2004 JEC Composites Show post-show report

Business as usual in Paris? No ... much better, merci!
#outofautoclave #pekk #bmw


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At the 2004 JEC Composites Show, the outlook was, for the first time in several years, positively upbeat. CT staffers on hand in Paris for the March 30-April 1 event noted that most exhibitors reported business is definitely looking better this year than last. Attendance was up by 10 percent, according to JEC figures, totaling 22,591 people compared to 20,332 in 2003. Despite the absence of the major resin suppliers, who agreed to boycott the event to underscore their desire for a biennial show schedule, the number of exhibitors was up by 5 percent, with 890 companies on the show floor (compared to 850 in 2003), 75 percent from outside France. Notable trends on the exhibit floor were the increased number of composites manufacturers (30 percent of the total this year, up from only 23 percent in 2001). Increased participation from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia boosted Europe's share of the exhibitor list to 59 percent, and the Asian Pacific region accounted for 12 percent. More than 500 exhibitors indicated they were active in the field of automotive composites, topping both marine and aerospace sectors (about 430 each) and providing evidence to support recent predictions that automotive applications will make up a large share of the composites market in the years to come.

JEC's "User's Forums," a series of technical presentations on automotive, aerospace and marine composite applications, were "standing room only." The automotive forum, with speakers from OEM, Tier 1 and material suppliers, emphasized both fiberglass and carbon fiber in structural components. Dr. Patrick Kim of DaimlerChrysler noted that OEM upper management does not need convincing that composites can "do the job," but needs to know that a viable supply base exists to support high-volume requirements. He also addressed the use of carbon fiber from a large OEM perspective, pointing out that its use in supercars does not automatically mean it will be used in larger volume passenger cars. New processes permitting cost-effective fabrication in volumes of 10,000 and 30,000 unit per year are required to make the next leap, said Kim.

Repositioning for growth

Many exhibitors unveiled business and personnel changes. The Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Mich., U.S.A.) announced the divestiture of its FULCRUM thermoplastic composite technology to a newly formed company, Fulcrum Composites Inc. The new firm has acquired all of the physical and intellectual assets of the FULCRUM technology, and will be headed by Chris Edwards, formerly Dow's business manager for FULCRUM. Elsewhere on the floor, Advanced Composites Group (ACG, Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.) revealed it has been purchased by aerospace and defense company UMECO plc, for #44 million or about 67 million Euro or $80 million (USD). AGY Holding Corp., formerly Advanced Glassfiber Yarns (AGY, Aiken, S.C., U.S.A.) announced its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and the installation of new president and CEO Douglas Mattscheck, formerly of Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics. And Johns Manville (Denver, Colo., U.S.A.) held a press conference to publicize new products as well as an expansion of its Slovakia facility, a furnace rebuild at its Ohio plant and a new initiative for fiberglass pipe, involving construction of a new U.S. plant.

Especially noteworthy, national member associations of the Groupement Europeen des Plastiques Renforces/Materiaux Composites (GPRMC, Brussels, Belgium) announced the reorganization of its 44-year-old organization under the new name EuCIA (European Composites Industry Assn.). The new entity issued an invitation at JEC to composites manufacturers in Eastern European nations that will soon become members of the European Union, urging them to form national composites associations and join EuCIA. EuCIA officials hope to mount a Europe-wide cooperative effort to promote composites technologies and influence the development of composites-related standards and regulatory legislation, on the European and global fronts (see related news item, this issue, p. 15).

Award-winning partnerships

The 7th edition of the annual JEC Awards Competition again recognized its jury's selections of the best in composites processes, applications and products, determined according to each entry's quality, degree of innovation and impact in terms of opening new or expanding existing markets for composite materials. Molder/supplier/customer partnerships were tapped for top honors in five categories.

