Airborne, Siemens, SABIC partner for TPC mass production

Having acquired Fibre Reinforced Thermoplastics B.V. (FRT, Lelystad, Netherlands) in 2016, SABIC was looking for a partner to produce large quantities of thermoplastic composite parts (using its UDMAX tapes, of course) at a radically lower cost. “We have been doing this type of work for a variety of industries,” says Arno van Mourik, founder and director of Airborne (The Hague, The Netherlands). His company is the leading manufacturer of thermoplastic composite pipe for oil and gas. “We have developed software and an industrialized process that now produces 40-50 tonnes of continuous product in one go without touch labor.” In 2015, Airborne built the Digital Factory Composites Field Lab with partners Siemens (Plano, TX, US) and KUKA Robotics (Augsburg, Germany) to pursue digitalization of composites processes.

Related Topics:

Having acquired Fibre Reinforced Thermoplastics B.V. (FRT, Lelystad, Netherlands) in 2016, SABIC was looking for a partner to produce large quantities of thermoplastic composite parts (using its UDMAX tapes, of course) at a radically lower cost. “We have been doing this type of work for a variety of industries,” says Arno van Mourik, founder and director of Airborne (The Hague, The Netherlands). His company is the leading manufacturer of thermoplastic composite pipe for oil and gas. “We have developed software and an industrialized process that now produces 40-50 tonnes of continuous product in one go without touch labor.” In 2015, Airborne built the Digital Factory Composites Field Lab with partners Siemens (Plano, TX, US) and KUKA Robotics (Augsburg, Germany) to pursue digitalization of composites processes.

Thus, partners SABIC (Pittsfield, MA, US), Airborne and Siemens are developing what they believe is the future. “The machines we are now building will attain our goal:  hundreds of thousands to millions of parts per year,” says SABIC business leader for composites Gino Francato. “We are building an actual production line, which will produce parts later this year.” Target markets include automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, commercial vehicles (trucks) and pipes.

The vision is a small number of very flexible production lines that can run small series in between large series. “Process digitalization enables this reconfiguring of the line to the precise, optimized settings for each product.” Qualification in automotive and consumer electronics is not as lengthy as in aerospace, says Francato, “so we can make sure we have a very robust system here first.” He adds that this partnership will accelerate the development and application of thermoplastic composites via digital processes.

John O’Connor, director of product and market strategy at Siemens says his company has the ability to digitalize and integrate intelligence throughout the whole process chain. Van Mourik says these digitalized lines will help shorten development. “We don’t have to do all of the analytics by hand. These digitalized systems will help to fill in much of the data and detail.”

This partnership is in direct contrast to the very fragmented composite parts value chain that has been the norm in the past. “Now we are optimizing materials and processes together to radically reduce cost and time to market,” says Van Mourik. Francato adds that SABIC wants to enable customers to leverage its continuous fiber thermoplastic materials, “but also to bring new solutions much faster than ever before.”

“If we can combine the knowledge of Siemens and SABIC with what we have proven we can achieve in composite parts and process development,” van Mourik posits, “then we can accelerate in a way that has not been possible before. We will start small, but the potential is huge.”

Related Content

Chase Plastics partners with Interfacial on resin solutions

The new venture focuses on exploring the ability to create and develop custom materials including sustainable materials, advanced composites and specialty compounds.