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Composites Industry News

News for August 2007


Composites One Presents Working Closed Mold Shop at IBEX

22nd August 2007 0 comments

At IBEX 2007, boatbuilders will be able to see the benefits of closed mould processes at live, interactive demonstrations led by Composites One, October 10-12 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. All events will take place in the outdoor exhibit area, where Composites One will set up a working closed mould shop at IBEX, including production lines, tool shop, gel coat booth, manifold system, pumps and more. Simulating a closed mould shop, it will feature ongoing demonstrations of three closed mould technologies – Light Resin Transfer Moulding (Light RTM), the Vacuum Infusion Process (VIP) and Closed Cavity Bag Moulding (CCBM). In addition to the live demonstrations there will be educational sessions where attendees can learn more advanced closed mould techniques including troubleshooting, kit cutting and tips on setting up their own closed mould shop. “This is an important next step in the advancement of closed mould,” said Composites One President and Chief Operating Officer Leon Garoufalis. “We believe that tomorrow’s closed mould shop can utilize all three of these processes. It’s critical that our customers learn about various processes so they can make a seamless transition from research and development to actual in-shop production.” At the event, attendees will be able to watch as finished parts come off assembly lines using LRTM and CCBM and better understand the efficiencies and benefits of each process. The VIP work cell will focus on the infusion of a 15-foot skiff hull each day. CCBM, a technology ideal for limited production runs of small to medium parts, will be used for producing hatch covers. During the session, attendees also can learn how to build their own CCBM vacuum bag in Composites One’s on-site tool shop Attendees will have the chance to experience the efficiencies of high-volume closed mould production first-hand at the LRTM demo, where the team will produce two-foot catamaran assemblies for 6 hours daily. Projections call for finished assemblies to roll off the line every 20-30 minutes. Throughout the event, industry experts will be on hand to answer attendees’ questions, explain aspects of each process, discuss equipment and materials, and display finished parts built through closed mould. Daily drawings will also be held for the smaller finished parts. Sessions and their starting times are as follows: • 10am – 4pm: Production Lines in Operation • 11am – 11:45am: CCBM Technical Session • 12pm – 12:45pm: LRTM Technical Session • 1pm – 1:45pm: Setting up Your Closed Mould shop (Wed and Thurs only) • 2pm – 2:45pm: VIP Technical Session and Skiff Infusion (1 pm on Friday) “This event is an opportunity to share best practices in well-run closed mould shops with our customers,” said Garoufalis. “Manufacturers will be able to see for themselves how they can use closed mould to make a wide variety of parts in less time, with less waste and fewer emissions than by using traditional open mould processes. What’s more, they will also see the improvements that closed moulding can offer their business.” The live, three-day closed mold event is the culmination of a joint effort between Composites One’s Closed Mold University and its partners: 3M, Airtech Advanced Materials Group, Alcan Composites (Airex, Baltek and Lantor brands), Arctek Inc., Arkema, Cook Composites & Polymers, Chemtrend, Chomarat, Dynabrade, Glascraft, ITW Plexus, Owens Corning, Progress Plastiques, RTM North, and Vectorply. Composites One Booth #2029 at IBEX 2007

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Hexcel to Provide Carbon Fibre for USEC’s American Centrifuge Plant

22nd August 2007 0 comments

Hexcel has agreed with USEC and Alliant Techsystems to supply carbon fibre required for USEC’s planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) for the enrichment of uranium for commercial nuclear power reactors. The centrifuge method of enrichment will use over 11,500 rotor tubes and is more cost effective than the alternative gas diffusion enrichment process. Traditionally the rotors were made of aluminum alloy, steel or fibreglass, but switching to stronger and lighter weight carbon fibre allows for increased efficiency. In September 2006 ATK announced that it had started demonstration and qualification work on composite rotor tubes for the ACP. USEC received a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to construct the ACP in April 2007. Hexcel currently estimates that carbon fibre sales for the initial 3.8 million separative work units (SWU) plant will be approximately $100 million starting in late 2008, with the majority of deliveries likely to be in the 2010 and 2011 depending on USEC and ATK’s manufacturing schedule. The agreement contemplates that USEC also may purchase significant quantities of additional carbon fibre product needed for the ACP. Mr. David E. Berges, Hexcel’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said “Hexcel is very pleased to be part of the USEC project which has the potential for additional production to follow. We also welcome this opportunity to reinforce our long standing relationship as a supplier to ATK. We previously announced that we are targeting increasing the penetration of our carbon fibre into high-end industrial applications, and the USEC application complements this strategy. Our capacity additions for carbon fibre will be capable of supporting both aerospace and this segment of the industrial market interchangeably.”

