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10/20/2008 | 17 MINUTE READ

COMPOSITESWORLD Expo 2008 Showcase

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The inaugural COMPOSITESWORLD Expo Conference and Exhibition draws participants from all segments
of the industry, including many new faces.


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COMPOSITESWORLD, the publisher of High-Performance Composites and Composites Technology magazines, has deemed its inaugural COMPOSITESWORLD Expo 2008 Technical Conference and Exhibition a rousing success. Held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Ill., on Sept. 2-5, 2008, the conference and exhibition drew nearly 1,600 attendees. Among them were many who are new to the industry and are looking for the products, processes and technology needed to help them update their practices and enter the world of composites.

The two-track Technical Conference, presented by the COMPOSITESWORLD Conferences team, focused on the principles of composite design and manufacturing, and received excellent reviews from attendees. The Introductory Track was designed for attendees who are new to the composites industry. Sessions acquainted them with the properties of fiber-reinforced polymers, the principles of CAD/CAM design and the unique challenges involved in manufacturing with composites. Sessions also outlined the wide variety of manufacturing processes that can be used to form composites, with advice on how to select the process that will best accomplish the goals in a particular application.

Meanwhile, composites-industry veterans took advantage of the Advanced Track, which began with an overview of finite element analysis (FEA), design and manufacturing software, such as CATIA and FiberSIM, and how these programs can be integrated into product development and toolmaking regimes for advanced composite design and processing, including automated fiber placement (AFP) and automated tape laying (ATL) systems.

“It was gratifying to see many new faces in our conference audience, especially in the Introductory Track,” said COMPOSITESWORLD Conferences director Scott Stephenson. “It showed us that we were able to get the word out to many people in the traditional materials processing industry who are eager to learn more about composites.”

Dr. Linda A. Cadwell Stancin, manager, material and process technology – product development, Commercial Airplanes, The Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill.), presented the Wednesday keynote address “Composites Technology: One of the Key Elements for Performance-Driven Commercial Aircraft.” Cadwell Stancin focused on the history of composites use at The Boeing Co., current use of carbon and glass fiber composites in the 787 Dreamliner, and what the commercial aircraft industry needs from composites suppliers and manufacturers for future aircraft. Future needs, she said, include improved composites manufacturing process control, hybrid (dual-use) materials, “smart” composites for health monitoring, increased manufacturing automation, and thermoplastics that can replace thermosets without performance sacrifice.

Thursday’s keynote address, “Corvette ZR1: Composites, Performance and Automotive Passion,” by Tadge J. Juechter, Corvette and Cadillac XLR chief engineer, General Motors (Flint, Mich.) emphasized the importance of composites to the Corvette since the vehicle’s inception. The ZR1 was on the show floor, where attendees could see clearly the carbon fabric weave used in several body panels.

A standing-room-only lunchtime crowd on Thursday heard Chris Red, editor and VP of market research, Composite Market Reports (Gilbert, Ariz.) present, “Outlook for Composite Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing” — one of the industry’s hottest growth segments (see Editor's Picks" in  “Learn More,” at right).

More than 75 exhibitors presented their newest and most innovative products, processes and technologies to the event attendees. “COMPOSITESWORLD Expo got off to a strong start,” says HPC editor-in-chief Jeff Sloan. “We look forward to returning to Chicagoland in 2009.”

Indeed, the return is already set: COMPOSITESWORLD Expo 2009 will take place at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Ill., Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2009.

On the Expo floor

For the benefit of those who couldn’t make it to the inaugural CWExpo, HPC editorial staffers canvassed the aisles and filed the following report:

A2 Technologies (Danbury, Conn.) brought to the show its Exoscan handheld Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) system, designed for nondestructive testing of composite structures. The system can detect degradation within the composite structure due to unwanted thermal excursions and environmental oxidation. Tests of the system show that it can predict the reduction in strength of an epoxy carbon composite due to high-temperature exposure.

ACC Resources Co. LP (Park Ridge, N.J.) was on hand, representing pitch-based carbon fiber products developed and manufactured by Osaka Gas Chemicals (Osaka, Japan). Visitors to the booth learned that carbon fibers produced from coal-tar pitch precursor have unique resistance to extremely high temperatures — a property that makes them desirable in composite friction products, such as carbon/carbon aircraft brakes.

