JEC COMPOSITES 2007 Product Showcase - 7/1/2007

The annual Paris conclave showcases the global expansion of composites.

The annual JEC COMPOSITES Show underscored the health of the composites industry and its global expansion: More than 1,000 exhibitors — the largest number ever at a composites trade event — and thousands of composites industry professionals converged on the Paris Expo in Porte de Versailles, Paris France (April 3-5) for three days of networking, education and composites industry commerce. Organizers called it the most international JEC show on record, reporting that 65 percent of visitors and 70 percent of exhibitors came from outside France.

The HPC staff toured the expanded 40,000m² (430,556 ft²) show floor and put together the following compendium of newly announced acquisitions, development and/or marketing partnerships and myriad new materials, processing equipment and services, of which the following is a representative sampling.

Advanced Composites Group Ltd. (ACG, Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.) announced that it will collaborate with GrafTech International Ltd. (Parma, Ohio) to sell GrafTech’s carbon foam block in combination with ACG tooling prepregs on the tool surface. Under another agreement, ACG has launched ACG TB720, a standard-grade epoxy tooling board developed with Huntsman Advanced Materials (The Woodlands, Texas). Also announced: the company’s MTM46 prepreg resin system has been qualified by Columbia Aircraft Mfg. Corp. (Bend, Ore.) for fabrication of its general aviation aircraft.

Airtech Europe (Differdange, Luxembourg) directed visitor attention to its custom-engineered, shaped vacuum bags, designed using CATIA V5 software, and its Vac Valve 425 self-cutting vacuum valves. The company conducted live demonstrations of the resin infusion process and the use of prepregs at its stand and offered a wide range of new and improved consumables, including Release All 45 nonsilicone, semipermanent release agent and Release Ply P45 plain-weave polyester release fabric.

Alcan Composites (Sins, Switzerland) showed AIREX C52 industrial processing foam, which replaces KAPEX C51. With a perforated polyester fleece top layer, the new foam reduces resin consumption during processing while still providing the same adhesion properties with composite skins. In keeping with its new two-brand strategy — AIREX and BALTEK balsa cores — the trade name KAPEX has been phased out, says the company.

Arkema (Paris La Defense, France) showcased its acrylic block copolymers, dubbed Nanostrength, which are used in formulation of epoxy resins and adhesives. The company says the copolymers provide excellent toughening, without compromising the epoxy formulation’s thermal performance or solvent resistance.

Axson Technologies (Paris, France) debuted Lab 975 epoxy tooling block for modeling, designed to provide a smooth surface finish that is compatible with all epoxy paints. Also on offer: Epolam 2090, an infusion system that features an epoxy resin with GC1 190 gel coat, designed for the production of large, high-temperature-resistant molds in marine, aerospace, and energy applications; Epolam 2500/2501, an Airbus-certified resin for the rapid repair of interior composite fittings (e.g., air ducts); and Adekit A180, a stiff epoxy adhesive with temperature resistance up to 150°C/302°F, designed primarily for the structural bonding of engine components.

BITEAM AB (Stockholm, Sweden), a manufacturer of 3-D weaving technology, announced its participation in an EU-funded project called MOJO (modular joints for composite aircraft components). The program will develop a modular system for aircraft construction, using advanced composite materials. The goal is to reduce aircraft weight by 15 percent. The company’s 3-D weaving technology will be used to make profiled carbon fiber preforms.

Composult Composite Consulting AB’s (Solna, Sweden) manager Håkan Johansson presented a technical paper on a new, optimized system for placing inserts in foam-cored sandwich panels. A patent-pending milling tool creates a minimal cavity that is filled with adhesive to accept a panel fastener. The tool is faster than traditional drilling, does not damage the sandwich skin and simplifies design, says Johansson.

Cytec Engineered Materials Inc. (Tempe, Ariz.) displayed the Bugatti Veyron, a $1 million (USD) sports car with a composite body fabricated from Cytec prepregs and the company’s SURFACE MASTER 202 Series second-generation surfacing films. Designed for auto applications, the latter fill/cover surface defects (pinholes, surface cracks and other imperfections) in composite part surfaces more thoroughly than previous FM-series films, reducing post-mold prep for prime/paint. Also, the 202 films have a 30-day shelf life (twice as long as FM films).

Aerospace parts manufacturer EADS Composites Atlantic (Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada) highlighted several service capabilities, including its full environmental simulation laboratory that conducts material testing. The company is a licensee of a new composite molding technology developed by Carbone Forgé (Lentilly, France) and is producing aircraft wheels with comolded metallic inserts (see “JEC … highlights” in “Related Content,” at left).

Diatex (St. Genis Laval, France), a technical fabric manufacturer, announced that VACUOPEEL, a single product that combines a peel ply, a perforated bagging film and a breather/bleeder felt, is now available for the boating industry. After cure, the breather and film layers can be removed, leaving the peel ply in place to protect the part during storage and/or transport.

Eastman Machine Co. (Buffalo, N.Y.) showcased a new cutting technology it calls the M9000 Static Table. The machine marks, cuts, drills and punches any flexible material, both dry and in prepreg form, for lower overall operating costs thanks to labor savings and less waste. At operating speeds of up to 60 ips/1.52 m/sec, the system maintains accuracy of ±0.015 inches (±0.38 mm). EasiCut plotter motion control software enables users to preprogram all cutting and nesting parameters.

Waterjet machinery manufacturer Flow International’s (Kent, Wash.) Bretten, Germany-based subsidiary Flow Europe was on hand to spotlight the company’s Integrated Flying Bridge for abrasivejet and waterjet cutting. The system is designed to combine the motion control, pump and high-pressure components of a waterjet cutting tool into one compact machine. It features hardened and ground precision linear ways with precision bearing blocks and preloaded, reciprocating ballscrews. The X-Y assembly is separated from the catcher tank to ensure that no thermal distortion affects the workpiece.

