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June 2012
JEC Europe 2012 report

A big, busy show and a big variety of new developments boded well for the industry’s future.

Author:
Posted on: 5/31/2012
Source: Composites Technology

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JEC Show floor shot

JEC Europe, the world’s largest annual composites trade show, was bigger than ever this year. If show activity and crowds are any indication of composites industry health, the Great Recession could be passing into the history books. Source: HPC/Photo: Jeff Sloan

Pressure vessel shot

Sample compressed natural gas (CNG) pressure vessels, like this one, could be found at a variety of stands at the show. Production vehicles don’t appear to be an immediate target of engines fueled by CNG, but fleet vehicles, HPC was told, are a distinct possibility. Source: HPC / Photo: Jeff Sloan

Albatros sailboat

Rhodia (Lyon, France) unveiled, in partnership with France-based Finot Group, a lightweight 4.3m/14.1-ft sailboat called Albatros. The impact-resistant and recyclable hull is assembled from three thermoformed composite sections. Source: Rhodia

Century Design prepreg machine

Century Design Inc. (CDI, San Diego, Calif.) has developed a small production prepreg machine targeted for small- to medium-sized producers. Source: CDI

Owens Corning fiber

At JEC, Owens Corning Composite Materials (Toledo, Ohio) announced its new FoodContact glass fiber solution for reinforced plastics in consumer appliances and food-preparation equipment. Source: Owens Corning

Owens Corning: military ehicle

Owens Corning Composite Materials (Toledo, Ohio) also showcased its ShieldStrand S-glass fabric, which has been approved for military uses by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (Adelphi, Md.), under MIL-DTL-64154B (glass fiber-reinforced phenolic laminate) for armored vehicles like the one pictured here, Source: Owens Corning

3A Composites core 1

3A Composites (Sins, Switzerland) introduced Banova, an engineered balsa offered in a variety of configurations. Source: 3A Composites

3a Composites core 2

3A Composites' (Sins, Switzerland) Banova can consist of multimaterial sheets and panels, balsa flat grain or end grain or balsa fibers at any angle in multiple layers to meet specific mechanical loads. Source: 3A Composites

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.



Minitrends make their marks

There were, however, some indications of trends the future might offer. There was some discussion, for example, about demand for compressed natural gas (CNG) pressure vessels triggered by historically low natural gas prices (see photo below), and some talk was stirred by announcements of carbon fiber capacity expansions. Also notable was a focus in many exhibits on high-speed manufacturing strategies, in particular, for automotive applications. For example, Bond-Laminates’ (Brilon, Germany) Tepex thermoplastic sheet is being used in several automotive applications, including an Audi A8 front-end carrier. Bond-Laminates is deeply involved in partnerships to develop fast hybrid molding methods that can meet auto industry part-per-minute expectations. Likewise, Jacob Plastics GmbH (Wilhelmsdorf, Germany) showed videos of two hybrid molding methods for automotive parts, such as seats.

The innovative Fraunhofer ICT (Pfinztal, Germany) research group showed an automated thermoplastic tape placement process combined with injection molding. Many supplier companies offered materials for fast-cycle automotive manufacturing, including Momentive Performance Material’s (Columbus, Ohio) EPIKOTE epoxy and Huntsman Advanced Materials’ (The Woodlands, Texas) Araldite for high-speed RTM.

Magna Exteriors and Interiors (Grabill, Ind.) and Zoltek Companies Inc. (St. Louis, Mo.) announced a global collaborative partnership to develop low-cost carbon fiber sheet molding compounds (SMC) for the automotive and commercial truck markets.

Umeco (Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.) revealed at the show that it is in the process of developing an automated manufacturing system for the high-volume production of automotive structures and components, using new  “snap cure” prepregs. But the big news came after the show closed, when U.S.-based Cytec Industries (Piedmont, S.C.) announced in mid-April that it will purchase Umeco, including its U.K.- and U.S.-based Advanced Composites Group subsidiaries. (See “Cytec Industries to acquire Umeco,” under "Editor's Picks," at top right.)



Rebranding programs unleashed

Additional highlights from the show included rebranding efforts. Technical Fibre Products (Kendal, U.K. and Schenectady, N.Y.) announced that it will now operate under the name 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.

