The JEC Europe 2013 trade show, March 12-14 in Paris, was the biggest yet and, despite a rare snowstorm on the first day, attracted the usual crowd of composites manufacturing professionals. CompositesWorld was there and offers this quick look at some of the highlights from the event.
In the Innovation Awards corner of the hall, the big attraction has been the award-winning carbon fiber passenger cell of the forthcoming all-electric BMW i3 car (see photo). Featuring SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) carbon fiber produced in the U.S., and due on the market later this year, the i3 represents the first production vehicle to use carbon fiber in the passenger cell and deserved the attention it received. The question looming over the i3 has been what the body panels would be manufactured of. Official word is scarce, but injeciton molding machine maker ENGEL reports that it has sold two large machines to BMW for use in its Leipzig, Germany, facility "to manufacture lightweight components for car body shells." The car is not identified, but if one reads the tea leaves, and understands that the Leipzig plant is being used for primary asembly of the i3, then it's probably not unfair to assume that the i3 body panels will indeed be plastic.
Carbon fiber manufacturer Hexcel (Stamford, Conn., USA) held a press conference on Day 1 and reviewed the role its materials are playing on the Airbus A350 XWB, which is more than 50 percent composites by weight and expected to fly for the first this summer. Hexcel's HexPlay, HexTow and Acouti-Cap products are used variously in the A350's fuselage cockpit, fuselage, vertical tail and horizontal stabilizer, wing covers and spars, wing leading and trailing edges, center wing box, belling fairing and other parts. All told, said Hexcel officials, each A350 XWB represents $4 million in revenue from composite materials. Equally, if not more, interesting was Hexcel's introduction of HiTape UD, a dry carbon fiber for automatic placement applications and out-of-autoclave vacuum infusion processing. Hexcel says it's targing the material to aerostructures applications and exhibited on its stand a demonstration panel molded by Spirit AeroSystems (Wichita, Kan., USA) using the new HiTape UD product.
Radius Engineering (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA) got some attention on its stand for the 7m/23-ft carbon fiber multispar flap molded in one shot using the same qualified resin transfer molding (SQRTM) process, which provides autoclave-like consolidation outside of the autoclave. The flap, which Radius says is designed (but not necessarily destined for) an Airbus A320, is made with Cytec 977-2 prepreg and molded in a compression molding machine built by Radius. The tool features aluminum mandrels in the core. Additional pressure, per the SQRTM process, is provided also by resin injected around but not into the fabric by a Radius injection system.
Hexagon Composites (Ålesund, Norway) used the show to announce that it is rebranding, and gathering all of its business units under the Hexagon name. The four subsidiary businesses Ragasco, Lincoln Composites, Raufoss and Devold AMT will now have a common identity and will be referred to as Hexagon Ragasco AS (LPG cylinders), Hexagon Lincoln Inc. (high-pressure cylinders), Hexagon Raufoss AS (high-pressure cylinders) and Hexagon Devold AS (multiaxial fabrics and reinforcements). The company says that after 14 years of solid project and product portfolio growth, it is looking to a unified global identity to help foster an aggressive international growth plan. As one example of that growth, Hexagon Raufoss was recently awarded a contract from a U.S. automotive OEM for the serial supply of CNG high-pressure composite cylinders to serve as fuel tanks for a model that will run on natural gas. The value of the contract is NOK 90 million over a four-year period.
3A Composites Core Materials (Sins, Switzerland) and Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Mich., USA) announced at JEC a strategic cooperation to market innovatitve core material solutions to the wind energy industry. The effort will focus on development of a thermoplastic polystyrene (PS) foam product that Dow had recently begun work on. Dow will now work with 3A to finish product development and then bring it to market together. Dow said at the show that initial testing shows that a PS core product has better mechanical properties than PVC, which is a standard in wind blade manufacturing. When this product will come to market is uncertain, but Dow and 3A officials at the show said they are targeting a 12- to 18-month timeframe.
JEC Europe 2013 marked the first time that Cytec Engineered Materials (Tempe, Ariz., USA) has exhibited since the full integration of Umeco (Heanor, U.K.) following Cytec's acqusition of the firm last year. Under the Composites umbrella at Cytec, said company officials, the firm will operate in two groups: Aerospace and Industrial. Within Industrial will be a third group, Processing Materials, which will also market to Aerospace end users.