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6/1/2005 | 16 MINUTE READ

JEC Composites 2005 Show Review

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Paris composites exhibition posts 12 percent increase in attendance, underscoring industry health.


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In preparation for the 2005 edition of the JEC Composites Show, show organizers increased by 20 percent the exhibit floor space allotted in 2004 — from 29,000m2 to 35,500m2 (312,150 ft2 to 382,100 ft2) — to accommodate a predicted record turnout of exhibitors and visitors. Post-show figures compiled by JEC supported that conclusion: A reported 900 exhibiting companies and 25,600 individuals were on site for the event, held April 5-7, at the Paris Expo, Porte de Versaille, in Paris, France. The attendance figure represents a 12 percent increase over last year. JEC reports that half the total were users of composite materials who traveled to the show from outside France.

The show was the venue for public announcement of the first board of directors for Assocompositi, the Italian composites association formally organized in December 2004. Appointed for a two-year period were association president Roberto Frassine of Politecnico di Milano, and vice president Antonio Ferrante of Saint-Gobain Vetrotex Italia. Board members hail from Italy-based suppliers and academic institutions among its 26 member companies. The new association has become a member of the overarching EuCIA (European Composites Industry Assn.), and will represent Italian interests in EuCIA's European Union activities.


In its eighth year, JEC's annual awards program got a new name and an expanded set of competition categories, up from five in 2004 to eight this year. The JEC Innovations Awards proved unusual in several other respects: One award winning team was the first to use natural fiber reinforcement in an exterior passenger car component, while another was the first ever to support a poured concrete bridge deck on beams made exclusively from a carbon/polymer composite.

In the "Aeronautics & Space" category, software developer Galorath Inc. (El Segundo, Calif.) and partner Airbus Industrie (Toulouse, France) took top honors for SEER-DFM cost-analysis software. Developed with assistance from Airbus UK, the software is designed to help design engineers efficiently explore a large number of "what if" scenarios and accurately estimate costs to determine the most cost-effective combination of materials and manufacturing process. A Composite Plug-in module enables concurrent calculation of costs for a variety of production alternatives in any combination of material placement (including hand layup, braid, tow placement, 3-D weaving, filament winding and P4A preforming) process (autoclave cure, RTM, VARTM or E-beam) and methods of manual or automated trimming and assembly (e.g., drilling/fastening, adhesive bonding). The software takes into account material, process and staffing variables but also operational factors like machine depreciation, reportedly enabling accurate estimates of cost in days rather than weeks.

A long fiber molding process, featuring a natural fiber-reinforced polypropylene thermoplastic component molded by Rieter Automotive Systems (Winterthur, Switzerland), took first place in "Ground Transport." The material, developed and patented by DaimlerChrysler AG (Germany), is reinforced with fiber provided by Manila Cordage Co. (Manila, The Philippines). Derived from the abaca plant (a plant in the banana family), the fiber is better known as Manila hemp, used to make rope. According to DaimlerChrysler, abaca is the first natural fiber to meet stringent standards for resistance to stone strike and exposure to UV, moisture and temperature extremes for components used on the exterior of road vehicles. Also the first natural fiber used in an exterior passenger auto component, abaca replaced glass fiber in the underfloor protective panel for the spare wheel well on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class coupe in September 2004.

Devold AMT (Langevaag, Norway) and boatbuilder Brødrene Aa (Norway) got the highest marks in the "Marine" category by tailoring carbon-fiber reinforcements for vacuum-infusion molding. Using multiaxial carbon fabrics supplied by Devold, Brødrene employed cored sandwich construction with skins made entirely of carbon/vinyl ester composites, infusing one-piece hulls for an ambulance boat capable of 44 knots; the 64-passenger Rygerkatt harbor ferry and a medium-capacity ferry (97-passenger catamaran). A 300-passenger craft is under development. The use of carbon reportedly reduces boat mass by 40 percent (compared to glass) and also saves fuel, reduces emissions and damps sound for greater passenger comfort, but only increases cost by 10 percent.