The Axson Group (Cergy, France) followed up its rebranding campaign, which began when it acquired two companies in late 2011, by announcing that André Genton, previously with Huntsman, will be chief operating officer of the company. Genton will oversee Axson’s ambitious expansion plans, which include new plants worldwide.

S-glass specialist AGY (Aiken, S.C.) revealed that it has signed a long-term agreement with CTG/Taishan Fiberglass (Shandong Province, China) to produce AGY’s trademarked S-1 HM high-performance glass rovings under license for wind turbine applications in China. The glass should be in production by the third quarter of this year, reports AGY president Drew Walker and Zhiyao Tang, chairman and president of CTG/Taishan Fiberglass.

Green technologies, including natural fiber materials at many exhibits, and greater environmental responsibility were also at the forefront. DSM Composite Resins (Schaffhausen, Switzerland and Zwolle, The Netherlands), for example, held a joint press conference with partner AkzoNobel (Amersfoort, The Netherlands) to unveil the new BluCure brand, an umbrella name for cobalt-free resin curing technology, including preaccelerated resins and cobalt-free accelerators. DSM is producing new resins with the cobalt-free technology, and a new “BluCure” seal will distinguish products made by fabricators with the new materials.

Owens Corning Composite Materials (Toledo, Ohio) claimed environmental sustainability as a core value, describing new plants  that are coming online in Russia and Mexico and new sustainable products, including a formaldehyde-free binder for glass mats used in carpet; energy-saving production improvements; and a new food-grade reinforcement for use in consumer products — a first for the industry.

Momentive 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 automotive, aerospace 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 in conformity to a wide array of process and customer conditions.

Rhodia (Lyon, France) emphasized two partnerships that are focused on the use of the company’s Evolite polyamide (PA) composite product. The first partnership, with Faurecia, centers on the Lightweight Hybrid Composite Structures (LYCOS) project in Europe, which is working to develop lightweight structures for automotive applications. Faurecia is using Evolite to design and develop a stamped and overmolded seat cushion structural component to replace metal. The other partnership is with France-based Finot Group to develop a lightweight 4.3m/14.1-ft sailboat called Albatros. The hull, made with Evolite, consists of three thermoformed sections. The three sections are bonded together to produce a hull that is light, structurally rigid, has good impact resistance and is recyclable. Finot is looking for 40 percent weight savings with the project, which should be complete sometime in the summer.

 

On the show floor

The CT editorial staff was on hand at the JEC Europe show, cruising the aisles and looking for new and unusual applicaitons of new technology. The followign is a sampling of what exhibitors at the show had to offer.
 

Epoxy resin for large-part infusion

Aditya Birla Chemicals Thailand Ltd. (Bangkok, Thailand), a part of Aditya Birla Group of India, introduced Epotec, a new-generation epoxy resin system for infusion of wind blades. Reportedly based on new chemistry developed for blade manufacture, the resin exhibits long out-time, slow viscosity development and lower exothermic heat reaction, yet it offers good strength development during cure. The system, which the company says has mechanical properties comparable to those of competitive systems currently in use in wind blade manufacture, has been approved by standards organization Germanischer Lloyd.
 

High-strength glass for high-voltage lines

AGY Holdings LLC (Aiken, S.C.) revealed that its S-1 HM glass fibers are being used in the core of composite reinforced aluminum conductors for high-voltage electrical transmission lines. AmpStar (Harbor City, Calif.), a wholly owned subsidiary of G.I.F.T. LLC (the successor trustee to W. Brandt Goldsworthy and Assoc.), has incorporated S-1 HM glass to strengthen the core of its CRAC cables, because the high-strength, high-modulus glass fiber allows the use of higher conductive annealed aluminum, increasing ampacity by up to 100 percent, and delivers better heat and mechanical properties with less line sag at a competitive price.
 