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CCM on Team to Improve Resin Infusion Process for Large Composite Ship Structure

24th August 2007 0 comments

The University of Delaware Center for Composite Materials (CCM) is part of a team led by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) that has been selected to develop a predictable and repeatable resin infusion process for fabricating carbon/vinyl-ester composite structures. The $870K project was awarded by the Center for Naval Shipbuilding Technology (CNST) through its partnership with the Office of Naval Research and Navy ManTech. The CNST award is yet another outgrowth of the strong foundation CCM has built in this area since the Office of Naval Research established the Advanced Materials Intelligent Processing Center (AMIPC) at CCM in 1997. Under the AMIPC, CCM researchers have created a suite of hardware and software tools including mould-filling simulations, sensor technologies, active controllers, versatile resin injection systems, and mould design methodologies for liquid composite moulding processes. “The Navy definitely understands the value of these tools,” says Suresh Advani, Co-PI of the AMIPC program, “and they’ve been taking a proactive role in getting companies who make components for them to use these tools to reduce costs and eliminate part variability.” The VARTM process has traditionally been used to manufacture glass-fabric laminates and sandwich constructions. The new Navy program will focus on the use of carbon fibres, which yield lighter composites with improved performance but can present manufacturing challenges. “The problem is that the high manufacturing success rate achieved with glass-reinforced composites has not translated into the same quality for carbon parts,” says Dirk Heider, CCM Assistant Director for Technology. “Successful manufacture of carbon-reinforced marine structures like the DDG-1000 deckhouse will depend on meeting quality requirements and reducing the scrap rate.” CCM offers a virtual manufacturing environment based on developments in flow modelling that have been packaged into a computer simulation called Liquid Injection Molding Simulation (LIMS), together with an intelligent VARTM workcell to control the process once the ideal processing parameters have been identified using the models. “The goal is to minimize dry spots and eliminate voids,” says Heider. “This becomes increasingly challenging with parts of significant thickness or geometric complexity.” Infusion modelling methodologies and flow sensor technologies can enable optimization of techniques for more complete infusion of low-permeability fabrics. The new program, led by system integrator NGSS, will enable the tools developed by CCM to be transitioned and validated on actual large-scale components. The twelve-month initiative will employ a “design of experiments” methodology and leverage resources from Navy ManTech’s Composites Manufacturing Technology Center and the NGSS Composites Center of Excellence, as well as CCM’s industrial consortium. According to NGSS, material savings alone are estimated at $1.7M per hull; in addition, significant labour costs will be realized via avoidances for set-up, quality assurance, and rework. The resin flow modelling technology will be implemented at the NGSS Gulfport Operations facility. Center researchers have already made significant contributions to manufacturing operations at that site. “We worked on a pilot program with Northrop Grumman to demonstrate the value of the tools on some parts that they were having difficulty manufacturing,” Advani explains. “A team from CCM went to their Gulfport facility and successfully used the tools to fabricate the components.”

