High Performance Fibers 2007 highlights

Conference participants told that money will flow into the market.
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The High Performance Fibers 2007 conference took place Nov. 28-28, 2007, at the Marriott Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. A production of COMPOSITESWORLD Conferences under the direction of Scott Stephenson, the event drew 98 participants, up dramatically from the 63 who attended the previous year’s event. Conference manager Ralph R. Jessie reported that the figure included seven attendees from Canada, three from Brazil, one from Sweden, and one from England. Speakers numbered 16 and covered aramid, S-2 Glass, boron, ceramic and other advanced fibers, with the exception of carbon fiber, which was the subject of Carbon Fiber 2007 (see “Related Content,” at left).

A key conference topic was the growing market for composite ballistic products, which, one speaker announced, soon will be the beneficiary of billions of U.S. government Homeland Security dollars. Conference attendees considered two issues arising from that prospect: the capabilities of the product and this industry’s ability to deliver the volumes that will be required to meet potential demand.

At a preconference seminar, Howard L. Thomas Jr. of Auburn University gave a tour de force lecture that brought into focus the fact that future challenges before ballistics manufacturers will include the development of materials that can perform to spec in extremes of heat and cold and offer protection not only in terrestrial military or police applications but in aeronautic/aerospace and ocean exploration settings as well. Further, ballistic materials will need to stop not only small arms munitions but provide protection from knives, electric shock and even burns and impact injuries resulting from falls.

Conference chair and moderator Dana M. Granville (U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, Md.) noted the importance of having a conference devoted to fibers other than carbon. Among the emerging themes he identified in his conference wrapup was “materials by design,” that is, materials created for the application, a molecule at a time if necessary, instead of relying only on existing materials. A second theme, which he labeled “multifunctionality,” refers to simultaneous weight reduction and performance enhancement. “Weight,” he emphasized, “is a huge, huge issue.”

On day one, the first six speakers focused on ballistics and military issues. The U.S. Army’s Brian Scott began by riveting his audience with archival images of ancient attempts at armor, pointing out that today’s materials for armor might be new, but many of the concepts are not. Scott’s presentation brought to light the U.S. Army’s concern that some of its work in ballistics remain secret or classified to prevent an enemy from gaining knowledge that would allow an adversary to overcome the armor’s protective technology.

Speaker seven, Ali Sadegh of City University of New York (CUNY), switched gears and spoke about advanced fiber use in inflatable composite structures, including temporary bridging, personnel and aircraft maintenance shelters and fighter jet ejection seat stabilizers.

On day two, Rich Caruso of Fiber Glass Industries (Amsterdam, N.Y.) addressed the use of commodity E-glass and more specialized boron and silicone carbide fibers, concluding with the insight that for high-performance applications, “people don’t buy materials, they buy properties that materials can provide to them.” SABIC Innovative Plastics’ (formerly GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass.) Youssef Fakhreddine addressed high-temperature, flame-retardant engineering thermoplastic (Ultem polyetherimide) fiber in composites. Developments in liquid crystal polymer (LCP) fiber technology were spotlighted by Forrest Sloan of New York City-based Kuraray America Inc., while Jim Sorensen of 3M Co. (St. Paul, Minn.) discussed Nextel ceramic oxide fibers in thermal barriers and structural composites.

Innegrity (Greer, S.C.), TechFiber (Tempe, Ariz.) and Ticona (Florence, Ky.) offered exhibits, with Innegrity and Ticona also appearing at the speaker’s rostrum. Innegrity showcased its newly patented Innegra S multifilament polypropylene (PP) fiber. TechFiber presented its fiber-reinforced unidirectional materials for use in military and civilian armor. Ticona emphasized the recent (Nov. 1, 2007) expansion of its Fortron (PPS) capacity at the company’s Wilmington, N.C. plant to 15,000 metric tonnes (33 million lb) per year.

Conference proceedings are available for $995. Contact Ralph Jessie at jessie@compositesworld.com, (207) 221-6603.