The 13th annual Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE), organized by the Automotive and Composites Divisions of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Newtown, Conn.), returns Sept. 11-13, but this time to a new venue across town from Michigan State University’s Management Education Center in Troy, Mich., its home of the past 12 years. ACCE has grown steadily since its debut in 2001. Another year of record attendance and sponsorship in 2012 pushed the facility past capacity. With automotive interest in composites showing no signs of slacking, ACCE organizers decided to move the event this year to The Diamond Banquet & Conference Center at the Suburban Collection Showplace, in nearby Novi, Mich. This much larger facility can better accommodate the event’s anticipated growth, and ACCE organizers report they have worked hard to maintain the event’s friendly feel and excellent networking opportunities in the larger venue by creating new “conversation stations” around the facility and by scheduling numerous coffee breaks, breakfasts, lunches and networking receptions.
More papers, more sessions
ACCE officials have not only booked record numbers of sponsors and exhibitors, but they also have seen a significant increase in the number of submitted papers for the 2013 technical program. As a result, a fourth parallel technical track already has been added on day one. This turn of events also has opened the opportunity to add a new Tutorial track that greatly expands on the single, well-received two-hour tutorial given in 2012. This time around, more than six hours of training are already on the docket. At CT press time, topics included “Processing Technologies for the Manufacture of Thermoplastic & Thermoset Composite Parts,” “Repair for Advanced Composite Structures,” “Sizings for Fiberglass Reinforcements,” “Design and Development of Precision Plastic Gear Transmissions,” “History of Automotive Composites,” “Preforming Choices – Pros and Cons” and “Developing Accurate Material Models for Composites.” Organizers indicate they are planning to preserve tutorials on video and make them available on a new YouTube channel that will be created around the ACCE event.
Alongside the Tutorials track, a number of regular technical sessions will return (each with a group of presentations related to the topic): Advances in Preforming & Reinforcement Technologies, Advances in Thermoplastic Composites, Advances in Thermoset Composites, Bio- & Natural Fiber Composites, Enabling Technologies, Nanocomposites, Opportunities and Challenges with Carbon Composites, and Virtual Prototyping & Testing of Composites.
Along with its perennially strong technical program, the SPE ACCE is well known for its lively panel discussions. Each is scheduled for 90 minutes, during which the moderator quizzes panelists for the first hour and then, in the final half-hour opens the discussion to questions fielded from the audience. This year’s panel is titled “Composites & Aluminum: Compete or Collaborate?” Moderated by Antony Dodworth, the 2013 SPE ACCE cochair and managing director of Dodworth Design (Buckingham, U.K.), it will continue a discussion begun during last year’s panel on “Design and Assembly of the Multi-Material Car” and expanded upon during a 2013 keynote by Alcoa Inc.’s (Pittsburgh, Pa.) Mario Greco, on “The Multimaterial Reality.”
The ACCE also is known for its numerous and diverse keynote addresses, and this year won’t disappoint. Confirmed keynoters to date hail from a wide range of notable firms that are involved in the automotive industry. In addition to Alcoa’s Greco, Martin Starkey, managing director, Gurit Automotive Ltd. (Isle of Wight, U.K.) will discuss “A Class Surface Composites: From Niche Production to Advancing Materials for Higher Volume OEMs”; Greg Rucks, senior consultant, Rocky Mountain Institute (Boulder, Colo.) will describe “The Autocomposites Commercialization Launchpad: Kickstarting Mainstream Adoption of Automotive CF Composites”; and Howard Coopmans, Viper product responsible, Street & Racing Technology, Chrysler Group LLC (Auburn Hills, Mich.) will cover “Composite Technology Developments on the SRT Viper.” (See CT's "inside Manufacturing" feature on the new Viper's hood designs, by clicking on "Reivioning the Viper: Clamshell hood challenge," under "Editor's Picks," at top right.) Additional keynoters will include Elias Shakour, research scientist, Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology, Center for Automotive Research (Ann Arbor, Mich.) on “Creating Value through Collaboration”; Ray Boeman, program director – Energy Partnership, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tenn.), who will present “The National Advanced Composites Manufacturing Institute – A Consortium Approach to Automotive Composites”; and Jai Venkatesan, director – Material Science & Engineering, The Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Mich.), speaking on “Industrialization of Carbon Fiber Composites – Lessons Learned, Investment Priorities for the Future.”
Another popular aspect of the SPE ACCE, free plant tours in and around the Detroit area, will be on offer again this year. At press time, two tours were under consideration: One, on Tuesday afternoon, the day before the conference, will involve an hour-long visit to a new natural-fiber composite prepreg production line. The second, on the event’s final day, is yet to be announced.