The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA, Arlington, Va., USA) hosted its annual trade show, Composites 2010, Feb. 9-11 in Las Vegas, Nev. Mood at the show was decidedly upbeat and optimistic, with the industry coming out of one of the most difficult years in the industry's history. CompositesWorld was there and has these highlights:
Ray MacNeil, owner of Ray MacNeil Composites Consulting, was the first keynote speaker of the show and offered his evaluation of where the economy has been and where it's headed in the next few years. His data from 2009 proves what is well known: The economy last year was the worst it's been in a very long time. The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 2.45 percent in 2009; the composites industry saw its output drop 28 percent in 2009. Looking ahead, MacNeil says to look for U.S. GDP to increase 2.6 to 3.0 percent from 2010 to 2014. The composites industry, he said, should grow 7 percent CAGR in the 2010 to 2015 time period. Employment, he thinks, will take longer to increase, and he expects to see a jobless recovery through most of 2010.
Composites One (Arlington Heights, Ill.) came to the show with its “Lean, Mean, Closed Molding Machine” glass-walled demonstration area, a commitment to the company’s participation in the Closed Mold Alliance. Visitors could watch resin transfer molding (RTM), Light RTM and vacuum infusion methods in action, with commentary from industry experts, such as Alcan Baltek’s (Northvale, N.J.) Russ Elkin. One of the molding demonstrations involved a new process from a new company, MIRteq Pty. Ltd. (Cardiff, New South Wales, Australia). MIR, which stands for micro-fiber infused resin, involves treating glass microfibers with a proprietary process to improve fiber-resin bonding, then dispersing those fibers into a polyester or vinyl ester resin. The mixture can be readily poured, injected, sprayed, cast or infused at room temperature, with low-temperature (and therefore low-cost) molds, at low injection pressure. Non-structural yet complex parts are possible, and a flapper valve made via the MIR process won the ACMA “Process Innovation” ACE award at the show.
“Green” innovations and environmental initiatives were a common theme for many exhibitors, including Jushi Group Co. Ltd. (Zhejiang, China) and its U.S. distributor, Gibson Fiberglass (Irwindale, Calif.). The company announced an environmental stewardship program, which includes improvements and modifications to its glass manufacturing process to save energy and resources — for example, waste heat from the glass furnaces is recovered for use in drying the glass product, and process water and steam condensate is captured, treated and recycled. Jushi reuses all of its waste fiberglass in the production of its E6 Enhanced glass fiber. AOC announced the launch of its EcoTek Green Technologies for composites and cast polymers, The EcoTek line debuts in unsaturated polyesters and vinyl esters and features content derived from renewable resources (corn and other plant oils), as well as recycled content from reclaimed PET. The products are styrene-free. Ashland Performance Materials (Dublin, Ohio) announced that its Envirez resin, made in part from soy products, has been expanded to serve corrosion-resistance and tub and shower applications. Ecopoxy Systems promoted its EcoPoxy, an odorless, non-solvent epoxy that is comprised entirely of renewable materials. It does not outgas, does not shrink and offers tensile strength of 9,692 psi, flex modulus of 14,434 psi and compressive strength of 11,409 psi.
Renewable energy applications were at the forefront, with wind blades and other parts for turbines a hot topic. Dr. Habib Dagher of the University of Maine’s AEWC Advanced Structures & Composites Center discussed his groups initiative to develop offshore wind resources in Maine, using new technology that includes floating tower foundations for deep water and higher-durability blades and materials. The DeepC Wind Consortium, with 30 or more partners, recently won a major DOE grant, and will introduce a turbine unit next year for testing, says Dagher.