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Quickstep Secures Inaugural Manufacturing Development Contract with Airbus Unit

25th August 2007 0 comments

Quickstep’s German subsidiary, Quickstep GmbH, has secured its first contract with Airbus Deutschland GmbH at Laupheim, the developer and producer of interior components for the Airbus family of aircraft, including the new A380 aircraft. The landmark development contract, which Quickstep says represents a significant breakthrough in the company’s entry to the global aerospace sector, follows the signing of a Cooperation & Development Agreement (CDA) with Eurocopter in May this year. The first work to be conducted at the new site will involve the manufacture of prototype parts. Quickstep said that the new QS20 composites production plant, located at EADS Group in Ottobrunn, Munich, has now been fully commissioned, and is ready to commence product development work for a select group of European customers. The new facility will also underpin work to be carried out under the CDA with Eurocopter. Quickstep’s Managing Director, Mr Nick Noble, said the contract with Airbus Deutschland in Laupheim represented another significant milestone for the Company, following hard on the heels of the successful launch of the new production facility in Germany. “We are very pleased that the first program in the newly established production facility will be manufacturing development work with one of the world’s aerospace leaders,” Mr Noble said. “This highlights the value of our strategy of establishing showcase sites in close proximity to key target markets to enable us to work more closely with potential customers.” “We are exceptionally pleased by the positive response we have already received in Germany, with two of the largest participants in the European aerospace sector – Eurocopter and Airbus – having already committed to development work,” Mr Noble said. “Quickstep has a strong management team based in Germany who will continue targeting key European companies with an interest in the Company’s composites manufacturing technology, and we expect our German operations to contribute substantially to the company’s growth in the years ahead.” Mr Noble said that, while details of the contract with Airbus Deutschland GmbH in Laupheim would remain confidential, the prototype parts were scheduled to be delivered by the end of September. “We are confident that these initial manufacturing development programmes, if successful, may lead to additional opportunities down the track,” he added.

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Grant to Help Don and Low Develop Revolutionary Materials

25th August 2007 0 comments

Don and Low has been awarded a grant to help devise products which could be used to help cars be recycled more easily and even save aircraft using as much fuel on take-off. Don & Low has secured the R&D Plus grant of £144,000 from Scottish Enterprise to help develop higher performance, innovative new fabrics. The company, which was formed in 1792 by William Don, has grown over the years through acquisitions and investment in new technology. It now has 500 employees and turnover of £48 million. It manufactures polypropylene woven and nonwoven fabrics in Forfar – producing up to nine million square metres a week of materials ranging from carpet yarns to medical fabrics – and has a track record of continually developing materials, processes and products, investing well over £1 million in R&D in the last three years. This latest project involves a number of elements including: ▪ Development of synthetic fabrics for use by the construction industry to help insulate and ventilate buildings more effectively; ▪ New composite fabrics for use in aircraft manufacturing to reduce weight at take-off; ▪ New fabrics to make it easier to recycle vehicles; and ▪ Innovative composites to make ballistic panels to counter terrorist attacks. It is anticipated commercialisation of developments helped by the grant from Scottish Enterprise will contribute to an annual increase in sales of £2.2 million. David Avril, Development Manager at Don & Low, welcomed the grant and said: “”To keep ahead of the competition, we need to focus on manufacturing higher performance, higher value technical textiles with significant export potential. “”This project will help us exploit anticipated trends, diversify into new markets and secure new orders.” Sandy Cannon, company development manager at Scottish Enterprise Tayside, said: “”Don & Low is an excellent example of a traditional textiles company which has diversified into new high-tech, high-spec products and experienced major growth as a result. “”This is the latest project we have worked with them on and will help them diversify further and pick up more orders, helping their business to grow even more.”

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Northrop Grumman Completes Acquisition of Scaled Composites

25th August 2007 0 comments

Northrop Grumman Corporation has completed a transaction that increases its ownership in Scaled Composites from approximately 40 percent to 100 percent. Scaled Composites is an aerospace and specialty composites development company located in Mojave, Calif., with broad experience in vehicle design, tooling, and manufacturing; specialty composite structure design, analysis, fabrication and developmental flight test. The company is well known for high profile projects such as Spaceship One and Voyager.

