CW Blog

By: Jeff Sloan 31. March 2017

Happy April 1

Another opportunity to meet, and learn, in Paris

Improvements in materials and processes were present at nearly every stand, with the emphasis on automotive-capable production speeds. And it was apparent that the composites industry is thriving, based not only on well-established suppliers but also on the number of new exhibitors, some with massive stands and clear vertical integration. One notable example was Kangde Composites Co. Ltd. (KDC, Beijing, China), who exhibited its vertically-integrated capabilities and value chain including carbon fiber, fabrics, prepregs, part manufacturing, design and research capabilities. ZAX Technology is KDC’s carbon fiber production plant with a reported annual carbon fiber capacity of 5100 tonnes (15,000 tonnes precursor capacity), located in Langfang, China, close to Beijing. The exhibit also included KDC carbon fabrics and prepregs, in multiple areal weights and weaves and resin types. Also represented was KDX Europe Composites R&D Center and KDX Roding Europe Automobile Design Centre (the latter located near Munich), involved with composite part design and research, for automotive and other applications. The group says it plans to build a huge “Industry 4.0” plant, with an annual capacity of 1.5 million CFRP parts.

Material advancements

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For me, the major themes at JEC were industrialization, thermoplastics and a dramatic increase in technologies and touted capability for Industry 4.0 production. Though I expect to blog more fully and/or publish print articles about the following companies in the near future, here is my tour of highlights from the 2017 JEC World exhibit floor:

Automated Preforming at 10-15 seconds per layer
I first encountered FILL Machine Engineering (Gurten, Austria) when touring nearby FACC (Ried im Innkreis, see my 2014 article). When I asked who supplied all of the automated NDT systems for composites, my tour guide answered, “You don’t know FILL?” I do now. FILL is a family-owned company with 715 employees, a turnover of app. 145 million € and additional facilities in Shanghai, China and Puebla, Mexico. It designs and supplies automated systems for production in metals, wood and plastics, the latter including industrial-scale production lines for composites, polyurethane and particle foam. In composites, FILL has produced units for handling of reinforcements and preforming, molding, machining and testing including NDT.  

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InFactory Solutions (Taufkirchen, Germany) is an Airbus subsidiary created in 2016 to deliver automated, connected and intelligent systems for manufacturing. It offers sensor systems, data analytics and engineering consulting services mainly for composites production.

Its vision is that each step in a composites production process will be fully monitored and connected to a central data base that is analyzing for efficiency and may also optimize and adapt the production according to evolving needs.

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