Adhesive Systems Inc. (Frankfort, Ill.) featured, among its many products, a line of cyanoacrylates as well as advanced structural adhesives. The Advanced Performance Series offers cyanoacrylate adhesives that are suitable for use in bonding fiberglass components. The company’s Maximum Performance Series consists of no-mix structural adhesives, UV curable adhesives, one- and two-part epoxies and two-part methacrylates.

Advanced Flexible Composites Inc. (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) emphasized its line of DuraFlow porous release fabrics and DuraStick Teflon tapes and fabrics. DuraFlow is a woven fiberglass lightly coated with PTFE that is designed to be breathable. This textured release film can operate in temperatures from -400°F to 550°F (-73°C to 288°C) and is said to be chemical-resistant, tear-resistant and abrasion-resistant. DuraStick products can be used as mold release films, flame spray masking, protective film applications or as insulation layers.

American Autoclave (Jaspar, Ga.) emphasized its ongoing effort to improve autoclave control software, specifically in the area of the interface between control system and autoclave. The company says that its technology can meet any temperature/pressure specifications and, using state-of-the-art control and monitoring networks, can provide extremely accurate control of not only autoclave temperature and pressure but part temperature and vacuum levels as well. The systems provide user-programmable cure cycles and warnings that alert operators to deviations from programmed tolerances.

Automated Dynamics (Schenectady, N.Y.) noted its recent delivery of an ATL-1117 gantry automated tape laying machine with a thermoset material processing head that will be used to produce floor components for the Boeing 787. Also new is the AFP/ATL-0510 robot, which is based on a Kawasaki robot platform capable of hosting multiple processing head technologies. Jim Martin, the firm’s director of business of development, presented a paper that showed that affordable, part-tailored automated machines can achieve an acceptable return on investment even with relatively low throughput.

C.A. Litzler Co. Inc. (Cleveland, Ohio) premiered new oxidation ovens that use the company’s exclusive cross-flow technology, a patented End-Seal System that, as the name suggests, completely seals the ends of the oxidation oven. The alternating cross-flow design provides uniform airflow across the entire tow band up to 4m/13.1 ft wide for 1K to 350K tow. End-Seals prevent cold air from infiltrating the oven and, therefore, ensure greater airflow and temperature uniformity while minimizing HCN levels.

CGTech (Irvine, Calif.) demonstrated VERICUT, a suite of machine-independent, offline programming and simulation software for automated tape layers and fiber placement machines. VERICUT features two separate applications: The first, VERICUT Composite Programming (VCP), reads CAD surfaces and ply boundary information and adds material to fill the plies according to user-specified manufacturing standards and requirements. Layup paths are linked together to form specific layup sequences and are output as NC programs for the automated layup machine. The second, VERICUT Composite Simulation (VCS), reads CAD models and NC programs, either from VCP or other composite layup path-generation applications, and simulates material application to the tool via NC program instructions in a virtual CNC simulation environment.

The focus at the Coastal Enterprises (Orange, Calif.) exhibit was on Precision Board Plus, which has a tight, fine cell structure that reportedly makes it easier to machine and produces more chips and less dust. Colored green to call attention to its formulation from eco-friendly components, the Plus products come in two versions: PBHT (high temperature) for heating to 300°F/149°C or PBLT (low temperature) for heating to 200°F/93°C. Additionally, the material does not outgas and, therefore, has no detrimental effects on prepreg. The board is available in densities that range from 4 lb/ft³ to 45 lb/ft³ in two standard sheet sizes, with thicknesses as great as 24 inches/610 mm.

Composite Polymer Design/Endurance Technologies (S. St. Paul, Minn.), formerly Epoxical Inc., demonstrated its epoxy resin infusion systems for a wide variety of applications, including aerospace parts. The company offered attendees its eight-page Infusion Products Guide, which explains why the company has developed infusible epoxies and gives the user valuable information about the selection, processing and curing of its room-temperature, medium-temperature and high-temperature epoxy resins, complete with product data tables.

CompuDAS (Shelton, Wash.), shared a booth with Wisconsin Oven (see entry below) and demonstrated its control monitoring, data-acquisition and test-automation equipment and systems, including the SG6 control and monitoring system for ovens, autoclaves and presses. This Windows-based system can expand to 96 channels, supports eight types of thermocouples and displays real-time data on a monitor.

Dassault Systèmes Americas Corp. (Woodland Hills, Calif.) highlighted its product lifecycle management (PLM) applications for composites design and simulation, including CATIA for virtual product definition, SIMULIA for virtual testing and DELMIA for virtual production. Steve Dostert of The Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill.) presented a paper on the CATIA V5 Composite Design Workbench software and its application to Boeing’s concurrent design and manufacturability analyses for a variety of composite parts on Boeing’s 787.

