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Highlights: SPE ACCE 2017

The Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibiton (SPE ACCE), held Sept. 6-8 in Novi, MI, US, remains the composites industry’s go-to event for the latest on technology and equipment for automotive composites design, tooling and fabrication.
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The Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibiton (SPE ACCE), held Sept. 6-8 in Novi, MI, US, remains the composites industry’s go-to event for the latest on technology and equipment for automotive composites design, tooling and fabrication.

Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI, US) served up a series of presentations summarizing work it did to design, develop and integrate a B-pillar reinforcement for the Ford Focus. Nestled inside a steel pillar, it was manufactured with a prepreg that combines DowAksa  (Marietta GA, US) carbon fiber with Dow Automotive Systems (Auburn Hills, MI, US) VORAFUSE P6399 epoxy. Ford developed an automated ply cutting and nesting process for building the laminate, using ultrasonic welding of the epoxy to “stitch” plies together prior to preforming and compression molding steps. The company is still evaluating part performance and options for integrating the part into its vehicle assembly process.

Sheet molding compound (SMC), definitely back in vogue (see endnote), was the focus of several presentations. Jeff Klipstein, closed mold technical service specialist at AOC Resins (Collierville, TN, US), discussed surface and performance properties of low-density SMCs (1.0-2.0 SG) and where they are and might be applied in automotive parts. Thomas Skelskey, group leader R&D specialties – transportation at Ashland LLC (Columbus, OH, US) summarized work he’s done on low-VOC, low-odor, low-styrene SMCs. He noted that low-styrene SMC is still relatively expensive, but becoming less so. In addition, he shed light on the obscure and difficult-to-characterize world of odor measurement. 

Dave Erb, senior R&D program manager at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center (Orono, ME, US), described work he did to reverse engineer a metallic differential cover for a 1998 GMC truck (General Motors, Detroit, MI, US), using thermoplastic resins combined with carbon and glass fiber molded via thermoforming. 

Of interest in the project was a new material developed at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (Rapid City, SD, US), comprising recycled, chopped carbon fiber used to create quasi-oriented tapes and fabrics. David Salem, a professor at the school and director of the composites lab there, says the material offers designers a level of fiber orientation confidence not normally seen in chopped fiber products. Commercialization of the material is underway, and Salem is seeking pull from industry to help guide further development.

A keynote at ACCE was provided by Ford Motor Co. composites expert Patrick Blanchard. A summary of his presentation is presented in the CW October 2017 issue. He is also a guest interviewee of CW Talks: The Composites Podcast.

Read CW’s recent coverage of the SMC resurgence in the following: “SMC: Old dog, New tricks” and “SMC: Old dog, More tricks.”

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