In the "Construction" category, JEC honored the first use of all-carbon-composite beams in a road bridge. The work of Advanced Composites Group Ltd. (ACG, Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.) and primary bridge contractor and beam molder NECSO Entrecanales Cubiertas SA (Madrid, Spain). The beam was constructed using ACG's VTM (Variable Temperature Moulding) prepregs. The 46m/151-ft beam element's structural strength is provided entirely by the fibers and polymer matrix. Low beam weight made it possible to deliver entire units to the site, where they were jointed and located onto the precast concrete support columns in a single crane lift. As a result, the bridge was installed in only two days rather than the industry-typical 40 days.

In the "Industrial" category, the winner was a composite anti-intrusion shell co-developed by RocTool (Le Bourget du Lac, France), compounder Menzolit SA (Vineuil, France) and French electronics hardware/software developer Upstart Ingénierie. The sandwich structure consists of a nonconductive core material between skins of conductive SMC or BMC. The assembly acts as a capacitor whose capacitance value is read by an electronic circuit. Any attempt to breach the housing (e.g., with cutting tools or torches) sets off an alarm, making the product suitable for a wide range of potential applications in security-conscious sectors.

The innovation award in "Sports & Equipment" went to the "Franco Garda" mountain rescue stretcher, developed for TSL Sport Equipment (Haute-Savoie, France). The stretcher features a metal chassis overmolded with vacuum-infused Twintex (commingled uni-glass and thermoplastic fibers) by molder Comitech (Ain, France). Development partners included customer/user Chamoniarde de Secours en Montagne (France) and Twintex supplier Saint-Gobain Vetrotex International (Chambery, Cedex, France). Designed to breakdown into three pieces for easy transport in high-altitude, rugged terrain, the lightweight stretcher reportedly assembles easily. Field tested by French and Italian rescue teams in 2004, the stretcher was available for sale beginning in May 2005.

JEC also conferred two "Special Jury Awards": The "Recycling & Environment" award recognized iNoMARBRE, a marble substitute for home decoration products, developed by iNoPLAST (Desirat, France). The 50/50 mix of powdered glass and white powdered SMC and BMC contains 70 percent recyclate. Reportedly impact-, scratch- and abrasion-resistant when properly cured, the material complies with current building-industry standards and offers considerable weight savings at half the price. The "Spirit of Conquest" award recognized a composite cylinder built up from a metal liner overwound with a thermoplastic composite developed by tank/pressure vessel maker Amtrol Alfa Metalomecãnica SA (Guimarâes, Portugal), fiber supplier Saint Gobain Vetrotex International. The solution combines the advantages of steel and thermoplastic composites and is suitable for storage tank, pipe and machine applications.


On the show floor, new technology was again in abundance, including new products and materials from first-time exhibitors based in China and Russia. The CT staff observed the following:

Aerovac Systems Ltd.'s (Keighley, West Yorshire, U.K.) premiered new high-elongation VACFILM bagging films, multilayer co-extrusions with reportedly excellent resistance to polyester, vinyl ester and epoxy resins. Available in a variety of weights, thicknesses and lengths/widths, the films come in three variants, with processing temperatures ranging from 150°C to 170°C (302°F to 338°F).

Airborne International BV (Leidschendam, The Netherlands) exhibited one of the carbon fiber/epoxy body panels it makes for the Mercedes Visser Carosserie ambulance. SP Systems' Sprint materials are used to fabricate all the body panels behind the front doors and the roll bar. The panels retrofit to existing vehicles, and were first put on vehicles in January.

Aksys Group LLC (Worms, Germany) premiered its Injection Molding Compounding (IMC) process used to mass-produce 30 percent glass fiber-reinforced front-end structural members weighing only 3.5 kg/7.7 lb for the VW Golf A5. The compact manufacturing cell includes a robot mounted on the injection molding system's fixed platen, which removes parts from the mold and transfers them directly to the sprue-removal unit.