Resin infusion supplies

Airtech International Inc. (Huntington Beach, Calif.) has introduced several new products. Dahlpac MC79 is a strip material for resin infusion processes that allows the application of vacuum pressure to a composite laminate with no resin bleed out and minimal part mark off. The material is made with Dahltexx SP-2 fabric, which is said to breathe efficiently and control resin flow. Wrapped inside Dahltexx SP-2 is a breather mesh that provides an air path along the length of the Dahlpac, enabling trapped and residual air to escape before and during infusion. The maximum use temperature is 125°C/257°F, and it comes in sizes up to 115 mm/4.5 inches wide and 24.3m/80 ft long. Also new is the Mobile Vacuum Kart (MVK) 2011, a plug-and-play system for creating a vacuum in prepreg and resin infusion applications. It features a rotary vane pump (23m3/h) with a single-phase motor of 230V and 50/60 Hz. Also new: Airseal sealant tapes, now available in two versions. Airseal 2 is the standard product for applications outside the autoclave; Airseal 2 HT is the higher-tack version for more immediate surface adhesion. The tapes are functional up to 150°C/302°F.
 

Cobalt-free cure accelerators

AkzoNobel Functional Chemicals (Amersfoort, The Netherlands and Chicago, Ill.) held a press conference at JEC to announce its new BluCure umbrella brand, in partnership with DSM Composite Resins (Zwolle, The Netherlands), that encompasses sustainable products for cobalt-free curing. This novel approach aims to eliminate cobalt octoate — the main ingredient used in accelerators for curing unsaturated polyesters and vinyl esters — which the companies believe will be deemed hazardous in the near future. BluCure products, based on copper, manganese and iron, include cobalt-free preaccelerated resins and ready-to-use cobalt-free accelerators that enable fabricators to dose their own resins. According to the company, the new accelerators (used in place of legacy products) will maintain a fabricator’s existing cycle times and mechanical properties. BluCure accelerators will be licensed to resin producers or fabricators, and a “BluCure” seal will indicate a product or part made with the cobalt-free technology. 
 

Sprayable, integrally heated vacuum bags

Axson Technologies’ (Cergy, France) new technologies included a new reusable silicone bagging concept with an integral heating insert. The vacuum bag or countermold is created by first spraying the company’s SVB 20 silicone material to match the tool. Next, small electrical heating wires supplied by Flexelec (Saint Bonnet de Mure, France) are embedded in the material while it cures, offering cost savings by eliminating expendables while targeting mold heating in key areas for complex shapes. Also on offer: Epolam 2040, a new epoxy system for large parts made via resin infusion, such as wind blades, that reportedly delivers good mechanicals. The Germanischer Lloyd-approved system has low viscosity, enabling thorough wetting of reinforcements, and it features a choice of slow to fast hardeners for tailored processing time.
 

Antifoaming agent for vinyl ester resins

BYK-Chemie GmbH (Wesel, Germany) exhibited a range of processing additives and coupling agents for composites processing. On display was a new product, BYK-P 9928, a processing additive for foam-free vinyl esters. Because the primary way to cure vinyl ester resins involves standard curing agents, such as methyl ethyl ketone peroxide (MEKP), which can lead to foam formation, alternatives were investigated but were often toxic. This new additive enables the use of MEKP by slowing the cure slightly and causing the hydrogen peroxide to decompose into radicals that react with the vinyl ester, rather than forming water and oxygen, the culprits behind the foam formation. The additive has no negative influence on the part’s mechanical properties, says the company, and it comes in an easy-to-incorporate liquid form that is said to be stable for at least six months.
 

Prepreg machines for in-house use

Century Design Inc. (CDI, San Diego, Calif.) has developed a small production prepreg machine targeted for small- to medium-sized producers. Its features include automated controls that incorporate processing recipes; a plug-and-play design that requires no facility changes to install or operate; and an optional ply consolidator that enables the production of prepreg widths up to 1,000 mm/39.4 inches. The system benefits reportedly include a reduction in material costs of up to 40 percent. Also new is TIP (Total Integration Program), a program that delivers the design, technology, processes and implementation for advanced composite material manufacturing facilities. Primarily focused on prepreg manufacturing operations and related downstream activities, TIP is intended to ensure that users of CDI prepreg technologies are fully capable and self-sufficient in the implementation of new machinery.
 

