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Composites Industry News

News for June 2003


Mars Probe Launches Successfully

10th June 2003 0 comments

The Mars Express probe, which is carrying the Beagle 2 lander, launched smoothly on schedule from Kazakhstan last Monday as it began its six-month journey. The UK’s Beagle 2 Mars Probe, built by Astrium, Stevenage, to be carried by the Mars Express spacecraft, will be launched from the satellite in December 2003 and will land on Mars to collect and analyze in situ samples. The complete Beagle 2 package includes the lander, the entry descent and landing system and the spin up and ejection mechanism. The lander, surrounded by the packed airbags, the gas generator and the stowed pilot and main parachutes, is secured within a front shield, made by EADS launch Vehicles, and the back cover. The all up mass of the Beagle 2 package, including those elements that remain in orbit with Mars Express, was measured at 74 kg, well within the mass allocated to Beagle 2. Scientists from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, helped with the calibration of the robotic arm which will form a crucial part of the Beagle 2 mission as it searches for life on the planet. The arm – made of titanium and carbon fibre – will enable the mission to carry out experiments, including analysis of soil and rock samples. When Beagle 2 lands, the Space Robotics Group at the Department of Computer Science at University of Wales, Aberystwyth will also help with the operation of the robotic arm. The group will be based at the National Space Centre in Leicester for the duration of the mission which will last for six months after landing on Mars. The robotic arm will have to contend with Martian conditions that can be quite severe, with dust storms featuring wind speeds up to 30 metres per second. Temperatures on the Red Planet can range from minus100 degrees Celsius at night to just below freezing during the day. “”The journey to Mars is hazardous in itself. not least the risks at lift-off and landing,”” said Dr David Barnes, who runs the Aberystwyth team. Information from the Mars project will be fed into other research programmes at Aberystwyth where the group will look at how future robots could diagnose and repair their own damage. This article is a revision of the original article “”Welsh Hopes Aboard Mars Probe””.

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New Large-Scale CMM Equipment At Brookhouse

17th June 2003 0 comments

Brookhouse Patterns has installed a large envelope, 5-axis programmable Co-ordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) at its dedicated composites engineering building within its India Mill factory complex. The new CMM, which is housed in a specially constructed, temperature-controlled room, has the capability to handle components up to 3.5m in length, up to 2.5m in width and up to 1.5m high and can measure to an accuracy of ±15 microns. It can accept data from 3D CAD models, such as Catia-generated models, and its sophisticated software can convert this data to be compatible with the CMM. The same Applied Automation Technologies software is also used with the Cimcor 3000I portable CMM equipment, which features a 3.2m arm and an accuracy of ±0.075mm. Both machines offer high quality reporting capability, as complete data inspection reports in Excel, HTML or Word can be automatically generated directly from a series of CMM readings. In addition, as well as providing accurate and precise inspection of complex composite components and moulding tools, the machines can be used in a reverse engineering role, where they can map out a component with such accuracy that CAD drawings can be produced to allow moulding tools to be manufactured. Complementing the two pressure sensor machines is a portable Leica 3D laser tracking system, which has a working envelope of 70m. This is an interferometry-based measuring machine, where three-dimensional measurements are taken at a rate of up to 1000 per second and converted, encoded, stored and displayed on an integral PC.

