Show reports: SAMPE Tech, SME Tooling for Composites and Composites Europe

HPC was on the road — a lot — during the last two months, attending a number of conferences and exhibitions including its own CompositesWorld Expo held in Schaumburg, Ill. on Sept. 2-5 (see HPC’s extensive Expo coverage in the Learn More box at right).

HPC was on the road — a lot — during the last two months, attending a number of conferences and exhibitions including its own CompositesWorld Expo held in Schaumburg, Ill. on Sept. 2-5 (see HPC’s extensive Expo coverage in the Learn More box at right). Other notable stops on the HPC travel schedule included the following events.

SAMPE’s Fall Technical Conference and Exhibition, held in Memphis, Tenn. from Sept. 8-11 and colocated with the American Society for Composites’ annual technical conference, took as its theme “Multifunctional Materials: Working Smarter Together.” With the spotlight on new materials and material forms, many conference sessions featured nanotechnology, as well as design for multifunctionality and manufacturing and processing advancements.

Keynoter Dr. Les Lee, with the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (Arlington, Va.), described work his group is pursuing on advanced materials and systems for aerospace that combine useful properties: self healing, energy harvesting, smart sensors and integrated electronics with power generated within the structure. Wednesday’s keynote by Dr. Paul Lagace, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, provided some food for thought: Why aren’t composites further along than they are? His answer: We have fallen short in assessing failure modes and structural integrity. The event’s best technical paper awardees, Dr. Henry Sodana and Y. Lin of Arizona State University, described work on a structural piezoelectric fiber — carbon or silicon carbide fiber with a peizoceramic shell coating. The fiber can function as a structural reinforcement but also provides in-situ electrical conductivity for structural health monitoring, for example. Bob Griffiths, SAMPE’s past president, described a new ductile prepreg product in development by Integrated Materials Technologies (Suffolk, U.K.). The concept involves laser cutting a pattern of tiny holes in unidirectional prepreg to create, in effect, a discontinuous fiber product with staggered fiber lengths of 1 to 2 inches/25 to 50 mm. Griffiths claims the material is more conformable and drapable for smaller parts like aircraft brackets.

On the exhibition floor, new developments included Cytec Engineered Materials Inc.’s (Tempe, Ariz.) X5320 toughened epoxy resin prepreg system, designed for out-of-autoclave manufacturing of primary aerospace structure. The system reportedly delivers equivalent properties to standard 350°F/177°C autoclave cure systems, but it can be oven cured at 200°F/93°C. Materials & Sensors Technologies Inc. (Glen Burnie, Md.) demonstrated a new ultrasonic cure monitoring system with a sacrificial sensor that delivers direct cure monitoring of resin viscosity with real-time feedback that allows process adjustment on the fly.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers' (SME) Tooling for Composites conference, held Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Doubletree Hotel in Seattle, Wash., included tour opportunities. Boeing’s machinists’ union strike nixed the originally scheduled tour of the Everett assembly facility, but Electroimpact Inc. (Mukilteo, Wash.) and toolmaker Janicki Industries (Sedro-Woolley, Wash.) provided excellent tours, and, in some cases, eye-opening process automation examples. Mark Jenks, VP of development responsible for the 787 Dreamliner, gave an overview of the 787’s design, development and current status, as well as insight into Boeing’s global partner model. Richard Groch of ATK Aerospace Structures (Iuka, Miss.) presented an interesting paper on his company’s development of large breakdown mandrels for composite tape laying. Tom Sobcinski of Remmele Engineering Inc. (New Brighton, Minn.) described a new tooling concept, dubbed Invalite, which melds an Invar facesheet with a carbon/bismaleimide substructure that has a company-designed snap-fit joint system. An Invalite tool weighs 50 percent less than straight Invar, with less thermal mass and faster cure capability. Interest was high in Chris Ridgard’s presentation about Advanced Composites Group Inc.’s (Tulsa, Okla.) DForm discontinuous fiber unidirectional tape prepreg material for tooling. More than 20 exhibitors were on hand, including event sponsor Visioneering (Fraser, Mich.), Airtech International Inc. (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Assembly Guidance Systems Inc. (Chelmsford, Mass.), Burnham Composite Structures Inc. (Wichita, Kan.), Reno Machine Co. Inc. (Newington, Conn.) and Stephenson Pattern Supply Co. (Portland, Ore.).

Composites Europe, held Sept. 23-25 in Essen, Germany, featured more than 250 exhibitors and was colocated with the 10th International AVK Conference. Highlights included a smattering of new products and some announcements of R&D efforts in high-performance composites use. Huntsman Advanced Materials GmbH (Basel, Switzerland) introduced at the show its new High Temp Tooling (HTT) material. It’s a low-temperature, low-CTE, low-viscosity thermoset with thermal resistance up to 200°C/392°F. It can be infused for toolmaking and has an injection temperature of 25°C/77°F.

Fibertech Composites GmbH (Bremen, Germany) got much attention for its Fibretemp product, a technology that uses the conductivity of carbon fiber to heat the carbon fiber laminate layer nearest the mold surface rather than the entire mold thickness. The programmable system provides a maximum temperature of 200°C/392°F, with fast heating and cooling, and is said to use 90 percent less energy compared to externally heated molds. Current applications of the technology are in aircraft interior manufacture.

The Fraunhofer Institute (Pfinztal, Germany) announced results of work done to test the efficacy of microwave curing in large-part composite production. The test part was an infused 2m by 3m (6.5 ft by 9.5 ft) ship hull section. The microwave source was a robot-mounted unit that was passed over the part surface to initiate exotherm. Results showed 100 percent polymerization in a process that can be completed in minutes. The institute next will test epoxy with glass and carbon fiber reinforcement. The conductivity of carbon fiber, the institute admits, shields microwaves; modulation of the microwave hopefully will take care of the problem.