Design and machining software

Delcam (Birmingham, U.K.) reported a major change in the 2012 release of PowerSHAPE design software. It now has a new range of direct modeling options focused on design for manufacture — in particular, preparing product designs for the development of tooling. Direct modeling is faster than surface modeling, says the company, and can shorten the overall tool production time. The 2012 version of the PowerMILL machining system includes new strategies and general enhancements that reportedly make programming faster and machining more efficient, with the best possible surface finish.
 

Low-density/high-performance PVC foam core

The DIAB Group (Laholm, Sweden and DeSoto, Texas) introduced a new grade of Divinycell Matrix PVC foam core material, called Matrix 10-8. Matrix series cores are designed to deliver high mechanical performance at as low a density as possible to avoid overengineering of applications, says the company. With its compression and shear strength properties and improved temperature resistance for tougher processing conditions, Matrix 10-8 is positioned to perform in wind turbine blades and other structural applications.
 

Preform shaping machinery

Dieffenbacher (Eppingen, Germany) introduced the PreformCenter, capable of fully automated production of dry, dimensionally stable 3-D carbon fiber preforms. As part of a complete production line in the high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) process, the PreformCenter can be configured for use in large and small batch production. Besides preform production, the HP-RTM line also includes the compression process and the related finishing steps for lightweight components. In addition, Dieffenbacher also presented its sheet molding compound (SMC) direct line. This direct process for producing thermoset material (D-SMC) enables less costly production of semifinished product.
 

Wind blade foam core, pressure vessel epoxy

Dow Epoxy (Midland, Mich.) has developed the COMPAXX 900 foam core system, designed to enable fabrication of wind blades that exceed 40m/131 ft in length. The foam’s small cell size — up to 100 times smaller than cells in chemical-blown foam such as PVC — limits the amount of resin that can fill cut cells at the surface. Other features include good skin-to-core bonding and fatigue resistance, as well as better static performance than PVC foam. Also new from Dow is the VORAFORCE TW series of epoxy systems for fabricating composite pressure vessels to store compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The epoxy is said to enable improved impact resistance, dynamic fatigue and low-temperature performance.
 

Automated tape-laying venture

Fraunhofer ICT (Pfinztal, Germany) touted its growing array of innovative processing approaches. One, in cooperation with Fiberforge Corp. (Glenwood Springs, Colo.), involves production of high-performance structural parts, typically for automotive applications, using Fiberforge’s RELAY 2000 automated tape-laying technology. Said to be capable of laying thermoplastic tapes rapidly on the flat, at any angle and width, and with varying fiber types, the system locates tapes by moving its table rather than its head. It places tapes only where material is needed, cuts them to near-net shape and then, using ultrasonic welding, tacks the tape plies together. The tape-layed blank is then shaped to part dimensions via secondary processes, such as thermoforming or injection molding, for a strong, tailored part with continuous fiber reinforcement in key areas. Also on display was information about a high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) manufacturing line for high-volume production, which Fraunhofer is developing in collaboration with other Germany-based entities.
 

Epoxy prepreg for wind blades

Gurit (Newport, Isle of Wight, U.K.) has launched Velinox, a novel modified epoxy prepreg that features fast-cure characteristics and can be stored at temperatures in excess of 35°C/95°F. Reportedly suitable for use in thick sections, such as the spars and roots of wind turbine blades, its cure profile can be modified to eliminate dwell periods, providing greater control of exotherm. It is compatible with glass, carbon and aramid fibers and has a four-month shelf life at 35°C/95°F; it can be stored for more than six months at 20°C/68°F. Also new is an update to the RENUVO product line for wind blade repair. In particular, Gurit now offers two new curing lamps for use with the product — one uses mercury vapor and the other uses LEDs. Gurit officials say the new lamps are smaller than previous lamps and are about half the price.
 