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7E7 Shifts to Composites

17th June 2003 0 comments

Boeing has confirmed that the proposed new 7E7 will be made mostly from carbon-fiber composite materials. The planned usage of advanced composites is even more extensive than had been rumored: The new materials will replace aluminum on both the wings and the fuselage. Mike Bair, Boeing Commercial Airplanes senior vice president of the 7E7 program, recently made a speech in Everett when he laid out the advantages of composites. The major benefit is that the plane will be much lighter, which makes it highly fuel efficient. For Boeing’s airline customers, the cost of fuel is a significant part of the cost of operating an airplane. In addition, the composites manufacturing process will allow Boeing to design large “”monolithic”” or single-piece structures in intricate shapes. Bair said that Boeing wants final assembly to take three days and to be done without overhead cranes. Snapping together fewer, larger pieces will make that possible. It is anticipated that the plane’s largest primary structures, including the wings and the fuselage, will be made overseas and shipped to whichever final assembly plant Boeing selects for the 7E7. On June 3, Airbus selected Mitsubishi Rayon Co. (MRC) as supplier of advanced composites for the forthcoming superjumbo A380. The materials will be produced at MRC’s Toyohashi plant in Japan. Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, a sister company of MRC, will be a major contender to build the wings of the 7E7. Bair also said that, to enhance passenger comfort, Boeing plans to pressurize the 7E7 cabin to the equivalent of 6,000-foot altitude rather than the standard 8,000 feet. About 10 percent of the structural weight of Boeing’s most advanced current jet, the 777, is made from composites, including the entire tail section. The vertical fin and horizontal stabilizers of the tail are made in Boeing’s Frederickson fabrication plant near Tacoma. Toray, a Japanese company with a factory in Tacoma, currently supplies the composites’ raw material to Frederickson. Airbus’ A380 jet is slated to have 40 percent of its structural weight constructed from composites. This includes large primary structural parts such as the wing box and the keel beam that runs the length of the fuselage. Boeing also said it is developing sensors that can be embedded in the composite structures of the 7E7 to detect impacts and monitor structural integrity. If a plane were to have a hard landing, for example, the sensors could detect the effect across the structure and relay the information to the pilot or to the ground if the stress crossed predetermined thresholds. In a bid to maintain its hold on aircraft structures, aluminum makers had been pitching to Boeing the use of new alloys that are 10 percent lighter and more cost-effective than standard metals. Kevin Lowery, a spokesman for Alcoa, expressed disappointment at Boeing’s decision but played down its importance to the aluminum industry. “”The metallic content of the (current) commercial fleet is 90 percent and will remain so for the life of those (airplanes),”” said Lowery. “”Our core business remains very stable.”” Aerospace contracts accounted for $1.5 billion, or 7.4 percent of Alcoa’s 2002 revenues, Lowery said. Boeing was also naming its first supplier partners for the proposed 7E7 last week, drawing heavily from specialists in carbon-fiber composite materials previously named to the technology team for the now-defunct Sonic Cruiser. The group was thought to include Vought Aircraft Industries of Dallas and Alenia Aeronautica of Italy. Also expected to be a partner is Japan Aircraft Industries (JAI), which includes longtime Boeing suppliers Fuji Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Boeing was not expected to specify what pieces of the airplane each supplier will build, nor is it going to discuss the terms of the supplier relationships. But Alan Mulally, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, confirmed the possibility that supplier partners could become equity investors in a separate company to build the 7E7. “”I wouldn’t rule that out,”” Mulally said. Mulally promised that its supplier relationships will be “”significantly different”” than in the past. Lynne Warne, a spokeswoman for Vought, confirmed the longtime-Boeing supplier will be one of the partners named to the team. But she said it is not yet known what parts, or how much of the plane, Vought will build. Vought builds nearly the entire 747 fuselage in California and ships the pieces by rail to Boeing’s Everett plant. The Dallas company supplies a relatively small portion of the 777. By contrast, the Japanese heavies build fuselage panels for that airplane as well as the twin-aisle 767 and ship them by sea to Everett. Alenia is also awaiting word on the extent of its participation in the program, although the Italian company has expressed a desire to invest substantially in the program to expand its ties with Boeing. “”(The 7E7) is a very significant project for us,”” said Stefano Tagliani, a spokesman for Alenia. “”We think the aerostructures are strategic for our business and for Boeing. The two partners are still evaluating the amount of the project that Alenia will take. We hope to play a significant role.”” Mulally did not mention JAI by name at the news conference but said he expects Japanese suppliers to produce as much or more of the 7E7 as the roughly 21 percent of the 777 they currently manufacture. “”They’ve got some tremendous expertise in composites and they’ll bring a lot to the design team,”” Mulally said. Boeing was expected to name one materials supplier per continent. Consequently, Vought will be the sole U.S. supplier and Alenia will be the sole European member of the team. That means Britain’s GKN Aerospace, Fischer Advanced Composite Components of Austria and Stork Fokker Aerostructures of the Netherlands, which worked on the Sonic Cruiser, did not make the cut. “”Composites have been everybody’s dream on airplanes forever,”” Mulally said, noting their strength, light weight and resistance to corrosion. “”The problem has been cost.”” Boeing believes new manufacturing techniques will bring the costs down to favorable levels for the 7E7.

