The composites conference season is coming fast, and I'm sure many of you are preparing to hit the road in the next few weeks, as is the staff of HPC. As you read this, I'll be making my first visit to the SpeedNews Aviation Industry Suppliers Conference, at its 20th annual meeting in California. I hope to have some interesting news to report in the next issue of HPC.
We're also going to attend the EPTA-sponsored 8th World Pultrusion Conference, in Budapest, Hungary. With a theme of "Emerging Markets," the meeting should yield some insights into the fast-growing Eastern European and even Russian pultrusion markets. It also promises to feature some innovative applications that we'll try to cover in future issues.
Our next stop is Paris, of course. Look to p. 24 for our annual coverage of the SAMPE Europe Conference and the JEC Composites Show, including a JEC show floor map and exhibitor list.
What better time than this to announce our new European sales office? To improve service to the dynamic European market, we are pleased to announce the opening of an office headed by Sian Raynor on the Isle of Wight. Some of you probably know Sian from her previous work as marketing manager for SP Systems (now Gurit). She has formed her own company, Plus Integrated Marketing, and we are thrilled to have Sian as part of the HPC team. You'll find her both knowledgeable about composites and a great marketing resource. She can be reached via phone at +44 1983 240475; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this issue: It is generally assumed that true aerospace-quality composites can be attained only with autoclave processing. While I'm at great pains to say that for some types of composite parts autoclave cure remains the most reliable, there are innovative tooling and manufacturing methods as well as material combinations that are proving capable of producing near autoclave-quality parts at much less cost. We take a look at some of these innovations in "Autoclave Quality Outside the Autoclave?" on p. 44.
Thermoplastics — finally — are making it into significant applications in aerospace. From the promise of the F-22 in the 1980s, thermoplastics now occupy a position on the leading edge of the giant Airbus A380 wing. First tested on the A340, weldable thermoplastic "semipreg" fabric and preconsolidated sheet are used to make tough "J-nose" components. Walk through the manufacturing process on p. 50.
Speaking of tough, in the competitive world of high-performance auto racing, carbon fiber/epoxy has replaced aluminum in the heavily-loaded gearbox on Honda's Formula One race car, featured in "Focus on Design," on p. 60. Using cutting-edge finite element analysis to refine the structural design, Honda improved performance by 500 percent while lowering weight and extending service life. In another locale, where only the tough survive, composites are not only holding their own but growing, as discussed "Composites Alive and Well in Offshore Oil Applications," on p. 34. Although the prize apps — deepwater production and drill pipe — will require large volumes of carbon fiber and, thus, are hampered in the short run by the current fiber shortage, composites are earning their way into new apps, such as umbilicals, tethers and pipes. And Dr. Su Su Wang, director of the University of Houston's Composites Engineering & Applications Center (CEAC), gives us his take, in "Market Trends" (p. 7), on the state of offshore composites in the wake of the 4th annual CMOO-4 conference in Houston late last year.
Until next issue ....