Fast-cure adhesive for automotive applications

Henkel AG & Co. (Dusseldorf, Germany) offered a new fast-curing, high-strength polyurethane-based adhesive aimed at fast-cycle automotive structural composites. The single-pack adhesive, which requires no mixing, comprises an isocyanate wrapped in a urea envelope. The curing agent is stable at ambient temperature, but when it is heated to above 80°C/176°F it is activated. The envelope dissolves, allowing the adhesive to be applied, and then the adhesive hardens and cures in seconds, for a fast part cycle time. The company says the new adhesive is not affected by shop humidity, and because the activation temperature is relatively low, the adhesive is suitable for heat-sensitive substrates. It also offers constant mechanical properties over a wide temperature range.
 

Resin for automotive part cycle times

Huntsman Advanced Materials (Basel, Switzerland and The Woodlands, Texas) focused on new products for fast and cost-competitive processing. The company featuredan Araldite resin system for high-pressure resin transfer molding (RTM) and compression molding. Targeted to the auto industry, the resin enables production cycle times as short as three minutes for RTM and less than one minute for compression molding. The company’s resin is used to produce the RTM’d carbon composite passenger chassis cell for the Lamborghini Aventador supercar. Also on offer was Araldite AW 4858 adhesive and companion hardener, along with a high-temperature version AW 4859 and hardener, that when used to join composite parts reportedly offer lap shear strengths that exceed 35 MPa.
 

Shock-absorbing automotive sandwich panels

In a large JEC stand configured as a Zen garden, Ichimura Sangyo Co. Ltd. (Kanazawa, Japan), a subsidiary of Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan), showcased intermediate materials including CF-SA-FP, which stands for Carbon Fiber-Shock Absorbable-Floatable Panel. The material, a sandwich construction with outer skins of polyarylate cloth, inner skins of woven carbon fiber and a vinyl ester foam core, is designed as an impact-resistant, shock-absorbing panel. Intended for use in applications such as automotive bumpers and hoods, the panels are expected to help automakers conform to EU regulations that require reduced potential for injury to pedestrians who are struck by vehicles.
 

Continuous thermoforming/injection molding processes

Jacob Plastics Group (Wilhelmsdorf, Germany) had video screens at its stand to show off its “innovative and integrative” processes for large-scale production of lightweight automotive structures. Two examples were on display: FIT-Hybrid, an efficient process for fabricating hollow parts (a 2011 JEC Innovation Award winner); and SpriForm, a method for building automotive crash structures by combining, in a continuous process, thermoplastic injection-molded parts with thermoformed parts made from continuously fiber-reinforced thermoplastic to unite the benefits of injection molding. Generally, the company is seeking to combine thermoforming of continuous fiber preforms or blanks with injection molding or gas injection technology in a sequential process that produces complex three-dimensional, fiber-reinforced thermoplastic structural parts, such as seat backs and crash structures.

 

Overhead machining centers

To increase productivity and accuracy for high-speed machining of large pieces, Le Créneau Industriel (Annecy-le-Vieux, France) has extended its line of CRENO UGV 5 AXES machining centers with an overhead moving gantry fitted with linear motors, allowing x- and y-axis feed rates up to 60m/min (197 ft/min). Features include long and accurate z-axis travel (more than 2,200 mm/87 inches); standard x-axis travel of 4,000 mm/157 inches to 16,000 mm/630 inches (or more); and standard y-axis travel of 2,000 mm to 5,800 mm (78.7 inches to 228.4 inches). The two movements of the 5-axis head are driven by brushless motors equipped with heavy-duty epicycloidal reducers. Available options include T-slot tables, flat steel tables with tapped holes and a vacuum system. The CRENO centers are said to be well suited for high-speed machining of composite materials, including sandwich panels, plastic materials, aluminum and electrical insulating materials.
 

Epoxy resins for wind blade production

Among the new products unveiled by Momentive Performance Materials Inc. (Columbus, Ohio), the resin manufacturer formerly known as Hexion, was a new line of epoxy resin systems for wind turbine blades. EPIKOTE MGS RIMR 145 is an epoxy infusion system for carbon fiber, with low viscosity and long out-time for large blades and low exotherm for thicker laminates. The company reports that the resin is significantly stronger than industry standards and can be used with glass laminates as well. A companion product, EPIKOTE MGS BPR 435, is a new paste adhesive with four times the fatigue performance of the company’s former brand. Its improved rheology and faster cure rate decrease blade cycle time, and its lower density helps reduce overall blade weight and cost. Also new is EPIKOTE Resin 05475 teamed with EPIKURE Curing Agent 05443. Together they enable direct infusion of carbon fiber material with large-scale, high- or low-pressure resin transfer molding (RTM) equipment for automotive structural parts. The automotive resin system reportedly cures in less than five minutes.
 