DIAB Inc. (DeSoto, Texas) showed its range of structural sandwich core products, including Divinycell F series polyether sulfone (PES) foam products with very high temperature capability and low fire/smoke/toxicity (FST) properties. F-series core is prepreg compatible, can be used in processes with cure cycles that reach temperatures as high as 220°C (428°F), has good mechanical, fatigue and processing properties, and can be supplied in ready-made kit form.

Dow Epoxy Systems (Midland, Mich.) emphasized its Fortegra line of toughened epoxies and epoxy tougheners including Fortegra 383-50. Comprising 50 percent (by weight) of epoxy resin and 50 percent Fortegra 100 toughener, it reportedly can be formulated and cured similarly to standard bisphenol A epoxies without significantly affecting the viscosity, glass transition temperature, corrosion resistance, cure rate or chemical resistance of the final composite.

Elliott Co. of Indianapolis Inc. (Indianapolis, Ind.) showcased its ELFOAM line of rigid polyiso/polyurethane thermoset foam core materials in a range of densities. The products can be supplied in block, sheet and/or custom shapes in thicknesses up to 25 inches/635 mm. ELFOAM provides dimensional stability up to 300°F/149°C, good chemical resistance and weight reduction for a range of applications.

Grafil Inc. (Sacramento, Calif.) reiterated its late 2007 announcement of a new 6 million lb/yr (2,722 metric tonnes/yr) carbon fiber line at its Otake, Japan facility, now under construction. Scheduled to begin production in the third quarter of 2009, the new line will produce the company’s new 50K to 60K, PAN-based high-quality Pyrofil P330 fibers for industrial markets, including offshore oil, wind turbine blades and infrastructure. The P330 Series fiber has the same properties as Mitsubishi Rayon’s TRH50 high-strength fiber but with improved processability compared with other carbon fibers with a similar large tow size.

Gurit (Wattwil, Switzerland) unveiled its next generation of aircraft interior prepregs based on PB1000, a modified benzoxazine resin without free formaldehyde and free phenol, which satisfies the most recent environmental standards (e.g., AIRBUS AP2091). It complies with demanding international fire protection regulations, regarding flame/smoke/toxicity levels and heat release, and meets forthcoming stress criteria for interior design.

Harper International (Lancaster, N.Y.) offered technically advanced thermal processing systems for carbon, carbon fiber and graphite as well as metal oxides, nuclear and advanced materials. The company’s furnaces (capable of temperatures up to 3000°C/5432°F) are key technologies in the manufacture of both PAN- and pitch-based carbon fiber. Its Technology Center engineers and scientists offer customers help with thermal processing challenges and can assist with thermal process development, piloting, prototyping and production scale-up.

Imperium (Silver Spring, Md.) garnered much attention with its AcoustoCam 1500, a handheld ultrasound imaging camera used for nondestructive inspection (NDI) of composite structures. The company says it is having success integrating its NDI products into the service market with several aerospace firms and expects to see the technology migrate into the production environment, where the camera’s portability and high processing speed could provide real-time verification of structure integrity.

Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. (Rockford, Ill.) highlighted its automated fiber placement (AFP) and automated tape laying (ATL) equipment. On display was part of a thrust reverser inner fixed structure (IFS), made by Goodrich Aerostructures (Chula Vista, Calif.) for the GEnx engine and the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines used on the Boeing 787. The part is layed up using two Ingersoll 8-axis machines in a dual gantry arrangement, sharing a common rail. One AFP builds the outer skin in a female mold. After cure of the skin, honeycomb core is placed and adhesively bonded to the outer laminate. The second AFP then places the inner laminate. Working simultaneously, they optimize part production.

IPS Weld-On Structural Adhesives (Durham, N.C.) introduced new SS1500-series adhesives to its line. Although this two-component (1:1 mix) product is classified as a general-purpose adhesive, the company says it is designed to be effective particularly in primerless metal-to-metal and composite-to-metal bonding. Described as a highly tough adhesive optimized for shear strength, it achieves, when cured, a tensile strength of 2,500 psi to 3,100 psi (17.24 MPa to 20.68 MPa) and a shear strength of 2,700 psi to 3,200 psi (18.62 MPa to 22.06 MPa).