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SGL Group Sponsors TU Munich Professorship

25th August 2007 0 comments

The SGL Group has arranged with the Technical University of Munich to establish a chair for carbon fibres and carbon fibre composites, initially set up for eight years funded by SGL for a total of €4.8 million. Working in close cooperation with the faculty chairs for mechanical engineering, chemistry, physics and IT, the “”SGL Group Chair for Carbon Composites”” will be dedicated to the comprehensive analysis of carbon fibre-based materials and their processing as well as construction and calculation procedures. This is intended to generate a deeper understanding of the entire value chain from raw material through carbon fibres and the textile product as well as material through to the finished component. The Technical University of Munich is an internationally recognized research university that has earned itself an excellent reputation in the worlds of science and business for natural and engineering sciences in particular. By establishing this sponsored chair, the SGL Group and TU Munich are laying the foundation for long-term, interdisciplinary cooperation in the future field of carbon fibres and carbon fibre-reinforced composites. As a result, the Garching research site in Munich will also benefit from a research focus on “”Carbon Composites”” and a “”Center for Carbon Composites”” (CfCC). SGL has production facilities in Scotland and the US and a future area of focus in Germany: in-house production of the polyacrylic nitrile raw material (precursor) for carbon fibres at the Kelheim location near Regensburg, as well as the ongoing and planned investments in carbon fibres and composites at the Meitingen/Augsburg location. SGL Group has also bundled its global R&D activities at its Meitingen site. SGL say that setting up a chair at TU Munich in Bavaria is therefore a key component of the corporate strategy of further expanding the SGL Group’s R&D activities as part of the local value chain within their Carbon Fibers & Composites Business Unit.

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Researchers Learn to Control the Dimensions of Metal Oxide Nanotubes

25th August 2007 0 comments

Moving beyond carbon nanotubes, researchers are developing insights into a remarkable class of tubular nanomaterials that can be produced in water with a high degree of control over their diameter and length. Based on metal oxides in combination with silicon and germanium, such single-walled inorganic nanotubes could be useful in a range of nanotechnology applications that require precise control over nanotube dimensions. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers are studying the formation of these metal oxide nanotubes to understand the key factors that drive the emergence of nanotubes with specific diameters and lengths from a “soup” of precursor chemicals dissolved in water. Their goal is to develop general guidelines for controlling nanotube diameter with sub-nanometer precision and nanotube length with precision of a few nanometers. So far, the researchers have obtained encouraging results with a model system that produces aluminosilicogermanate (AlSiGeO) nanotubes. The research, which was presented August 23rd at the 234th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, could open the door for developing a more general set of chemical “rules” for dimensional control of nanotubes that could lead to a range of new applications for inorganic nanotubes and other nanometer-scale materials. The research has been sponsored by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund. “We have shown that there is a clearly quantifiable molecular-level structural and thermodynamic basis for tuning the diameter of nanotubes,” said Sankar Nair, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “We’re interested in developing the science of these materials to the point that we can manipulate their curvature, length and internal structure in a sophisticated way through inexpensive water-based chemistry under mild conditions.” Using chemical reactions carried out in water at less than 100 degrees Celsius, Nair’s research team – which included graduate students Suchitra Konduri and Sanjoy Mukherjee – varied the germanium and silicon content during the nanotube synthesis and then quantitatively characterized the resulting nanotubes with a variety of analytical techniques to show a clear link between the nanotube composition and diameter. Simultaneously, the group’s molecular dynamics calculations showed a strong correlation between the composition, diameter and internal energy of the material. “There appear to be energy minima that favour or stabilize certain nanotube diameters because they have the lowest energy, and those stable diameters change with the composition of the material,” said Nair. “This shows that the nanotube dimensions are not just a fortuitous coincidence of the many synthesis parameters, but that there is an underlying thermodynamic basis arising from the subtle balance of interatomic forces within the material.” Specifically, the molecular dynamics simulations – which are corroborated by the experiments – show that the variation of germanium and silicon content causes sheets of aluminium hydroxide to form nanotubes with diameters ranging from 1.5 to 4.8 nanometres and lengths of less than 100 nanometres. If that turns out to be a general principle applicable to other metal oxides, it could be used to dramatically expand the catalog of nanotube structures available. Once the researchers fully understand the factors affecting the formation of nanotubes from aluminosilicogermanate materials, they hope to apply similar principles to other metal oxides. The ultimate goal will be an ability to predictably vary the dimensions of nanotubes – and potentially other useful nanostructures – employing different chemical process conditions across a broader range of metal oxide materials. “One can get a large range of useful properties with metal oxide materials,” Nair noted. “Almost all metals form oxides and many of them form layered sheet-like oxides, so if one can coax them into nanotube form with dimensions comparable to single-walled carbon nanotubes, the range of useful properties would be great.” Controlling the dimensions of nanostructures is critical because properties such as electronic band-gap depend strongly upon the dimensions. Dimension control has proven to be difficult in carbon nanotube fabrication processes, leading to an entire area of research focused on purifying nanotubes of specific dimensions from an initial mixture of different sizes. “If we are able to produce single-walled nanotubes of specific and controllable diameter with inexpensive water-based chemistry, devices based on them would perform in a consistent and predictable manner,” Nair explained. “If we could synthesize the same nanotube structure with predictably different diameters and lengths, we can tune the properties like the band-gap across a wide range. We could even get a limited toolbox of materials to do many different things.” Though the chemical reactions that produce the metal oxide nanotubes are complicated, they occur over a period of days at low temperatures and can be carried out with simple laboratory apparatus. That facilitates control over processing conditions and allows the researchers to track many different aspects of the reaction with a variety of characterization tools. “There is a lot of complex chemistry that can be done in the aqueous phase, which motivated us to understand the processes by which metal ions dissolved in water organize themselves together with oxygen into specific nanotubular arrangements, perhaps aided by water and other species present in the solution,” Nair added. The metal oxide nanotubes have properties very different from those of carbon nanotubes, which have been studied heavily since they were discovered in the 1990s. “For example, the materials that we are working with are much more hydrophilic than carbon and can load nearly 50 percent of their weight with water,” Nair explained. “There is a whole range of behaviour in oxide nanotubes that we cannot explore with carbon-based materials.” Other recent results of the group’s research were published May 5 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and have also been reported in the journals Physical Review B and Chemistry of Materials. The imapge shows Sankar Nair, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, holding a model showing the structure of metal oxide nanotubes he is developing.