In the "Land Transport" category, the winner was the Hycropod European Project, which developed cost-effective manufacturing methods for large monocoque sandwich structures in transportation (e.g., railcars, trucks, busses and trains). Coordinated by the U.K.'s Advanced Railway Research Center (ARRC), the effort required the cooperation of 18 partners from 11 countries, including Ahlstrom Glassfibre Oy (Finland), Ashland Composite Polymers (U.K.) and fabricator Fibrcom Oy (Finland), whose prototype double-decked passenger railcar was introduced at JEC.

In "Design," The Silvretta-PURE ski mountaineering binding system took the prize. The binding was developed by a.p.e advanced polymer engineering GmbH (Austria), DuPont de Nemours (Germany/U.S.A.) and eight additional partners.

The "Industry and Energy" award went to a composite thrust pad coating for large hydrogenerator hydrodynamic bearings, developed by Alstom (Switzerland) and partners Daido Metla Co. Ltd. (Japan) and BKW FMB Energie AG (Switzerland).

Leading all contenders in "Construction" was the roofing structure over the courtyard of the new City Courthouse in Pescara, Italy, produced from composite profiles pultruded by DCP Pultrusion (France) in cooperation with Italian partners PR.AS Consulting Architects °#38; Engineers and Alphaplast.

The winner in "Aeronautics" was a resin transfer molded composite spoiler center fitting designed to replace a forged aluminum part used on the wings of Airbus Industries' (France) A340 and A330 jetliners. The part was developed by Cytec Engineered Materials Inc. (Tempe, Ariz, U.S.A.) and manufacturing partner Fisher Advanced Composites Components (Austria). Cytec supplied its Priform soluble fiber technology and the fiber preform used to mold the complex part.

Miles of aisles, piles of new products

In the Paris Expo exhibition hall, the CT staff found the JEC's "Innovation Planet" show theme and exhibitor optimism reflected in an abundance of new composite materials, products, technologies and processing aids. On display at the A#38;P Technology (Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.) stand: Zero, a nonwoven unidirectional reinforcement with a very low percentage of binder material, designed for Lockheed Martin's F-22 program and now in mass production in boatbuilding, recreational and military programs. Also new is Bimax biaxial fabric, offered with +/-45° fiber orientation. Highly drapable and stable, it is designed for quick, repeatable layup of 45° plies, says the company. New Trimax is a triaxial fabric offered in both 0*, +/-45° or 0°, +/-60° fiber orientation within a single layer. The fabric constructions also can be customized to specific widths and areal weights.

Advanced Composites Group (Heanor, Derbyshire. U.K. and Tulsa, Okla., U.S.A.) introduced its BPS240 carbon/glass-reinforced material for automotive body panels. Designed for out-of-autoclave processes (oven cure or compression molding) the material produces parts lighter than currently available aluminum, sheet molding compound or thermoplastic materials, says the company. With service temperature to 160°C/320°F, molded panels need no surface prep for Class A surface, and can withstand automotive OEM "bake" paint systems. Said to be cost-effective in excess of 15,000 units per year, the material's very low coefficient of thermal expansion (half that of steel) minimizes assembly gap and flush problems.

AGY Holdings Corp. (formerly Advanced Glassfiber Yarns, Aiken, S.C., U.S.A.) drew attention with several new applications of AGY's Vetron high-performance glass roving, including a fourth and largest (41-ft) racing powerboat from Velocity Powerboats, built entirely with Vetron woven into a biaxial fabric (style DBM 2408) by OC Fabrics and wetout with Reichhold vinyl ester.

Ahlstrom (Karhula, Finland) displayed a range of new multiaxial nonwoven glass reinforcements developed to improve resin flow especially in areas of high laminate wall thickness. Designed for infusion and closed molding systems in +45°/-45° and 0°/90° orientations, the nonwoven features a channel structure that reportedly endures resin permeability under high vacuum compression.

On the Alcan Composites (Sins, Switzerland) stand, Airex and recently acquired Baltek core materials were on display together at JEC for the first time. Alcan customers learned they can get pre-cut foam and balsa core for combined use in sandwich construction through the company's KitKore pattern cutting and kitting program.