Laminating Technology (Knighton, Powys, U.K.), an aerospace industry supplier for more than 30 years, demonstrated its hot drape forming machines for out-of-autoclave processing. The company recently launched a smaller version of its Hot Drape Former, HDF-R, with infrared heating elements, targeted to universities and researchers, with the University of Ireland the first customer. The company has supplied larger machines for processing parts on the Eurofighter military jet, the Saab Gripen and, soon, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner programs.

Industrial process oven supplier LEWCO Inc. (Sandusky, Ohio) highlighted the impending installation of two of its Heat-Pro curing ovens, built under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense, at a U.S. Air Force base on the West Coast to cure vacuum-infused composite components for C-17 military aircraft. The large ovens (12 ft/3.66m and 9.5 ft/2.9m deep) illustrate the company’s design and build capabilities. Ovens range from benchtop to walk-in to conveyorized systems, with natural gas, electric, steam or thermal-fluid heating systems.

An ISO 9000-certified manufacturer of custom-formulated epoxy systems, Magnolia Plastics (Chamblee, Ga.) touted its wide range of structural/general-purpose adhesives, syntactics, electrically/thermally conductive epoxies, potting/encapsulating epoxies and tooling resins for its global customer base involved in the aerospace, defense, transportation, electronics/electrical, energy, infrastructure, marine, sports/recreation, communications and other markets.

MATERIAL SA (Brussels, Belgium and Draper, Utah) announced that its Cadwind software, used to generate machine code for filament winding machines, is now available for use with filament winders produced by MF Tech Srl (Argentan, France). The latter makes filament winding equipment that uses multiaxis Kuka robots in a number of configurations to produce pressure vessels for a variety of applications. MF Tech systems, originally available in Europe only, are now available to the U.S. market.

McClean Anderson (Schofield, Wis.) demonstrated one of its midsized filament winding systems, the Super Hornet, on the show floor and introduced its unique Tabletop filament winder, developed in response to customer requests for a winder capable of producing parts of extremely small size. The Super Hornet comes standard with 4-axis, computer-controlled motion and employs all-digital AC servo technology. It is driven by the Windows-based Flexwind machine control and Composite Controller pattern development software. The Tabletop system incorporates a complete filament winding package, downscaled in size, at a fraction of the cost of full-size systems, says the company.

Lynwood, Wash.-based Nova-Tech Engineering’s exhibit drew attention to the company’s Integrated Carbon Structure (ICS) tooling, an alternative to carbon/epoxy tooling that features a carbon foam substructure faced with a carbon fiber/bismaleimide (BMI) prepreg laminate. After autoclave cure, the final mold surface is CNC-machined to match 3-D CAD data. The carbon/BMI has a low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of 1.90x10-6/°F, and the use of carbon foam minimizes the tool’s weight while eliminating CTE mismatches between the tool face and the substructure. The material’s high Tg (>400°F/204°C) enables the tools to tolerate a minimum of 500 autoclave cycles.

Weaver Oxeon AB (Gothenburg, Sweden) spotlighted its TapeWeaving Technology, an alternative to standard methods for producing plain-weave carbon, aramid and glass fabrics. Also useful in weaving brittle boron and ceramic fibers, the method interlaces 20-mm to 50-mm wide (0.79-inch to 2.0-inches wide) unidirectional tapes, rather than yarns, yielding fabrics as wide as 1,500 mm/59 inches in a range of weights as low as 100 g/m². Advantages reportedly include increased part surface smoothness, good drapability and conformation to complex contours.

Plascore Inc. (Zeeland, Mich.), a leading manufacturer of honeycomb cores and lightweight composite solutions, exhibited its range of core products, including metallic, aramid fiber and thermoplastic honeycomb cores/sheets, cleanroom environments, custom composite panels and energy absorbers. The products are widely used in aerospace, marine, automotive, truck, trailer and rail transport applications.

Quickstep Technologies (North Coogee, Western Australia) demonstrated its Quickstep Process, a range of unique and patented technologies that can be used for out-of-autoclave manufacture of advanced composite materials. The company emphasized its work in thick laminates molded from 350°F-/177°C-cure prepregs and its reported ability to control the exotherm of reaction due to the fluid environment surrounding the part. The company is close to achieving process qualification for the Quickstep process at Eurocopter.

Quintax CNC Routers (Stow, Ohio) demonstrated its range of industrial CNC router systems for plastics, composites, nonferrous metals and other materials. The company provides custom 3- and 5-axis routers designed with superior rigidity for accuracy at high acceleration and deceleration rates. Various combinations of tables and sizes, spindles, toolchangers and integrated control systems are available.