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Safer and Greener Composites

25th August 2007 0 comments

With prices rising and environmental issues taking centre stage, Eureka project E! 2819- Factory Ecoplast is combining natural fibres with thermoplastics to create new recyclable compounds for consumer products and audio components.

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Gurit Inaugurates Production Plant in China

25th August 2007 0 comments

Gurit has officially inaugurated its new purpose-built production facility in China, located in Yat-Sen Scientific Industrial Park, Wuqing, Tianjin. Since ground-breaking in late November 2006, the wholly owned subsidiary Gurit (Tianjin) Composite Materials Co., Ltd. was completed well within the targeted time frame and planned budget for building and machinery costs of CHF 18 million. The production facility today comprises a building complex of 10,000m2. Located on 30,000m2 of land, Gurit (Tianjin) may thus be expanded further in the years ahead. At its new production site, Gurit manufactures composite materials for its rapidly growing Chinese and Asian customer base. Currently, Gurit employs some 100 people and operates two prepreg lines as well as various expansion ovens and kitting lines for structural foam products. The kitting of structural foam products started in China in April and has now been relocated into the Group’s own buildings. Additional 40 people will join Gurit (Tianjin) by the end of the year. The majority of the locally produced products will be delivered to international and local customers in the Asian wind energy market, while smaller volumes may also go into marine and transportation applications. Gurit (Tianjin) also supplies additional materials such as specially formulated epoxy resins or gel coats that are manufactured at other Gurit production sites. In Asia – and China in particular – there is a huge and growing demand for locally manufactured advanced composites. China plans to bring up the installed capacity for wind energy generation from around 1,300 MW today to 30,000 MW by the year 2020. As prepreg materials have to be transported and stored in cooling containers, it is important to set up production sites as close to the end users as possible, and many important customers are located in or near Tianjin.

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