SAMPE Europe Conference report

The conference was highlighted by a visit to Stelia, a newly formed group of structures companies.

On Sept. 16 and 17, SAMPE held its main European Conference in Amiens, in Picardy, which is in Northern France. The conference was highlighted by a visit to Stelia, a newly formed group of structures companies, which has become Europe’s largest aero-structures company with a third ranking by world standards. Stelia was the conference's main sponsor. The conference was attended by 220 delegates from 22 countries. They were offered a choice of three simultaneous sessions and an exhibition of about 25 table top exhibitors. One feature which worked very well was the location of the lunches and the coffee breaks within the exhibition space.

The papers covered a wide range of technologies and industries, in particular many automotive applications – a growing trend at SAMPE Europe. Other topics covered included aerospace structures, automation, textiles, modeling, materials, processes, thermoplastics and testing. A more detailed report on the papers presented will appear in a future edition of CompositesWorld magazine. As usual at SAMPE, there were many opportunities to network including at the conference dinner which was held at Granges du Bel Air, an old refurbished farmhouse of enormous size, some 30 km south of Amiens, in the village of La Faloise.

The conference was opened with a keynote speech from Alain Tropis, who is now the senior vice president, head of business line development at Stelia since leaving Airbus,  where he was the senior vice president in charge of the Structure Centre of Competence. In his responses to questions, he gave insights into composite technologies and their future developments. The other keynote speeches covered the subjects of architecture by ParisTech research director Jean-Francois Caron, automotive by Hutchinson Aerospace & Industry technical director Bertrand Florentz and multifunctional materials by Delphine Carronnier from IRT Saint Exupéry.

The visit to the Stelia facility in Meaute demonstrated aerospace composites being applied on a very large scale. Delegates were shown the A350 cockpits and forward fuselages being made. The skins were laid up on an AFP machine which was reported to be laying a 200kg skin in only 20 hours. The lay up of stringers on the skins was achieved in large female tools prior to co-curing in an autoclave. The final structural assembly of the many metal and composite components was achieved in even larger fixtures.

On an adjacent site, we visited IndustriLab, an R&D center and operator training school. Delegates received a welcome speech from the president of Picardy, a French region of similar size to Connecticut. M. Claude Gewerc emphasized the importance of local government in supporting industry development of new technologies to rebuild the area's manufacturing base. The highlight of the laboratory visit was watching a Coriolis AFP laying up a channel section with a very small radius in the corner.