlands has a highly skilled and available workforce due to the unfortunate closure of some key manufacturers in the region and we will be looking to recruit to pursue our expansion plans.”

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ASTM Committee on Composite Materials Standardizes Pull-Through Resistance Method

11th August 2007 0 comments

Subcommittee D30.05 on Structural Test Methods, part of ASTM International Committee D30 on Composite Materials, has been standardizing a series of methods that are related to the analysis and substantiation of mechanically fastened joints composed of composite materials. The latest in this series of standards, D 7332/D 7332M, Test Method for Measuring the Fastener Pull-Through Resistance of a Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Matrix Composite, is based upon procedures previously published in the Composite Materials Handbook (CMH-17), for which no standardized test methods have previously existed. D 7332/D 7332M assesses the capability of a composite plate to resist force pulling a mechanical fastener through a plate (force is applied to the fastener perpendicular to the plane of the plate). Adam J. Sawicki, chair of Subcommittee D30.05 and Technical Fellow, Structures Technology, The Boeing Company, says that the standard will be used in the development of data to analyze and substantiate mechanically fastened joint designs in structures composed of composite materials. He says that the most important examples of this include materials that are subject to out-of-plane loadings such as bolted connections between the skin and substructure in a pressurized aircraft fuselage. Sawicki says that Subcommittee D30.05 is seeking additional participation from the marine, automotive/ground vehicle and civil infrastructure industries to improve the applicability of D30.05 standards in those areas. He also notes that the subcommittee plans to expand the scope of D 7332 in future revisions to include pull-through testing of bolted attachments in sandwich structures.

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Hitco to Produce Composite Floor Beams for Boeing 787

11th August 2007 0 comments

SGL’s subsidiary, Hitco Carbon Composites has entered into a contract with Kawasaki Heavy Industries to become a supplier of composite floor beams for an aircraft fuselage section of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The composite floor beams will be produced using Hitco’s recently acquired Automated Tape Lay-up machine. Edward Carson, Hitco’s Chief Operating Officer stated: “Composites are finally being recognized for their superior properties in the aerospace industry. Hitco’s enhanced capabilities enable us to become the best Tier II supplier in the aerospace industry”. The Company is adding state-of-the-art equipment such as its new Cincinnati Charger Automated Tape Lay-up machine, and the new Viper 6000 Automated FibrePlacement machine. To accommodate even more automated production equipment, Hitco is also modernizing and upgrading its production facilities. “We seek long-term production ‘carve-out’ contracts that will continue Hitco’s role as a leader in the composite manufacturing industry”, stated Carson.

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Mitsubishi Rayon to Increase Carbon Fibre Capacity

11th August 2007 0 comments

Mitsubishi Rayon is preparing to meet an expected large increase in demand for carbon fibre by increasing the production capacity of its facilities. This will be through the construction of an additional carbonization line (with an annual capacity of 2,700 tons) at its Otake Production Center in Hiroshima Prefecture. The facility will produce high-performance carbon fibre, mainly for industrial use, with a scheduled startup of the fourth quarter (Oct.-Dec.) of 2009. The plant represents an investment of approximately 12.0 billion Yen. The carbon fiber market has been growing in sports, leisure applications and various industrial applications, as well as aerospace applications. This growth has resulted in a steady increase in demand, and the market is now expected to top 45,000 tons by 2010. With the expanded applications for pressure vessels and blades for wind-power generators, and given the emergence of a new automobile-related market, Mitsubishi Rayon recognizes the need to establish production systems to ensure stable supply in the future. In these circumstances, Mitsubishi Rayon have decided to follow up the startup of the new carbonization plant at the Toyohashi Plant in May of this year (2,200 tons annual capacity) by constructing the new production line at the Otake Production Center. The construction of the new Otake production facilities has the additional advantage of avoiding the concentration of the Group’s entire carbon fibre production in one facility (the Toyohashi Plant), thereby effecting risk dispersal. Moreover, as the precursor of carbon fibres, which is made from acrylic fibers, is also produced at the Otake Production Center, this plan has obvious merits in terms of logistics. Another reason for choosing the Otake location is that the site is very extensive, and thus convenient for further expansion in the future.

