To add to our recent coverage of composite aircraft lightning strike protection and suppliers, another important provider of lightning strike and static dissipation materials is Technical Fibre Products Inc. (TFP, a James Cropper Co., Schenectady, N.Y.). The company has the ability to produce metal coated carbon fibers in-house, through its subsidiaries Electro Fiber Technologies LLC and Metal Coated Fibers Inc. (MCF), co-located with TFP in Schenectady. Metal plating is done using either an electroless plating or electroplating process, depending on the requirements, and metal options include copper, nickel, silver, gold, alloys and more, in variable thicknesses up to 65 percent of finished product weight. Nickel-free environmentally-friendly alternatives are also available, says David Jhaveri, TFP’s business development manager.
The metallized fibers are then converted into veil or mat form, tradenamed Optiveil or Optimat, using polyester, polyurethane or acrylic binders, in continuous or chopped form, from 5 mm/0.2-inch up to 1650 mm/65 inches in width. Alternatively, the metallic tows can be prepregged, woven or made into customized forms, to meet specific application needs. Veil weights from 4 grams per square meter (gsm) up to 200 gsm are available, and are designed for EMI shielding, thermal conductivity, static protection and as part of an overall lightning strike protection strategy. “Optiveil also offers multifunctionality such as providing a high-quality surface finish for the composite part in combination with conductivity and EMI shielding,” adds Jhaveri. The veils and mats are also suitable for use in resistive heating applications, such as aircraft de-icing. Optiveil and Optimat are available in sheeted form and cut shapes, as an alternative to rolls.