Henkel Corp. (Düsseldorf, Germany and Bay Point, Calif.) used the show to call attention to several new technologies, including its new chemistry platform for structural aerospace composites, based on benzoxazine resins, for high-temperature and hot/wet applications. Also introduced: Hysol EA 9658, a very high-toughness nacelle film adhesive for use in bonding honeycomb in high-temperature environments.

Hexcel (Duxford, Cambridge, U.K. and Dublin, Calif.) announced the rebranding of its carbon fibers under the new HexTow trademark and premiered its HexPly XF3, a new surfacing film, and Polyspeed Grid Laminates, woven reinforcements for very large composite structures, such as wind turbine blades.

High Modulus (Hamble, Hants, U.K.) announced a joint marketing effort in marine applications for a new Hexcel carbon reinforcement. HexForce NC2 In Ply Symmetric is a three-ply stitched reinforcement that is internally symmetrical, meaning that the outer plies are identical in weight and fiber orientation while the central ply is in the mirrored fiber orientation and has a weight equal to the total of the two outer plies. Currently available in a 400 g/m² double-bias fabric, the product is designed to prevent warpage and shear wrinkling associated with asymmetrical laminates used in the shear webs of hull girders in high-performance yachts.

Lectra (Marietta, Ga.), a manufacturer of industrial cutting devices, introduced VectorTechTexFX, designed for the cutting of industrial grade fabrics. It features new piloting software that the company says can help reduce material consumption and optimize markers and cutting quality. Also from Lectra is DesignConcept TechTex, a 2-D/3-D conceptualization and industrialization software package dedicated to industrial fabrics. The software assists users in analysis of product feasibility, finished product quality and cost. It also can be associated with pattern design, marker-making and specification software.

A new Cyclone multiaxis filament winding machine was featured at McClean Anderson’s (Schofield, Wis.) stand. Controlled by the company’s Flexwind software, the one-, two- or three-spindle machine is completely customizable. It features 3- or 4-axis computer-controlled motion, employs all-digital AC servo technology and has a modular horizontal carriage bed that is available in 3m/10-ft increments.

Nanoledge (Sophia Antipolis, France) brought to the JEC show a Look 595 carbon fiber bicycle frame made with its carbon nanotubes. The company reports a variety of new data in its research of components made with nanotubes vs. those made without, including increased resistance to crack growth (30 percent), compression (22 percent) and impact (50 percent) as well as an improvement in flexural strength (50 percent).

Oxeon AB (Borås, Sweden) announced its move to a new, larger production facility for its TeXtreme spread-tow carbon fabrics and TeXero unidirectional tapes. A key component of the company’s expansion plans, the facility is outfitted with machinery capable of volume production of the company’s products, which are based on proprietary tow spreading and weaving technologies that enable production of lightweight (as low as 80 g/m²) fabrics from large tow (12K and higher).

Polystrand Inc. (Montrose, Colo.) displayed its continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic prepreg tapes, including its newest product, Tri-Ply tape. Arranged in three layers with fibers in a 0°/90°/0° orientation, a balanced arrangement of reinforcement that enables the tape to lay flat during processing. The tape weighs only 29.4 oz/yd², significantly lighter than standard three-layer tapes, says the company.

Porcher Industries (Le Grand Lemps, France,) showcased its Pi preg thermoplastic composite sheet material, which combines woven fabrics made from either carbon, E-glass, S-2 Glass or aramid fibers with any thermoplastic resin system. The product is customizable to customer requirements.

Quickstep Technologies (North Coogee, Western Australia) and mold release systems supplier Zyvax Inc. (Boca Raton, Fla.) announced a business alliance. The pair will develop and promote composites production techniques that combine Quickstep’s patented composites manufacturing process with Zyvax’s tool preparation products. Under the terms of the initial five-year agreement, Zyvax will supply tool preparation and mold release products to all Quickstep locations, including pilot production facilities, for use in testing and demonstrations.

Röhm GmbH (Darmstadt, Germany), a part of Degussa’s High Performance Polymers business unit, showcased a variety of composite technologies and products that feature ROHACELL PMI (polymethacrylimide) foam core. In the spotlight: the company’s new finite element analysis (FEA) service, offered in Darmstadt to help customers design parts with ROHACELL. Sicne the show, the company has announced that it will open a new ROHACELL manufacturing facility in the U.S. in Mobile, Ala.

3M Co.’s (St. Paul, Minn.) stand was devoted to new products for aircraft interiors: Scotch-Weld 7246-2 B/A FST, a two-component, room-temperature-cure epoxy adhesive, bonds honeycomb sandwich panels used to build structures (e.g., luggage compartments, toilets). Scotch-Weld 3450 FST and Scotch-Weld 3550 FST are very low-density resins used to reinforce and finish honeycomb sandwich panels. The former can be applied manually or via pump and cures at 120°C to 180°C (250°F to 350°F). The latter is a two-component, extrudable resin that complies with FAR/JAR 25.853.

The new line of VHM Hephaistos microwave curing cabinets from Vötsch Industrietechnik (Reiskirchen-Lindenstruth, Germany) features patented technology that heats only the contents but not the heating chamber itself. Intended as an economical alternative to autoclave or oven curing for aircraft parts, the system also reportedly produces radiation with high field homogeneity — that is, consistent levels of radiated energy to all portions of a three-dimensional object — thus providing a consistent level of volumetric heating and therefore temperature control accurate enough to precisely cure composite structures.