Research-and-development company Biteam (Sagostigen, Sweden) illustrated its Dual-Directional Weaving concept, which interlaces a multilayer warp with vertical and horizontal sets of multiple weft to form complex networked 3-D fabric structures that can be engineered to form damage-tolerant, net shape fiber shells, tubes and solid preform profiles, in straight or curved lengths.

Bond-Laminates GmbH (Brilon, Germany) exhibited TEPEX, a range of 24 different fiber-reinforced thermoplastic materials, plus custom formulation services. Custom compounds may be created from among 15 proprietary thermoplastic resins (e.g., polyamide 6, 4/6, 6/6 and 12, polypropylene, polybutylene terephthalate and polyethylene terephthalate) combined with glass, carbon or aramid or hybrid fabric reinforcements (plain, twill or satin weaves; knitted and stitched materials) at fiber volumes from 35 to 85 percent. Manufactured in a continuous laminating process in standard widths of 620 mm/24.4 inches (optional 1,270 mm/50 inches), the materials come in thicknesses ranging from 50 microns to 4 mm. Material forms include prepreg rolls and sheet stock for thermoforming, compression molding and similar processes.

Gurit Composite Technologies (Wattwil, Switzerland) celebrated its first anniversary at JEC as member companies SP, Stesalit, IMS and Gurit Suprem shared a stand:

* SP (Newport, Isle of Wight, U.K.) launched its all new tooling range and enhanced adhesive products, including POLY-BOND and CORE-BOND polyester adhesives (previously supplied by ATC). Unveiled at the show were two new polyester adhesive lines. The "300" series, for industrial bonding, and a specialty "700" series both feature long shelf life (to 12 months) and consistent gel times.

* At the show, Stesalit (Zullwil, Switzerland) continued its focus on the promotion of its specialized range of prepregs for aircraft and space vehicles. Also available was detailed information on the company's range of flame-retardant, low-smoke and heat-release prepregs, developed specifically for the rail industry.

* IMS (Worb, Switzerland) premiered its new, fast-reacting H0.11 epoxy resin for prepreg. This formulation reacts within 3 to 5 minutes, at 130°C/266°F, reportedly reducing process times across a range of composites applications, including the winter sports market.

* Gurit Suprem (Flurlingen, Switzerland) showcased its newly acquired Plytron thermoplastic material, a continuous unidirectional fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene. Used in the automotive industry for components such as floor panels, pipe reinforcement and bumper beams, it also is applicable for housing appliances and offshore structures.

Fiberex Glass Corp. (Leduc, Alberta, Canada) announced expansion of its glass fiber production facility in western Canada, doubling its capacity, and introduced its CR (constructed rovings) series, recommended for pultrusion and filament winding. The new rovings feature smaller diameters (13 or 17 microns, compared to standard 23 microns), which reportedly result in faster, more thorough wet out and fewer voids. In filament winding, CR rovings have higher tensile strength and modulus for higher burst pressure in pipe and tank products.

Polymat "Hi-Flow" from Flemings Textiles Ltd. (Ayshire, Scotland, U.K.), a mechanically stitch-bonded reinforcement, consisting of a deformable engineered thermoplastic core sandwiched between two layers of chopped glass strand, was touted as a breakthrough for closed molding. Designed for resin transfer molding (RTM), RTM Light, Vacuum-assisted RTM and vacuum infusion, the product eases flow and fill in large moldings, according to the company, reducing flow time up to 50 percent. Other benefits include a lower resin requirement for VARTM, the ability to withstand greater RTM pressures than currently used materials, and improved compression resistance, eliminating resin-rich edges.

Huntsman Advanced Materials (Duxford, Cambridge, U.K.) launched an epoxy wet layup system for the recreational and composite repair markets, including leisure boat and glider applications. The system features adjustable reactivity, and combines Araldite LY 3297 resin with either Aradur 3298 or Aradur 3299. Meanwhile, the company's RenShape Solutions division presented new RenGel, RenLam and RenInfusion laminating and infusion systems used to make large molds for aerospace and wind blade tooling. Products are formulated for long open time, low-temperature cure and high heat resistance, post-cure. In addition, RenPIM low-pressure polyurethane injection systems were introduced to the marine industry for low-cost fabrication of cabin and deck fittings.