Akzo Nobel Polymer Chemicals LLC (Chicago, Ill.) announced development of Perkadox PF-MT40Z, a new ambient-cure acrylic solid-surface catalyst for the U.S. market. Typically added in the compounding step, the catalyst also may be pre-dissolved in acrylic syrup and remain stable for up to 72 hours or until Accelerator CTA or ZTA is added to begin polymerization. For the European market, the company presented its Butanox VR peroxides, with "Visual Red" coloration that fades to clear to indicate cure completion.

Alcan Airex/Alcan Composites (Sins Switzerland and Northvale, N.J.) showed AIREX T90, a new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) structural foam. The material reportedly exhibits high mechanical strength and stiffness (e.g. in compression) and thermal stability to temperatures as high as 160°C/320°F. According to the company, the foam can be thermoformed and is suitable for sandwich construction with any resin system or production method, including prepreg systems at up to 150°C/302°F processing temperatures.

Axel Plastics Research Laboratories (Woodside, N.Y.) showcased XTEND 818 mold release, targeted to applications that require a Class A finish in marine, tub/shower and other high-gloss FRP applications. The solvent-based, wipe-on/no-polish product is formulated to withstand chemical attack from low-VOC gel coats, offer long-lasting release, remain easy to tape, yet pose no threat of prerelease. Also new: XTEND S-19C mold sealer, a successor to the company's S-19B, reportedly requires no wipe-off to achieve a streak-free surface and better chemical resistance.

Axson (Saint-Ouen-l'Aumone) offered a "new-generation" epoxy-resin infusion system for producing marine, aeronautical, railway, wind-energy and automotive tooling and parts. The solution integrates SC166 extrudable pastes for making large-scale models; Epolam resins and hardeners; a range of reinforcements, including multiaxials; Pliospire vacuum and feed tubes, bleeders, bagging materials, sealant tapes and peel ply; and the Adekit epoxy and polyurethane adhesives needed to assemble the infused parts.

Bally Ribbon Mills (Bally, Pa.) introduced a new technology that weaves 3-D preforms with fibers interwoven in the 0°, 90°, and ±45° directions. The architecture of 3-D preforms includes "PI", "T", and "J" shapes. The quasi-isotropic weaving method is said to improve structural damage tolerance and interlaminar shear properties while reducing fabrication costs.

Bond-Laminates (Brilon, Germany) launched a new TEPEX glass/polypropylene thermoplastic prepreg, formulated for automotive and industrial applications. According to the company, the tailorable material can be weight- and cost-optimized for each application (e.g., fiber content may be varied between 35 and 55 percent and fiber orientation may be adapted to expected loads).

BYK-Chemie GmbH (Wesel, Germany) presented its new BYK-P 9080 stabilizing additive, designed for low-profile and Class A formulations of sheet molding compound (SMC). The product prevents low-profile resin separation prior to processing and, in cured parts, prevents surface variations and localized differences in paint or adhesive adhesion due to inhomogeneous surface energy.

Collano's new 22.400 silane-based film adhesive reportedly closes the gap between standard thermoplastic adhesive films and prepreg. Although heat resistance is not yet matched, the bond strength is now in the same range, says the company. Also new: the A8 series of silane-modified epoxy adhesives, which offer flame-retardant properties and similar strength to two-part polyurethanes, but exhibit much higher elongation. A8 adhesive has found successful use in Europe, in railway tunnel electronic equipment enclosures that are exposed to 38°C/100°F heat, high humidity, vibration and potential fire.

Delcam Plc (Birmingham, U.K. and Windsor, Ontario, Canada) demonstrated the latest enhancements to its CADCAM software, originally developed for injection molding of plastics, but reportedly widely used in composites design and manufacture. New features include methods for generating 2-D patterns for prepregs in 3-D models of components; improvements in nesting capability that provide for more efficient use of cut sheet materials; and an increased range of 5-axis machining methods.

