The 2012 edition of the JEC COMPOSITES Show, now known as JEC Europe, was held March 27-29 in Paris, France. Figures published by the JEC Group indicate that the event attracted more exhibitors and visitors than in previous years, a testimony to the improving health of the composites industry.
If JEC 2011 was notable for its emphasis on composites in automotive applications, JEC 2012 was equally notable for its lack of a single overriding theme or dominant trend. That’s not to suggest, however, that this annual event was not good. It was, in fact, very good — busy, active and positive.
Momentive Performance Materials (Louisville, Ky.) announced the start-up of its Transportation Research and Application Center (TRAC) in Duisburg, Germany. TRAC researchers will develop and test custom lightweight structural composite solutions for clients in the aerospace, automotive and mass transportation markets. The lab will house a state-of-the art dosing/injection unit and a press from Cannon SpA (Borromeo, Italy) that are specifically engineered for the rapid production of small-batch epoxy composite test components conforming to a wide array of process and customer conditions.
CFK-Valley Stade eV (Stade, Germany) hosted a busy stand that featured many of the group’s members within the German “Network of Competence” in carbon composites. Although many interesting technologies were on display, a new method for producing tailored carbon fiber/thermoplastic blanks for rapid processing — developed by Faserinstitut Bremen eV (Bremen, Germany) — was featured. With the intent to reduce cycle time and production cost, Faserinstitut Bremen, working with numerous partners including Ticona GmbH (Wein, Germany) and Volkswagen AG (Wolsburg, Germany), has developed a tailored fiber placement (TFP) technology that rapidly lays down carbon fiber tow simultaneously with thermoplastic filaments via a modified stitching head to build up a flexible hybrid textile preform, in several layers. The preform, held together with zigzag stitches made of a meltable resin filament, is drapable for complex geometry and can be thermoformed or compression molded to final part shape. According to the group, the commingled preforms allow adjustable fiber volume and tailored fiber orientations with very small turning radii, and cutting scrap is virtually eliminated. Sample articles, including aircraft window frames, and testing so far shows enhanced ultimate part load characteristics at a lower weight.
TenCate Advanced Composites USA Inc. (Morgan Hill, Calif. and Fairfield, Calif.) revealed at the show that it has acquired Performance Materials Corp. Baycomp (Camarillo, Calif.), a specialist in thermoplastic unidirectional tapes and molding materials. In addition, TenCate unveiled a new app for the iPad, available through iTunes and soon to be available for the Android platform, that allows side-by-side comparisons of composite materials for user applications.
SGL Group – The Carbon Co. (Wiesbaden, Germany) presented for the first time a new generation of gas cylinders from the Linde Group. The first ergonomically designed gas cylinder wrapped in carbon fibers is considerably lighter and more stable than conventional steel gas cylinders (they are discussed in detail in “Next-generation pressure vessels,” under "Editor's Picks," at top right). SGL Group also showcased cladding panels made of carbon fibers that will be used in the construction industry. This further demonstrates the potential of carbon fibers for use in the maintenance and strengthening of bridges, tunnels and buildings as well as in new construction.
More than 40 employees of the SAERTEX Group’s (Saerbeck, Germany) global locations met with clients, suppliers and trade visitors on a stand configured as a miniature bridge. SAERTEX engineers developed the bridge for the exhibition in recognition that composite components are increasingly used in bridge construction. The bridge structure not only attracted attention, but also served to demonstrate structural health monitoring technology. Visual sensors measuring only a few micrometers were integrated into the bridge’s noncrimp fabric components as early as the fabric production stage. They monitored the bridge’s performance during the show to demonstrate how such technologies can be used to monitor the quality of the component over its entire service life and how they can measure the mechanical stresses and, thus, provide reliable data on the condition and required repair cycles of a composite structural element.
Up from “down under"
The Composites Australia trade organization made its first appearance at JEC Europe. Kerryn Caulfield, the association’s executive manager, attended the event. Considerable support was provided by the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation (Victoria, Australia). The group noted that in light of the Victorian government’s commitment to advanced manufacturing and its investment in the Australian Carbon Fibre Research Facility (ACFRF) that will be located within the Geelong Technology Precinct at Deakin University (Waurn Ponds, Victoria, Australia), the Department is encouraging Victoria-based firms to showcase their capabilities in international markets.
A number of Australian composite practitioners traveled to JEC Europe, including suppliers who take the annual opportunity to catch up with global sales teams and composite fabricators seeking product and process innovations. Notably, a number of resin and glass suppliers from China and Eastern Europe visited the Composites Australia stand, looking for new supply routes for their products. Additionally, European students stopped by, seeking university and/or job placements in Australia.
Prof. Murray Scott, managing director of Advanced Composite Structures Australia Pty. Ltd. (Port Melbourne, Victoria) and CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures, attended, as did a team from the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Mfg. (VCAMM) and Deakin University, including Brad Dunstan, David Owen, Dr. Bronwyn Fox, Ian Kett and Dr. Claudia Garschke.
Rebranding and more
Technical Fibre Products Inc. (Kendal, U.K. and Schenectady, N.Y.) announced that it has rebranded the company as TFP. In the wake of the company’s 25-year anniversary, the new TFP aims to build on its reputation for developing and producing nonwoven veils and mats and partnering with customers to develop customized solutions to meet an array of technical challenges.
Umeco (Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.) also launched a rebranding effort. Its subsidiaries, Advanced Composites Group (ACG, Heanor, U.K. and Tulsa, Okla.), GRPMS (Fareham, Hampshire, U.K.), JD Lincoln (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Richmond Aerovac (Sandbeds, Keighley, West Yorkshire, U.K.), were subsumed under the Umeco name.
Additionally, Umeco’s structural materials business (formerly ACG) was touted as the lead in the multipartner U.K. FibreCycle project and received recognition at the JEC Innovations Award Program 2012. The award, which comes under the Materials category, was presented to Sigmatex Ltd. (Runcorn, Cheshire, U.K.) for work resulting from the FibreCycle project. FibreCycle was a £1.5 million ($2.3 million USD) research project, partially funded by the Technology Strategy Board, an executive body established by the U.K. government. It ran for approximately four years and was composed of U.K.-based six partners: Lead partner Umeco, Sigmatex, Tilsatec Ltd. (West Yorkshire, Exel Composites Plc, Runcorn, Cheshire) NetComposites (Chesterfield) and the University of Leeds. The aim of the project was to develop materials based on carbon fibers recovered from waste streams to allow manufacturing of technical fabric for thermoplastic and thermoset applications in the composites industry. FibreCycle successfully demonstrated groundbreaking technology to recover carbon fibers. The project showcased that high-value products based on recovered/recycled carbon fibers can offer commercial potential. These materials, which have significantly lower environmental impact than virgin carbon fiber-based materials, are suitable for many applications, especially in the automotive, aerospace, sports and leisure, medical and energy sectors.