Carbon Fiber 2008 Conference highlights

CompositesWorld's Carbon Fiber Conference, held Dec. 8-10, discussed current and emerging supply of carbon fiber for composites applications.

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Fiber manufacturers, downstream material suppliers and converters, researchers, end-users and some potential future carbon fiber suppliers converged Dec. 8-10, 2008, on the Charleston Marriott in Charleston, S.C., for Carbon Fiber 2008. Organized by CompositesWorld Conferences, this year’s event was better attended than in 2007, notes conference director Scott Stephenson: “We had a solid turnout despite the recent economic slowdown, which was encouraging.”

After two educational sessions on Monday, one presented by Chris Red of Composite Market Reports (Gilbert, Ariz.) and the other anchored by industry consultants Tony Roberts of AJR Consultant LLC (Lake Elsinore, Calif.) and Chris Levan of Carbon Fiber Solutions (Alpharetta, Ga.), the event kicked off with an opening reception. The following two days were filled with informative half-hour presentations from both carbon fiber manufacturers and downstream fiber end-users. A panel discussion on day two addressed new players that are investing millions to enter the market as carbon fiber producers. Aspiring fiber manufacturers include AKSA (Istanbul, Turkey, see related interview at right) as well as groups that have announced development activities in Canada, India, Saudi Arabia, China and Iceland. The general consensus of opinion about the prospective producers, from the panel members and audience, was positive. Historically, said one panelist, the small number of fiber producers has probably restricted the market. Additional capacity will help address fiber shortages, and a more plentiful supply could moderate prices and embolden potential fiber users that might otherwise refuse to risk the use of carbon fiber in an application. Others noted, however, that the impact of the new suppliers might not be felt for some time: Because carbon fiber production requires expensive technology and expertise,  it will take the new players time to develop viable products (see “The making of carbon fiber,” link at right).

Technical session standouts included a paper on carbon fiber/thermoplastic composites and how they are and could be used in aerospace, presented by Arnt Offringa of Stork Fokker AESP BV (Hoogeveen, The Netherlands); an explanation of large composite flywheels and their role in regulating the electric power grid, by Matt Polimeno of Beacon Power Corp. (Tyngsboro, Mass.); and a discourse on the methods used to manufacture automotive parts with carbon fiber prepregs at Plasan Carbon Composites (Bennington, Vt.).