Dieffenbacher GmbH & Co. KG (Eppingen, Germany), in conjunction with Fraunhofer ICT, has developed Tailored LFT, a method for compression molding long fiber-reinforced thermoplastic parts with integrated, oriented continuous fiber selectively placed within the part. The company's LFT-D process enables the molder to compound long fiber-reinforced materials on site, and immediately extrude and compression mold components.

EconCore (Leuven, Belgium) introduced two low-cost honeycomb materials, both produced by an economical, continuous in-line production method and available in a variety of cell sizes and heights. Torhex is made from corrugated cardboard by a process in which the corrugations are first slit then folded on edge to form the honeycomb. Thermhex is made from thermoplastic film which is thermoformed, slit, and then folded to form continuous sheets of honeycomb.

FITS Technology (Driebergen, The Netherlands) introduced a new thermoformable sandwich panel, developed with the Technical University of Delft (The Netherlands). Panels are composed of polyetherimide (PEI) thermoplastic foam core and PEI fiber-reinforced thermoplastic facesheets. The FITS manufacturing process forms the PEI core and bonds it to the facesheets in a single step. The all-thermoplastic panel is thermoformable and exhibits 85 percent retention of mechanical properties at 80°C/176°F and is suitable for production of aircraft partitions, galley doors, luggage bins, train seats and sidewalls.

Flemings Textiles Ltd. (Tayport, Fife, Scotland, div., of Scott & Fyfe Ltd.) presented an expanded line of its Polymat Hi-Flow structural core fabrics: M01 (designed for resilience, stability and compression strength in 3 mm to 7 mm cavities), M03 (for use in 3 mm to 5 mm cavities, when cosmetics are a design driver) and M05 (for general use in 3 mm to 5 mm cavities). The three consist of deformable polypropylene cores sandwiched between chopped glass skins, a design said to reduce fill times in closed mold processes.

Gisco Inc. (Darien, Ill.) introduced Acrylinker, a system designed to enable small producers of solid-surface products to take advantage of process automation and resin tailoring capability previously available to and affordable for only large producers. The system's resin-syrup manufacturing system is combined with the solid-surface processor to form an integrated acrylic solid surface production unit, ensuring proper mixing procedures and consistent product appearance and physical properties.

Hengdian Group Shanghai Russia & Gold Basalt Fibre Co. Ltd. (Shanghai, China), is a new basalt fiber manufacturer, established in 2003. According to the company, it is the only high-tech enterprise currently commercializing basalt from China's extensive basalt rock deposits. Construction has begun on a 74,000m2/796,530 ft2 fiber manufacturing facility in Shanghai. A first-stage plant will produce 2,000 tons per year. Total production is expected to rise to 10,000 tons per year by 2010.

Among the new items on display at the Huntsman Advanced Materials (Basel, Switzerland, E. Lansing, Mich. and Los Angeles, Calif.) stand was RenPaste XD 4618-1 resin, a new seamless modeling paste. Designed to help marine modelmakers to develop complex designs for boat components ranging from competition rowboat hulls to large ship hulls and decks, the cured materials shape easily and accurately with conventional CAD/CAM systems, says the company.

Johns Manville (Denver, Colo.) premiered StarRov 806, a fatigue-resistant glass roving designed for use in woven and multiaxial fabrics used in wind turbine blade fabrication. Thermoflow 718, a new, 4mm/0.16-inch addition to the ThermoFlow densified chopped strand product line, is available in 10- 11- and 13-micron diameters, for reinforcement of PBT compounds used to make electronic parts.

Kamenny Vek (Dubna, Russia) is yet another Russian basalt fiber producer, established in 2002. The company describes its continuous fibers as 15 to 20 percent higher in tensile strength and modulus than E-glass, with greater chemical resistance and operating temperature range. Compatible with polyester, vinyl ester, phenolic and polureathane and epoxy resins, the fibers can be used in pultrusion, filament winding and SMC/BMC without special equipment, and can be processed into nonwoven, unidirectional and mutliaxial forms.

Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH (Munich, Germany) had on hand three variants of its RIM-Star Series of meter/mix machines for polyurethanes: The standard RIM-star Modular, the RIM-star Compact, featuring a reduced footprint, and the RIM-Star MiniDos, for dispensing small shots (as small as 3g per second). According to the company, each machine features minimum distances between components, which reduces pressure loss and enhances temperature control.

Lankhorst Indutech BV (Sneek, The Netherlands) announced new applications for its recyclable PURE "self-reinforced" all-polypropylene (PP) composite material, consisting of highly oriented PP fibers and a PP matrix in fabric or sheet form or in tapes for filament winding. Processed at low temperatures (135°C to 180°C or 275°F to 356°F), the material was touted as a replacement for GMT and LFT materials in auto components.

Owens Cornings (Toledo, Ohio) introduced SE 8400 LS single-end direct glass roving, designed to meet electrical requirements in pultruded long-rod insulators for medium- and high-voltage power transmission applications. The roving is made from the company's boron-free Advantex Type 30 E-glass fibers, produced in glass melting and filament making processes that reportedly result in "seed" counts well below 0.5 seeds per gram (seeds are microscopic bubble voids that may produce hollow filaments, which exhibit increased conductance and, therefore, offer a path of least resistance to electrical current, resulting in system failure).

PPG Industries (Pittsburgh, Pa.) announced that it will begin North American production of TufRov 4599 continuous-strand glass reinforcement. Currently manufactured in Wigan, U.K., the fiber is slated for additional production at PPG's Chester, S.C.-based plant, starting in July this year. Designed for compatibility with homopolymer and coupled polypropylene resins, the roving is said to wet out well in thermoplastic LFT applications.

Reichhold (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) introduced Norpol SVG low-VOC gel coats in response to changing European environmental requirements. The spray and brush on versions of SVG gel coats contain 25 and 30 percent volatiles, respectively, and have half the styrene emissions of conventional gel coat products. They are said to exhibit good film flexibility and resistance to microcracking.

Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) introduced Multimat-Lite, a new high-loft reinforcement for closed-molding applications. The product is made up of a lightweight glass/polyethylene (PE) knitted core with chopped glass mat stitched on both sides. It is intended for automotive, transportation and marine applications as well as helmet, pipe and tank fabrication.

SP Systems (Isle of Wight, U.K.) released its GC2000 technology, an enhanced version of its two-part epoxy gel coat developed previously for wind blade manufacturing applications. The new product can be processed in a wider range of ambient conditions, using a greater variety of application techniques. It reportedly picks up less airborne contamination and has higher resistance to water uptake during blade operation.

Technical Fibre Products (Newburgh, N.Y. and Kendal, U.K.) highlighted its newest OPTIMAT veils, which include conductive (metal-coated carbon) and basalt fibers. The former are used in medical, electronic and military aerospace applications. Basalt veils are being evaluated as a way to reduce landfill disposal of products at the end of their life cycles as well as for high-temp fire resistance. TFP also unveiled a corporate capabilities video that stresses the company's collaborative approach to solutions involving nonwoven reinforcements.

3TEX (Cary, N.C.) displayed 3-D woven shapes for panel and bulkhead joining; 3-D braided reinforcements that exceeds 1 inch in cross-section, with axial and through-thickness braided fibers from 0° to 30°; and a new Level III & IV Body Armor insert that exceeds NIJ requirements in edge protect and multi-hit, multi-threat protection. Also new: 3-D woven S-2 Glass reinforcements and systems, developed with the University of Delaware's Center for Composites Materials, which are now being used in structural armor applications.

Zyvax Inc.'s (Boca Raton, Fla.) exhibit featured a DVD that illustrates a new spraying system that the company says is a more efficient way to apply its HAP-free FLEX-Z Slipcoat System, a series of six mold releases that enable molders to select for themselves the release levels that best meet mold and gel coat/resin requirements.