Hexcel Corp. (Dublin, Ohio, U.S.A. and Duxford Cambridge, U.K.) launched a range of epoxy resins for high-performance automobiles: HexPly M47 cures at 140°C/284°F with excellent surface finish and high glass transition temperature, says the company. HexPly M48 cures at 180°C/356°F, with both high impact resistance and high-temperature performance. HexPly M49, a 120°C/248°F-cure system is designed for processing via vacuum bagging or autoclave methods. For wind blade manufacture, the company spotlighted HexPly M9F epoxy prepregs for low-pressure molding, featuring a wide range of processing temperatures (85°C to 150°C/185°F to 302°F).

Johns Manville (Denver, Colo., U.S.A. and Bad Homburg, Germany) showcased new products introduced in the last year: ThermoFlow chopped strand will be in production on identical technology platforms at its Trnava., Slovakia and its two U.S. plants -- a key to the company's strategy to be a global supplier of consistent glass fiber, especially for the auto industry. The product will be available in 4 mm/0.157 inch length for thermoplastic compounds, including Nylon, polypropylene, polyester and others. Additionally, New MultiStar 819, an assembled gun roving with improved mechanical properties, is expected to find use in sanitary, transport and container industries. New StarRov 076, a direct roving with significantly improved unwinding properties, is qualified for multiaxials and is being used in wind energy, transport, marine and boat building applications.

Designed for versatility, Lantor Soric TF from Lantor BV (Veenendaal, The Netherlands) can be used as core material, infusion medium or surfacing material (to prevent fiber print-through). The nonwoven polyester is compatible with polyester, epoxy vinyl ester and phenolic resins and is recommended for closed molding in marine, automotive, mass transit, recreational, industrial and wind energy applications. Dry weight is 130 g/m2, and the material has a 2 mm/0.079 inch nominal thickness.

European technology introductions at the Magnum Venus Products (Kent, Wash, U.S.A.) booth included PrecisionTECH RTM, a line of new systems and services designed for resin transfer molding. The line provides processing aids, plus technical assistance ranging from system design consultation to training of customer technicians after system installation. The customizable system's components include the part-specific TransPRO Preform and TechLock Clamp system, and, when automated, the OptiLogic Control and the Uniport Injection Sprue, plus a variety of pumping systems, ranging from the basic Pro Pump ProVantage unit to the high-volume Apex systems. Also new: the Duo Link Metering System, offering true 1:1 mixing ratio for reactive resin systems using urethanes, epoxies and polyesters. Designed for adhesives, casting and laminating resins, the system is available in spray or pour configurations and features the company's Rapid Access Design (R.A.D.), which simplifies scheduled maintenance and repair.

Omega Pultrusions Inc. (Aurora, Ohio, U.S.A.) showed off pultruded profiles it creates for many applications, including profiles for Carsonite Sound Barrier (manufactured by Carsonite International, Early Branch, S.C., U.S.A.), a modular, tongue-and-groove fencing system that encases finely ground scrap automobile tires in vandal-resistant pultruded panels, providing sound damping between highways and neighborhoods while keeping old tires out of landfills.

Owens Corning (Toledo, Ohio. U.S.A.) introduced OC Continuous Filament Mat (CFM) 8635, a new nonwoven glass mat tailored for infusion molding. Made from the company's boron-free Advantex glass fibers (designed to combine the electrical and mechanical properties of traditional E glass with the corrosion resistance of E-CR glass), it reportedly enables 25 percent faster infusion compared to other CFMs, and is billed as an all-glass reinforcement system for molders concerned about using organic materials in marine applications below the waterline. Also new: OC SE 1200 Type 30 single-end roving for knitting and weaving targeted at wind energy and marine composites.