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Toray Carbon begins construction on $25M plant

17th June 2003 0 comments

Toray Industries Inc. has begun construction on a $25 million plant near its existing $70 million facility on Alabama Highway 20 near Decatur. With a completion date of September 2004, the new Toray Carbon Fibers America plant will employ about 53 people with a yearly payroll of $3.4 million. Its Teflon fiber products will be incorporated in DuPont fabrics, sealants and “”non-stick surface”” products such as cooking utensils. The original facility was built in 1997 and has about 75 employees. It produces carbon fiber for use in buildings, ships, satellites, automobiles and sports equipment.

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US Carbon Fiber to be used in Defense Purchases

17th June 2003 0 comments

The minimum amount of American content required in major US Department of Defense purchases will rise from 50 percent to 65 percent, including polyacrylonitrile carbon fiber. The requirement was changed as a result of an amendment to the defense authorization bill sponsored by Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill., chairman of the House Small Business Committee. Manzullo led the fight last year to force the Pentagon to rescind contracts for military berets that had been awarded to foreign manufacturers, including one in China. That contract, he said, violated a law that required 100 percent American content in certain products purchased by the department. Now the House, at Manzullo’s urging, has added eight more products to that list: Ordnance fuses, microwave power tubes or traveling wave tubes, polyacrylonitrile carbon fiber, aircraft tires, ground vehicle tires, tank track assemblies, tank track components and packaging in direct contact with food in ready-to-eat meals. The legislation also requires defense contractors to begin using American-made machine tools, dies and industrial molds on major weapons contracts within the next four years. “”When U.S. taxpayers’ dollars are spent, we must make sure the federal government is buying as much of their goods and services as possible from U.S. manufacturers,”” Manzullo says. “”This legislation offers another way to create work for our struggling manufacturers.””

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MacLean Quality Composites Releases RacePlates

17th June 2003 0 comments

MacLean Quality Composites (MQC) has launched a new series of customizable carbon fiber plates, branded as RacePlates. RacePlates are available in several sizes and two different thicknesses, Rigid and Flex, designed with the tuner car market in mind. The Rigid plates are .055″” thick and can be cut to shape with a Dremel tool, whilst the Flex plates are made from a single ply of carbon fabric that can be cut with scissors, curved, and attached to any surface using double-sided tape. The intention is to allow car owners to make unique carbon fiber components that do not exist in the market today. Examples include custom gauge panels, interior trim, inner door panels, under hood trim, and exterior wings. Plates can also be assembled into enclosures such as speaker boxes, using the RacePlates line of carbon angle stock.

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Hexcel at Le Bourget 2003

17th June 2003 0 comments

At this year’s Paris Airshow Hexcel showed its latest developments in composite materials, and celebrated its involvement in major new aerospace programmes. Hexcel is a principal supplier of composites to the A380 programme. Hexcel’s HexPly prepregs: M21, 8552, F655 and M26T have been selected for key components including the central wing box, vertical and horizontal stabilizer skins, stringers and stiffeners, tailcone and belly fairing. Hexcel’s RTM 6 resin and Injectex fabrics, M36 film infusion resin, Redux adhesives, HexWeb honeycombs and special process components will also be used extensively on the A380. Hexcel will display a section of the A380 central wingbox skin, manufactured by EADS Airbus Nantes and built in HexPly M21 prepreg. HexPly M21 is a tough epoxy matrix, which provides higher damage tolerance than current aerospace systems. Also on display at the Hexcel stand will be a demonstrator model of the A380 tailcone (section 19.1) built by EADS Airbus, Illescus, Spain, using HexPly 8552 slit tape prepreg. The tailcone is manufactured using automated fibre placement, a computerised process combining automated tape laying and filament winding for tight tolerance control and exact reproduction of the part. Hexcel has introduced new technology at its plant in Parla, Spain, to produce very accurately slit prepreg tape, in widths as narrow as 3.2mm. HexPly 8552 is used to manufacture all composite structures on the Eurofighter Typhoon, including the wings, front fuselage and tail section. On display at the Hexcel booth was the vertical stabiliser, manufactured by BAE Systems Ltd. Dassault supplied Hexcel with a demonstrator part of the new Falcon 7X business jet. The landing gear door is modeled on the Falcon 900 design and manufactured by Resin Transfer Moulding using Hexcel’s G986 high resistance carbon fibre reinforcement and RTM 6 resin. Helicopter programmes are also major consumers of Hexcel’s composite materials. HexPly M18-1 and M42 prepregs have been selected by Eurocopter for structural components on the NH90 and Tiger helicopters. On the Le Bourget stand was a transmission tube for the Tiger helicopter, manufactured by tube winding, using HexPly 6376 carbon tape. Another Airbus part on show was a wing rib, manufactured by resin film infusion as part of the TANGO programme. TANGO is a pan European initiative devised to develop and mature new technologies, capable of delivering 20% cost and weight savings, for current state of the art aircraft structures. The wing rib was manufactured in Australia by the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (CRC-ACS) and Hawker de Havilland (HdH). Five wing ribs were manufactured and delivered to Airbus in December 2002. Hexcel’s G926 5HS HTA woven carbon fibre fabric, with EB6 binder and HexPly 36 toughened resin film system were the materials used. For the first time, Hexcel displayed an aerospace part manufactured in thermoplastic materials. CRC-ACS and HdH manufactured a high quality thermoplastic aircraft control surface using Hexcel’s TowFlex continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastics. The non-specific control surface encapsulates many geometric aspects of aerospace composite components and was produced as part of a demonstration programme on the manufacture technologies for thermoplastic composites.