Royal Plastics Mfg. Inc. (Minden, Neb.) touted its contract manufacturing capabilities that have been available to aerospace and defense suppliers since 1949. The independently owned business operates out of a 52,000 ft² (4,830m²) facility equipped to perform hand layup and autoclave cure as well as resin transfer molding, compression molding and filament winding.

Stepan Co. (Northfield, Ill.) showed its two-part, pourable polyurethanes for specialty applications, such as radio-signal-transparent radomes for aircraft. High-temperature capable, high strength and very low dielectric materials are available in custom formulations.

Synasia Inc. (Metuchen, N.J.) showcased one of its core technologies: UV curable cycloaliphatic epoxy resins. The company touted the fact that it is now the largest manufacturer of 3,4-epoxycyclo-hexylmethyl-3,4-epoxycyclohexane carboxylate, marketed as Syna-Epoxy 21 and Syna-Epoxy 06, producing nearly 1,800 metric tonnes (3.97 million lb) per year to replace a discontinued epoxy resin line.

Technical Fibre Products (Cumbria, U.K. and Newburgh, N.Y.) emphasized two product lines: Optimat nonwovens and Technofire intumescent products. Optimat 204 nickel-coated carbon fiber veils and mats are used as an interlaminar layer for bonding, shielding and fire protection in composite structures (e.g., on the F-35, to provide electrical grounding and signal management).

Touchstone Research Laboratory Ltd. (Triadelphia, W. Va.) pointed to the benefits of using its trademarked CFOAM carbon foam: The rigid foam provides toolmakers a durable, relatively low-cost tooling material with a coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) that closely matches many composite materials used to mold parts. The product machines easily, comes in a wide range of densities and, because it doesn’t off-gas during processing, poses no threat to prepregs or uncured materials.

Trelleborg, Emerson & Cuming Inc. (Mansfield, Mass.) revealed its purchase of exclusive global rights to a new tooling material developed by Horizon Composites Ltd. (Rotherham, U.K.), an alternative to Invar. A woven ceramic fabric with a ceramic matrix, it has a coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) comparable to carbon fiber, remains stable up to 1000°C/1832°F and can be produced as thin as 3 mm/0.12 inch. It also features an integrated thin-film heating element, which can be used with most processes (including vacuum infusion and autoclave).

VEC Technology LLC (Greenville, Pa.) continued to market its proprietary, patented and almost entirely automated Virtual Engineered Composites (VEC) closed molding system to parties outside the boatbuilding industry, including aerospace manufacturers. The company offers VEC licensees enabling services: equipment design and installation, part engineering and development, pattern and tooling design.

VISTAGY Inc. (Waltham, Mass.) touted recently released FiberSIM 5.4. Previously integrated into several commercial CAD systems (CATIA V4, CATIA V5, NX and Pro/ENGINEER), the new release also is integrated with MSC.Software’s (Santa Ana, Calif.) SimXpert finite element analysis software. FiberSIM and SimXpert are linked directly to the CAD geometry so products can be designed, validated and optimized without having to deal with resulting inconsistent data translation.

Weber Manufacturing Technologies Inc. (Midland, Ontario, Canada), best known for its nickel vapor deposition (NVD) molds, also makes tools from aluminum, Invar and other metals. The moldmaker emphasized its integrated heat transfer tubes, which can be attached to the back side of a tool to provide high-speed heating and cooling for thermoset or thermoplastic resin processing. Tom Schmitz, business manager at Weber, noting NVD’s good CTE and its ability to be easily machined, says the toolmaker’s NVD molds are gaining traction in the composites market as processors become more familiar and comfortable with the material.

Wisconsin Oven Corp. (East Troy, Wis.), a manufacturer of industrial ovens and heating equipment for more than 30 years, highlighted its broad product range for composites curing, including electrically heated, gas-fired and indirect gas-fired batch curing ovens. The company recently produced a natural gas-fired, walk-in batch oven for Plastic Fabricating Company Inc. (Wichita, Kan.).

Zyvax Inc. (Boca Raton, Fla.), showcased its range of mold cleaners and mold release agents, including Flex-Z variable-release slip coat system, nonhazardous WaterWorks mold release agents for aerospace and QuickSkin, its new specialty product. Applied to machinable tooling block, pattern foam or other porous substrates, the latter can support the demands of rapid prototyping because it cures at room temperature in minutes, forming a smooth, sealed mold face for one-off or short-run parts, and expediting creation of masters for molds or parts.