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Diab Establishes Core Finishing Facility & Sales Office in India

11th August 2007 0 comments

Diab has announced that it is the process of establishing a core material finishing facility and sales office in Chennai, India, expected to be fully operational by quarter three of 2007. Diab’s decision to set up in India is as a result of the unprecedented demand in Asia for the company’s structural core materials and also the recent signing of a long-term supply agreement with Suzlon, one of the largest producers of wind turbines for the Asian market. This announcement follows on closely from the recent opening of a finishing and sales facility in Thailand (Chonburi, Bangkok) and the doubling in size of its production operation in China (Kunshan, Shanghai). The new facility will include a fully-equipped finishing operation that will be capable of producing sheet goods for the wind energy industry as well as other markets. Commenting on the new facility, Johan Gralén, VP Sales & Marketing AAO, said “The new Chennai operation further adds to Diab’s unrivalled coverage of the Asia, Africa and Oceania region with combined production, sales and technical services facilities in four strategic locations. This continues to build upon our ‘local support’ model of having Diab’s products and services delivered locally to meet our local customer’s individual needs.”

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Sparta Receives Star Supplier Award from Lockheed Martin

11th August 2007 0 comments

Sparta Composite Products was recently recognized for outstanding supplier performance with the award of Star Supplier status by Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business unit. The Star Supplier Award was developed by Lockheed Martin to “strengthen relationships and provide recognition to world class suppliers that contribute to Mission Success.” It is awarded to select suppliers meeting or exceeding strict performance criteria in the areas of quality, delivery, affordability and management/administration. “We are honoured to receive this prestigious award from Lockheed Martin which recognizes our dedication to the on-time delivery of high-quality composite components and customer satisfaction” said Paul Oppenheim, Vice President and General Manager of Sparta Composite Products. Sparta Composite Products is a business unit of Sparta Inc., and specialises in high-volume production of composite products and sub-assemblies for aerospace and commercial systems.

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Formula Student 2007 – ‘Best Use Of Composites’ Award

11th August 2007 0 comments

The Advanced Composites Group’s (ACG) Technical Support Manager, Jon Kennerley, and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Senior Design Engineer – Composites, Steve Foster visited Silverstone recently to judge entrants for the ‘Best use of Composites’ Formula Student award. As always, the aim of the Formula Student event is to ‘provide opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate their skills, enthusiasm, ingenuity and commitment to engineering excellence’. The future of industry in general depends on the promotion of careers and excellence in engineering. This real-life exercise, which includes design, manufacture, marketing and people skills, gives a realistic insight into the future career aspects of commitment, team-working and tight timescales. Many students experience insomnia, frustration and technical challenges during their build programme, but these help to hone their skills and talents. The 2007 event is the fifth time that ACG has sponsored the ‘Best use of Composites’ category award at this prestigious annual event. Having recently signed a three-year agreement with Formula Student, ACG will be on the scene for at least another two years, providing support and encouragement to teams utilising advanced composite materials in their effort to become the ‘best in category’ and, optimistically, the overall winner of Formula Student. The use of ACG’s Medium Temperature Moulding (MTM) composite prepreg materials has proved to be highly successful, as shown by some of the teams on the grid. ACG is pleased to encourage young engineers in the innovative application of composites in their racecar designs. After careful deliberation, the judges decided that the entry from Graz University of Technology, Austria (car number 2), named ‘Tankia2007’, had gone the extra mile – so to speak, and was worthy of the accolade of ‘Best use of Composites’ for 2007. This, just one of four category awards that were taken either outright or shared by Graz, is a repeat of what the team enjoyed in the 2006 event. An element of déjà vu creeping in here as they repeated last year’s result by ending up as overall runner up across all categories! ACG’s MTM49-3 was expertly applied to manufacture a variety of components, including the modular monocoque, pedal box, ergonomic steering wheel, aerodynamics package (side pods and diffuser), wheel rims, engine equipment, and suspension ‘A’ arms.

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Ultra-Strong and Flexible Nanofibre Paper Made Possible by Arkansas Research

11th August 2007 0 comments

Intellectual Property Partners LLC, an Atlanta company that turns promising technologies into profitable ventures, now holds the global license for a multifunctional material developed by the University of Arkansas. When assembled into free-standing membranes, the material, a two-dimensional “”paper”” made out of titanium-based nanowires, provides solutions for a variety of applications, including chemical and water filtration, solar cells, drug delivery and non-woven textiles stable at high-temperature. “”It is unprecedented to have such a pure fibre,”” said James Throckmorton, president of Intellectual Property Partners LLC. “”In addition to withstanding extreme temperatures, titanium-dioxide-based nanowires can be used in concentrated, strong chemical acids and bases. We’re excited to offer this patent-pending technology to a company that can bring it to market.”” Developed by Z. Ryan Tian, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, titanium-dioxide – also known as TiO2, titania and titanium white – nanowires are extremely light, long and thin fibres. They have a diameter of 60 nanometres and are 30 to 40 millimeters long. A nanometer equals one billionth of meter. The nanowires can withstand temperatures up to 700 degrees Celsius. Their high thermal stability and chemical inertness ensure performance in high temperatures and other harsh environments. In 2006, Tian and his research team published the findings in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B. They reported that the material could be folded, cut and shaped into three-dimensional devices. The researchers used a hydrothermal heating process to create long nanowires out of titanium dioxide. From there, they created free-standing membranes. The resulting material resembled regular, white paper. The researchers created tubes, bowls and cups with the material. The technology was made available to Intellectual Property Partners LLC through the University of Arkansas Technology Development Foundation, an organization that helps transfer early-stage inventions from university laboratories to corporations and start-up organizations. Working with public and private business-development entities, the foundation strengthens the university’s efforts to catalyze a technology-based economy in Arkansas.

