The second annual CompositesWorld Expo returned to the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Ill., Sept. 28-30, and again featured a robust conference agenda coupled with an exposition and a series of high-profile keynote speakers. Like last year, the conference featured two tracks, one designed for those new to composites, and the other targeted to composites industry veterans.
The newcomer’s Introductory track included an introduction to composite materials and fabrication techniques, an assessment of out-of-autoclave (OOA) materials technology, a review of advances in vacuum infusion, use of design tools in wind blade development and other topics. Attendees of the Advanced track heard about a variety of composites processing technologies, including machine-independent automated fiber placement simulation, new tooling materials, automation strategies and advances in nondestructive testing (NDT) methods.
The show’s four keynote speakers represented a broad spectrum of key composites industry end-markets: From the aerospace industry came Peter Wu, vice president and chief scientist at Spirit AeroSystems Inc. (Wichita, Kan.). Jim deVries reviewed the tough, but still promising position of the U.S. auto industry from his perspective in the Materials Group Manufacturing Systems Department at Ford Motor Co. (Detroit, Mich.). Stephen Nolet, principle engineer and director of innovation at wind turbine rotor blade manufacturer TPI Composites (Scottsdale, Ariz.) mapped some significant challenges for composites manufacturers in the energy sector if the U.S. is to fulfill its pledge to produce 20 percent of its energy from wind by 2030. Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine (Orono, Maine), outlined the Center’s recent breakthrough in composite bridge design, developed to provide a cost-effective replacement technology for our crumbling transportation infrastructure. (Key points of each keynote are presented in this issue's "Market Trends." See "Editor's Picks," at right.)
CompositesWorld Expo exhibitors made a number of significant announcements and had a wide-ranging group of innovative products on display, of which the following are an abbreviated sampling.
Heated mandrel for on-the-fly cure
A potential breakthrough manufacturing technology was unveiled by Acrolab Ltd. (Windsor, Ontario, Canada), in partnership with McClean Anderson (Schofield, Wis.). The IsoMandrel Technology — demonstrated on the show floor — involves a new “super thermal conductive” mandrel, developed by Acrolab, which permits curing of filament wound parts by induction heating of the mandrel itself, during the winding process and without the need for a curing oven. An induction coil at one end of the mandrel creates the needed energy, which effects cure of the composite “on the fly” in a much shorter time. The companies report that several test pipe sections, with both carbon and glass fiber reinforcements, have been successfully cured with the technique, on a McClean Super Hornet winding machine.
New carbon fiber source showcases products
A newcomer to the world’s small carbon fiber supply community, AKSA (Akrilic Kimya Sanayii, Istanbul, Turkey) emphasized that the company continues to expand distribution of its carbon fiber materials, mostly targeting industrial composites applications. Company officials are optimistic about the growth of the market and the company and featured in the booth a pair of new products reinforced with AKSA carbon fiber. One is a pultruded carbon fiber laminate designed for use in bridge reinforcement applications. The other was a sample of ±45° stitched carbon fiber fabric, produced for AKSA by weaver SIGMATEX High Technology Fabrics Inc. (Benicia, Calif.).
In-situ curing monitoring technologyAlpha Technologies (Akron, Ohio) raised a few eyebrows with its microwire technology. Developed by Thermal Solutions Inc. (Wichita, Kan.), the technology consists of a wire about the diameter of a human hair that can be embedded in a laminate stack. The wire then interacts with external sensors to measure temperature (up to 410°F/210°C) within the stack during the cure process to help optimize cure process control. The microwire also can be used in repair applications to verify that repair sites achieve required temperature for resin cure along bondlines. The company is working toward commercialization of microwire technology, which should come on the market sometime in 2011.
Uptick in oxidation oven sales
Officials in the booth of C.A. Litzler Co. Inc. (Cleveland, Ohio), which manufactures oxidation oven systems for the production of carbon fiber, noted that while the recession has been challenging, the company is starting to see an uptick in sales activity on its products. Because of the long lead times on Litzler’s ovens, the company expects to see an increase in carbon fiber production sometime in 2010.