New glass fiber products for demanding applications

At JEC, Owens Corning Composite Materials (Toledo, Ohio) announced its new FoodContact glass fiber solution for reinforced plastics in consumer appliances and food-preparation equipment. Developed to perform optimally in high-temperature resins — polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), liquid crystal polymer (LCP) and others — the chopped strand meets upcoming 2016 European Commission regulations for glass fiber sizing chemistry and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). The company also showcased its ShieldStrand S-glass fabric, which has been approved for military use under MIL-DTL-64154B (glass fiber-reinforced phenolic laminate) by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (Adelphi, Md.). According to the company, the fabric provides better structural performance in ballistic applications, such as armor and spall liners, than do aramid, ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) and polypropylene fibers.
 

Glass fibers for acidic, high-modulus applications

PPG Industries (Pittsburgh, Pa.) has introduced INNOFIBER specialty glass composition fibers; the company also presented recent laboratory test results from its Shelby, N.C., fiberglass research and development facility. The tests used rovings that paired INNOFIBER glass composition fibers and proprietary sizing chemistry, and the results showed The results, using rovings that paired INNOFIBER glass composition fibers and proprietary sizing chemistry, displayed how these products exceed the corrosion-resistance and modulus-performance limits of standard E-glass. The company says boron-free INNOFIBER CR glass fiber provides good corrosion resistance in acidic environments, and high-modulus INNOFIBER XM glass fibers offer better stiffness and lighter weight for applications that use highly oriented fiber reinforcements.
 

Low-density flax fiber prepregs

Procotex SA (Dottignies, Belgium) showed an array of flax fiber unidirectional prepregs for high-performance “eco-composites.” Available with both thermoplastic and thermoset resin matrices, the flax prepregs offer a lower density than glass fiber as well as high vibration damping, low abrasion and obvious recyclability for reduced environmental impact. The company also offers kenaf, jute, sisal and cocos fibers; recycled polypropylene fibers for thermobonding of materials, such as auto carpet underlayment or acoustic insulation panels; and a variety of other recycled fibers and fiber blends. Procotex claims a capacity of 30,000 metric tonnes (66.14 million lb) of recycled textile fibers per year.
 

Polyamide prepregs and preconsolidated plates

Rhodia Engineering Plastics (Lyon, France) introduced Evolite by Technyl, an extension of its range of Technyl polyamide compounds. This series of continuous fiber-reinforced materials is available in recyclable matrix, preimpregnated fabrics and preconsolidated plates. Compatible fibers include carbon, glass and aramid. It features good crash resistance, high compressive and tensile strength and good fluidity. End-use markets include automotive and transportation, construction and sports and leisure.
 

Two-component adhesive system

SCIGRIP UK (Tyne and Wear, U.K.), the company formed as a result of the 2011 merger of IPS Weld-On (U.S.) and Holdtite (U.K.), has introduced SG230HV, a two-component, 10:1 mix ratio adhesive for bonding composite and/or plastic parts with little or no surface preparation for marine, transportation and renewable energy applications. Its features include high viscosity, minimal surface preparation, good weather resistance, toughness and elasticity.
 

Hot-water temperature control systems

SINGLE Temperiertechnik GmbH (Hochdorf, Germany) introduced hot-water temperature control systems for molds rated up to 225°C/437°F. The systems are touted as technically superior and more energy efficient than hot oil and electric heaters and ovens. The company claims that its fluid-based temperature control of molds has many benefits over oven curing. The latter complicates part handling, is highly time consuming and makes process control difficult to manage. Further, an oven’s cooling phase offers no room for active support. In the case of thermoplastics composites, the molding process can benefit from active alternating temperature technology (ATT), recommended for processes that require fast temperature variations within the cycle time. Within seconds, ATT switches between two circuits with cooling fluid of different temperatures and heats or cools the mold. This ensures adequate cooling during the filling phase and sufficient heat during the curing phase.
 