Weaver Oxeon AB (Gothenberg, Sweden) spotlighted its TapeWeaving Technology, a new alternative to standard methods for producing plain-weave glass, aramid and carbon fabrics, which also may be used with brittle boron and ceramic fibers The new method interlaces 20 mm to 50 mm wide (0.79 inch to 2 inches) unidirectional tapes, rather than yarns, yielding woven fabrics as wide as 1,500 mm/59 inches in a range of weights as low as 100 g/m2. Advantages of the woven tapes include increased surface smoothness of composite parts, and good drapability and conformation to complex contours, says the company.

RocTool (Le Bourget du Lac, France and Atlanta, Ga., U.S.A.) demonstrated its Cage System molding process, featuring an inductive heating system that surrounds the mold. The inductors generate an electromagnetic field that produces an electrical current capable of heating the mold surface instantly. Benefits include lower energy consumption and reduced cycle times because the system requires no preheating. Billed as a "generic" solution, the inductive heating system adapts for quantity production of hollow parts, sandwich laminates and shells, using any commonly available reinforced thermoplastic or thermoset materials, says the company.

In its first appearance at JEC, RTP Co. (Winona, Minn., U.S.A.) touted its expertise in high-temperature specialty thermoplastic compounds, including Nylon 4/6, polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), polyetheretherketone (PEEK), polyetherketone (PEK and polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), polyimide polyetherimide (PEI) and more. Designed to retain physical properties (strength, modulus, load-bearing capacity), dimensional stability and electrical characteristics when exposed to increased temperatures, the compounds are developed to customer spec and may be modified to adjust variously for flame retardance, wear resistance, conductivity, structural reinforcement and color.

Saint-Gobain Vetrotex (Chambery, France and Valley Forge, Pa., U.S.A.) announced that its Vetrotex TWINTEX pellets (75 percent long-fiber glass-reinforced polypropylene) have been selected for use in injection molding the front-end carrier for the Peugeot 307, while Vetrotex 5249 multi-end rovings will be used to fabricate the front end of the Renault Megane. New 5216 multi-end rovings, meanwhile, have been developed for Class A SMC body panels.

Sora Composites (Meslay-du-Maine, France) showcased its manufacturing applications in automotive and industrial markets, for customers such as John Deere (agricultural equipment) and automakers Aston Martin, Lotus and Mercedes and Renault. Capabilities include complete services to auto manufacturers, from CAD design through molding and Class A painting. Fabrication processes include resin transfer molding and compression molding.

Zoltek Europe (Schwaig, Germany) reported progress in certification of the U.S.-based company's commercial-grade, PAN-based PANEX carbon fibers for use in automotive and wind energy applications. Automaker BMW formally acknowledged that PANEX fibers met performance requirements and enlisted Zoltek as a partner in the development of a series production automobile with all-carbon composite structural components. According to the company, most large wind blade manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic have tested and certified the fibers for their blades and, early in the year, an order for 220,000 lb of fiber was received from one blade manufacturer while the company's subsidiary, machinery manufacturer Entec Composite Machines, was awarded a $2.6 million contract to build equipment for automated blade fabrication. ,

Zyvax (East Elijay, Ga., U.S.A.) launched its Flex-Z family of mold release products designed to enable molders to select the level of release needed for specific composite parts made with polyester resins specific parts and processes. The HAP-free system is reportedly suitable for any open or closed molding processes and, according to the company, represents the first time molders have been given the ability to adjust release at their own discretion. The system of coatings (formulated on a scale of release levels ranging from 1.0 to 6.0) enables molders to make release adjustments when switching between summer and winter resin systems. Molders also can apply more than one level of mold release to a mold simultaneously: one portion of the mold, for example, might require 3.0, while 1.0 best suits another and 2.0 yet a third section. New GLOSSCOAT technology reduces mold prep time and eliminates streaking across the full range of application techniques. Currently available in North America and Europe, the product can be purchased in single cans, pails and drums.

And that's just a sampling of what was on display in Paris. Watch for additional product releases from JEC exhibitors in future issues, in our "New Products#38; Literature" department. And mark your calendars: The 2005 edition of the JEC Composites Show convenes next year, April 5-7, in Paris.