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Quatro Composites Validates Chassis Design for DiMora Natalia

11th August 2007 0 comments

Quatro Composites has become the latest Technology Partner to support DiMora Motorcar’s development of the Natalia SLS 2 sport luxury sedan.

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Carbon Fibre Robotic Insect Takes Off

11th August 2007 0 comments

A life-size, robotic fly has taken flight at Harvard University. Weighing only 60 milligrams, with a wingspan of three centimetres, the tiny robot’s movements are modelled on those of a real fly. While much work remains to be done on the mechanical insect, the researchers say that such small flying machines could one day be used as spies, or for detecting harmful chemicals. “”Nature makes the world’s best fliers,”” says Robert Wood, leader of Harvard’s robotic-fly project and a professor at the university’s school of engineering and applied sciences. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding Wood’s research in the hope that it will lead to stealth surveillance robots for the battlefield and urban environments. The robot’s small size and fly-like appearance are critical to such missions. “”You probably wouldn’t notice a fly in the room, but you certainly would notice a hawk,”” Wood says. Recreating a fly’s efficient movements in a robot roughly the size of the real insect was difficult, however, because existing manufacturing processes couldn’t be used to make the sturdy, lightweight parts required. The motors, bearings, and joints typically used for large-scale robots wouldn’t work for something the size of a fly. “”Simply scaling down existing macro-scale techniques will not come close to the performance that we need,”” Wood says. Some extremely small parts can be made using the processes for creating microelectromechanical systems. But such processes require a lot of time and money. Wood and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, needed a cheap, rapid fabrication process so they could easily produce different iterations of their designs. Ultimately, the team developed its own fabrication process. Using laser micromachining, researchers cut thin sheets of carbon fibre into two-dimensional patterns that are accurate to a couple of micrometers. Sheets of polymer are cut using the same process. By carefully arranging the sheets of carbon fibre and polymer, the researchers are able to create functional parts. For example, to create a flexure joint, the researchers arrange two tiny pieces of carbon composite and leave a gap in between. They then add a sheet of polymer perpendicularly across the two carbon pieces, like a tabletop on two short legs. Two new pieces of carbon fiber are placed at either end of the polymer, as a final top layer. Once all the pieces are cured together, the resulting part resembles the letter H: the center is flexible but the sides are rigid. By fitting many little carbon-polymer pieces together, the researchers are able to create rather complicated parts that can bend and rotate precisely as required. To make parts that will move in response to electrical signals, the researchers incorporate electroactive polymers, which change shape when exposed to voltage. The entire fabrication process will be outlined in a paper appearing in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Mechanical Design. After more than seven years of work studying flight dynamics and improving various parts, Wood’s fly finally took off this spring. “”When I got the fly to take off, I was literally jumping up and down in the lab,”” he says. Other researchers have built robots that mimic insects, but this is the first two-winged robot built on such a small scale that can take off using the same motions as a real fly. The dynamics of such flight are very complicated and have been studied for years by researchers such as Ron Fearing, Wood’s former PhD advisor at the University of California, Berkeley. Fearing, who is building his own robotic insects, says that he was very impressed with the fact that Wood’s insect can fly: “”It is certainly a major breakthrough.”” But Fearing says that it is the first of many challenges in building a practical fly. At the moment, Wood’s fly is limited by a tether that keeps it moving in a straight, upward direction. The researchers are currently working on a flight controller so that the robot can move in different directions. The researchers are also working on an onboard power source. (At the moment, the robotic fly is powered externally.) Wood says that a scaled-down lithium-polymer battery would provide less than five minutes of flying time. Tiny, lightweight sensors need to be integrated as well. Chemical sensors could be used, for example, to detect toxic substances in hazardous areas so that people can go into the area with the appropriate safety gear. Wood and his colleagues will also need to develop software routines for the fly so that it will be able to avoid obstacles. Still, Wood is proud to have reached a major project milestone: flight. “”It’s quite a major thing,”” he says. “”A lot of people thought it would never be able to take off.””

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