Recycled-PET core materialsCore materials manufacturer DIAB Sales Inc. (DeSoto, Texas) featured its thermoplastic Divinylcell P core, made from recycled PET and designed for use in wind and architectural applications. It is said to have good FST (fire, smoke toxicity) properties, resists water absorption and provides good mechanical properties. Densities range from 60 to 150 kg/m³ (3.8 to 9.4 lb/ft³). DIAB Technologies, the firm’s process, training and testing business unit, is offering a four-day course on resin infusion for composites applications, beginning Nov. 11 at its headquarters in DeSoto.
Machine-independent simulation software
CGTech (Irvine, Calif.) featured the latest version of its VERICUT CNC machine simulation and optimization software. VERICUT 7.0 features significant performance-improving enhancements that reduce the time required for manufacturing engineers to develop, analyze, inspect and document the CNC programming and machining process. CGTech’s product marketing manager, Bill Hasenjaeger spoke during the conference Advanced track sessions about the use of VERICUT to provide machine-independent simulation of automated fiber placement processes.
OOA resin-compatible hot-drape formersA manufacturer of hot-drape forming systems composites laminate fabrication, Laminating Technology (Knighton, U.K.) emphasized the substantial progress the company has made in developing formers that are compatible with emerging out-of-autoclave resins. In addition, the company’s success with vacuum technology, which helps its machinery maintain fiber integrity during the shaping process, holds promise for wider acceptance in aerospace applications — including one as yet unnamed aircraft manufacturer that recently purchased a hot-drape forming system. Company officials claimed that a hot-drape forming system can be had for one-fifth to as little as one-tenth of the capital cost of an autoclave.
Epoxy adhesive for “ditch-and-pot” partsMagnolia Plastics Inc. (Chamblee, Ga.) emphasized a new fire-retardant, two-component, room-temperature-curing epoxy adhesive developed for use in commercial aircraft cabins and anywhere honeycomb panels may be used. Magnobond 5925 epoxy adhesive was designed to bond honeycomb aircraft interior panels, particularly for a specific application known as “ditch-and-pot.” This process involves cutting a U-like “ditch” in the panel, filling it with adhesive and then heating and folding the panel along the cut to form a right-angled structure. The solvent-free adhesive, said to have good chemical, moisture and environmental resistance, is reportedly suitable for adhesive applications that require an epoxy that is highly resistant to fire. The company also showed off a woven carbon fiber laminate, for use on stairs in a private aircraft, infused via resin transfer molding (RTM) with a Magnolia epoxy resin matrix.
Filtration system for resin volatilesPhenolic resins specialist MekTech Composites Inc. (Hillsdale, N.J.) made its case for the inherently fire-resistant matrix material with a number of technical papers that outline research that supports phenolic’s use in aircraft, mass transit, marine, offshore oil and other applications where fire can endanger occupants of lightweight enclosed structures. Also on hand was the Passive Reactor, a compact filtration device designed to break down collected styrene fumes or formaldehyde fumes (the latter emitted by phenolics during cure) into carbon dioxide and water. The system, developed by long-time composites consultant Blaise Lewark, relies on active filtration media and is constructed from off-the-shelf — and, therefore, relatively inexpensive — components. Reportedly, a single passive reactor can service multiple molding cells.
Low-viscosity epoxy resin for infusion processesNagase America Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) introduced its epoxy resin products, developed by parent company Nagase-Chemtex Corp. (Tokyo, Japan), to the American market. Designed for manufacturing composites in aerospace and wind turbine blade applications, the company’s offerings included a low-viscosity epoxy resin formulated specifically for resin infusion processes. Company sales manager Tony Green noted that the resin is the one used by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, Tokyo, Japan) in its celebrated research into vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) structural composites as a more cost-effective alternative to autoclave-cured prepreg in next-generation civil aircraft. JAXA has developed a small-scale (2m/6.6 ft) demonstrator, using the resin, plan call for a 6m/19.7-ft wingbox structure to verify its strength in a primary aircraft structure.
Portable, high-rate nondestructive inspectionNDT Solutions Inc. (NDTS, New Richmond, Wis.), a supplier of nondestructive testing solutions, highlighted its FlawInspecta 64-channel, high-speed ultrasonic phased-array inspection system for composites inspection applications. Designed to address the need for rapid, low-cost inspection of large composite components, the system gathers data in real time for B- and C-scan imaging, which means, says the company, that the full waveform can be acquired without compromising inspection speed. The system is reportedly capable of a 30kHz pulse rate, which corresponds to a scan rate of 10 inches/sec or 10.3 ft2/min (about 3m/sec or almost 1m2) with a 128-element array. The photo shows the inspection system’s passed-array head incorporated into Boeing’s MAUS portable, suction-cup-mountable scanning hardware. Available through NDTS, the MAUS V unit enables in-situ inspection, may be configured as a portable C-scan inspection system or it can be configured with any of a variety of scanning platforms, such as multiple linear arrays used in both immersion and surface dribbler applications.