High-temperature core materials

Spheretex (Hilden, Germany) presented its new high-temperature core material in three grades: SBC HT, S HT and tex HT. Designed with higher temperature resistance (150°C/302°F on a long-term basis) during the production process, the new HT cores are compatible with all resin types, particularly epoxy and polyester foam, and reportedly offer greater compressive strength than competing products.
 

Engineered balsa, foam core configurations

3A Composites (Sins, Switzerland) attracted much attention with the introduction of Banova, an engineered balsa offered in a variety of configurations. Banova can consist of multimaterial sheets and panels, balsa flat grain or end grain or balsa fibers at any angle in multiple layers. This allows the manufacturer to build a core of multilayer balsa with the grain oriented in multiple directions to meet specific mechanical loads. Also introduced: AIREX SealX, a new sealing technology that is said to offer, in BALTEK SB and SBC balsa cores, an 80 percent reduction in core resin uptake during infusion, compared to 50 percent with 3A's AIREX T90 and T92 cores. This reportedly enables PET-cored sandwich construction that is lighter than PVC-cored solutions. The company also launched AIREX T92.80, a new low-density PET core material targeted at weight- and cost-sensitive applications in wind energy, architecture, automotive and marine applications. The latter meets Det Norske Veritas (DNV) requirements for boat decks and superstructures.
 

Glass fiber for automotive, wind applications

3B-the fibreglass co. (Battice, Belgium) spotlighted MF 01 ER (Eco-Responsible), a powder grade of Advantex milled fibers. The product is intended to reinforce engineering thermoplastics and thermosets and provide high-modulus and greater dimensional stability and shrinkage control. It can be used in a variety of applications in the automotive, electrical and electronic and consumer goods markets. For the wind energy sector, 3B offered new HiPer-tex W3030 glass fiber, specifically engineered for polyester and vinyl ester resin systems used in infusion processes. In the JEC Innovation Showcase, 3B displayed a zero-permeation lightweight composite compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinder developed by GASTANK Sweden AB (Norrfjärden, Sweden). It was manufactured using HiPer-tex glass fiber around a novel thermoplastic inner liner.
 

Snap-cure prepregs for automotive apps

Umeco (Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.) says that it is in the process of developing an automated manufacturing system for the high-volume production of automotive structures and components. The system consists of carbon fiber/epoxy prepreg formats that are first cut and kitted on a cutting table, then transferred to a preforming tool and loaded into a compression molding machine for processing. The automated system can handle all types of prepreg material but is focused on using Umeco’s Dform products. Ultimately, Umeco will develop and market a range of prepreg materials that will snap-cure in three to four minutes in a press-forming process, which puts the whole system in line with automotive production volume requirements.
 

Cellulose fiber-reinforced polypropylene

UPM (Helsinki, Finland), a pulp and paper conglomerate, offered a new product for composites: UPM ForMi is a cellulose fiber-reinforced polypropylene for sustainable injection molding applications. The recycled cellulose fibers come from the company’s other business endeavors, which include ProFi wood/plastic composites for decking. The ForMi material is recyclable, odorless and available in granular form and customizable colors.
 

Carbon-fiber sheet molding compound

Zoltek Companies Inc. (St. Louis, Mo.), in partnership with Magna Exteriors and Interiors (Grabill, Ind.), an operating unit of Magna International Inc. (Aurora, Ontario, Canada), announced that they have collaborated on a low-cost carbon fiber sheet molding compound (SMC). The new product, EpicBlendSMC EB CFS-Z, combines Zoltek’s Panex 35 commercial-grade fiber with Magna’s EpicBlendSMC formulations and contains 50 percent carbon fiber (by weight). Intended for a range of lightweight parts and subsystems for the automotive, commercial truck and other markets, the product will be offered directly to molders. CFS-Z is particularly suitable for electric vehicle battery enclosures due to its reportedly excellent electromagnetic interference shielding. Also on display at Zoltek’s stand was a new medium to high areal weight carbon fiber prepreg for high-volume commercial applications. The prepreg is Germanischer Lloyd-approved.

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