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Comat Introduce Dexwin Profiles

17th June 2003 0 comments

Comat have introduced DExWin Profiles, intended for use as inlaid pieces for local reinforcement of injection moulded components. The strength of these glass fibre-reinforced polypropylene profiles, produced continuously with an efficient impregnation technology, is approximately 16 times higher than short fibre reinforced PP. Comat also extended their winding machine from 4,5 up to 15 meters last month. Furthermore, an extension of the oven from 11 to 15 meters is planned.

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Super-tough Nanotube Threads Created

17th June 2003 0 comments

Carbon nanotube threads up to 100 metres have long created at the University of Texas, Dallas, and Trinity College, Dublin, with a toughness of three times greater than the toughest natural material, spider silk. A cross section of the thread measures about 50 microns in diameter and contains hundreds of trillions of tiny carbon nanotubes per centimetre in length . To produce the threads, Baughman’s team used a technique developed by Philippe Poulin, at CNRS in Bordeaux, France. A spinning aqueous solution of carbon nanotubes and a surfactant is injected into pipe in which a solution of polyvinyl alcohol flows. The two solutions coagulate to form a rubber-like gel fibre, which is wound on to a mandrel. In a second continuous process, the gel fibre is unwound, washed and dried to produce a solid polymer fibre of potentially unlimited length. The fibre contains 60 per cent carbon nanotubes bound together by polyvinyl alcohol. “”We have not been able to find any material that is tougher than our carbon nanotube composite fibres,”” Baughman told New Scientist. “”””The fibre’s toughness probably results from structural changes during stretching. This aligns the nanotubes in the fibre direction.”” The threads can also be used as capacitors to store very small electric charges and to power devices embedded in clothes. But improving the electrical properties is the key future challenges, says Poulin, by making them more conductive and more porous. “”These are the crucial properties for building sensors out of this material, and for making lighter fibres that are still highly conductive,”” he says.

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Giant fiberglass Loons

23rd June 2003 0 comments

Oversized sculptured loons are starting to populate downtown Wilton and Farmington. A red, white and blue loon with roses and eagles sits near another at Wilton Academy Hill School, this one painted with sky, clouds, water, mountains and a sun for each eye. The Earnhardt-styled loon, which was once a white, fiberglass, 33-pound sculpture like all the rest, was getting a shiny coat of black on a work table at Signworks in Farmington earlier this week. As the week went on, artist Lenny Hoover of Farmington painted the late Dale Earnhardt’s trademark No. 3 on the loon, adding checkered flags and red pinstripes. A traditional Maine loon sits in front of KeyBank; a Picasso-style loon waits at the corner of Main Street and Weld Road. They’re all part of Loon Maine-ia 2003, which organizers say will be one of western Maine’s largest outdoor public displays of art. The event coincides with the upcoming Blueberry Festival and the celebration of Wilton’s bicentennial. The loons will be auctioned off Aug. 2 during the festival. But for now, people are taking walking tours to view the flock. The loons spread throughout the downtown reflect the artists’ style and creativity. The sponsors, Signworks and Farmington Construction, also would be represented on the sides of the 4-foot-long and 3-foot-high loon. Loon Maine-ia 2003 organizer Barbara Hathaway of Wilton decided on loon shapes because Wilson Lake is in the center of the town, where several real loons swim and watch over the lake and mountains. She’s also emphasizing the environment and protection of Wilson Lake and the loons.

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