CNC machining and drilling equipmentA long-time supplier of CNC machining/drilling equipment to the woodworking industry, Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. (Louisville, Ky.) drew attention to its machines designed for applications in the aerospace industry, featuring GE Fanuc digital servo CNC controls rigid Mono-Block construction for heavy-duty use. The company has flexible standard machines available, and can custom-design to fit a customer’s application. State-of-the-art options, including automated tool changers, integrated dust collection manifolds, tool touch probes, programmable part locating stops with retract detection, modular grid worktables and more. The company also offers training and implementation aid at the customer’s production facility.
Spread-tow carbon reinforcementsOxeon AB (Borås, Sweden) showcased its spread tow carbon reinforcements TeXtreme and TeXero for all types of applications. On display was a new ice hockey stick, the Bauer Vapor X:60, made with TeXtreme materials. Produced by Bauer Hockey Corp. (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), the elite level player’s stick is extremely lightweight, but meets performance requirements thanks to the lower areal weight of the spread tow material.
Low-temperature walk-in ovensIndustrial heat technology manufacturer Precision Quincy (Woodstock, Ill.) drew attendee attention to its low-temperature walk-in ovens. Designed to maintain uniform temperatures of up to 450°F/232°C temperatures throughout the oven cavity, the High-Performance EC Series ovens (available gas-fired or electric) feature a long list of standard equipment, including solid-state digital indicating set-point controllers, NEMA ball bearing motors, Gasketed door openings, easily adjusted louvered duct work, heavy gauge aluminized interior construction, heavy-gauge cold-rolled steel exteriors and more. All of the company’s curing ovens are reportedly in full compliance with NFPA-86, NFPA-70, OSHA and UL requirements.
Waterless ultrasonic NDT systemQuality Material Inspection Inc. (QMI, Huntington Beach, Calif.) featured in its booth its noncontact, noncontaminating, waterless ultrasound-based inspection system. Designed especially for inspection of composite structures that have a Nomex core (typically too “noisy” for some ultrasound systems), the QMI system uses a 50 kHz to 400 kHz frequency range to check adjacent unbonded cells. Most of the company’s business comes from testing services, which can accommodate structures up to 20 ft long by 7.9 ft wide (6.1m by 2.4m). Service customers include aerospace manufacturers such as Goodrich, ATK and Orbital Sciences.
New outlet for out-of-autoclave curing technologyAfter a successful three-year collaboration with the National Composite Center (Dayton, Ohio), Australian out-of-autoclave technology supplier Quickstep Technologies (North Coogee, Western Australia) has formed a formal U.S. outlet, Quickstep Composites LLC, to further demonstrate and qualify the Quickstep process for North American aerospace applications. “The new entity is located in Dayton, Ohio, close to a number of strategic suppliers and potential customers,” says Quickstep’s Dale Brosius.
Foam spray for cryogenic and lauch vehicle applicationsStepan Co. (Northfield, Ill.), manufacturer of two-part liquid polyurethane foam systems for use in composites applications, emphasized S-180, a new cryogenic spray foam for cryogenics and launch vehicles. The material was in qualification testing in late September and the company hopes to commercialize it by the end of 2009.
Lifetime oven warranty offerAt its booth, Wisconsin Oven Corp. (East Troy, Wis.) introduced attendees to its new W.O.W. (Wisconsin Oven Warranty), which provides a lifetime warranty for oven body and all major components, including recirculation blower, burner, heating elements, SSR, SCR, temperature controller and high-limit instrument.
NVD tooling for aerosapceWeber Manufacturing Technologies Inc. (Midland, Ontario, Canada) demonstrated its tooling expertise for a variety of applications. Spokesman Tom Schmitz revealed that the company recently completed 116 tools — both Invar layup tools and aluminum trim fixtures — for the HondaJet fuselage program. It also has embarked on a significant program to develop nickel vapor deposition (NVD) tools for a major aerospace program.