SAMPE 2017: Highlights
SAMPE returned to Seattle, WA, US, May 22-25 and featured the usual mix of conference presentations and exhibit hall activity. CW was there and offers this summary of highlights from the event.
SAMPE 2017 kicked off officially on Tuesday morning with a keynote presentation by Rob Myerson, president of Blue Origin (Kent, WA, US), which is building a line of re-usable rockets to take people and material into space. Blue Origin’s first rocket is New Shepard, which, eventually, will be used to offer flights to carry up to six people to 100 km above the Earth for about 4 minutes of weightless flight, before returning to Earth via parachute landing. The BE-4 main rocket propelling New Shepard will be ejected after initial burn and return to a pre-designated landing site so that it can be re-used.
Myerson also discussed the forthcoming New Glenn, a larger rocket propelled by seven BE-4 engines and currently in development. New Glenn will be used to deliver satellites and other payloads to Earth orbit and is expected to be launched for the first time in 2020. New Glenn’s first stage rocket body will be recoverable and reusable as well, with landing expected to be done on a floating platform.
Composites, not surprisingly, are used substantially on the New Shepard to make fairings and panels, and likely will see more application on the New Glenn. To that end, Myerson said Blue Origin is building a new 750,000-ft2 manufacturing facility near Cape Canaveral, FL, US, where the company is installing a large Ingersoll (Rockford, IL, US) gantry-style automated fiber placement (AFP) machine to make large composite parts for the New Glenn. The plant, which is expected to open in 2018, will also house substantial additive manufacturing and CNC equipment.
Myerson noted that Blue Origin’s design and production philosophy — particularly given the disruptive, paradigm-changing nature of additive manufacturing — is blurring the lines that traditionally separate design personnel from manufacturing personnel. The result is an environment in which design engineers are increasingly pulled into the manufacturing environment, and manufacturing engineers are increasingly pulled into the design environment.
Web Industries Inc. (Marlborough, MA, US) announced at SAMPE the addition of two significant capabilities at its Atlanta, GA, US, Advanced Composites Center of Excellence. First, the company has added a Thermoplastic Composite Development and Qualification Center, specifically designed, staffed, and equipped to create processes that format thermoplastic carbon fiber prepreg materials, including PEEK, PEKK and PPS, for use in various fabrication technologies. The facility also will qualify equipment that will process the new thermoplastic composite formats.
Jim Powers, business development manager, says the new facility houses slitting equipment capable of cutting materials into tapes 0.0625 to 1 inch wide on a traverse wound spooling line. A second slitter/winder will be used to precision-cut wide rolls into 1 to 6-inch strips for planetary wound formats. The space is also equipped with machinery that can chop material into fiber flakes measuring 0.5 by 0.5 inch or 0.0625 by 0.5 inch, for use in compression molding. And, later in 2017, the facility will incorporate seaming technology. All of the process equipment is capable of achieving high precision tolerances down to thousands of an inch, contingent on incoming material quality.