SAMPE Summit 18 Paris: An information-packed, one-day conference
SAMPE Europe staged a successful and well-attended gathering, dubbed Summit 18, at the Pullman Hotel Paris Tour Eiffel on March 5, the Monday before JEC World 2018. With 12 speakers in 4 blocks, topics ranged from automation and manufacturing, to materials and process, to architecture and large structures, ending with aerospace/space applications, and a panel discussion.
Following a welcome by Professor Jyrki Vuorinen, SAMPE Europe president, the keynoter for the opening session on automation and manufacturing, chaired by Dr. Leslie Cohen of HITCO Carbon Composites (Gardena, CA, US), was Avner Ben-Bassat, president and CEO of Plataine (Waltham, MA, US). He spoke on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things, and the journey to the digital factory. After describing strategies and reasons for making a manufacturing facility smarter and more efficient, a key takeaway was the concept of a human:machine team — the human is relieved of tedious and mundane tasks, while the machine, or digital assistant, becomes more intelligent by learning and mastering those tasks: “As the worker learns to trust the digital assistant, the end result is going to be better quality and lower error rates in production,” asserts Ben-Bassat.
Ben Halford, CEO of Surface Generation Ltd. (Oakham, Rutland, UK) spoke about the need for composites to meet three goals: 1) stop making black metal, 2) start speeding up production and 3) expand the markets in which composites can be applied. He pointed to other industries, including big pharma and sports shoes, where millions (or more) of articles are made each day, with 100% quality. He challenged the audience to strive for higher yields, and greatly reduced scrap, at much faster speeds, and described his company’s PtFS (Production to Functional Specifications) technology that can reduce cycle time by an order of magnitude by selective, controlled application of heat and pressure: “A high-yield, controlled process can replace metals, cost-competitively.”
JEC Group’s media director and editor in chief Frédéric Reux gave a comprehensive market report on composites, citing a worldwide market volume of 11 million tonnes worldwide, with a value of $82 billion (USD), pointing out that the numbers pale in comparison to commodities such as concrete and steel. Asia represents roughly 50% of the market, and in his view, will grown the fastest, at 6.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2019. He believes that composites have a role in future trends, due to their favorable life cycle analysis (LCA) results but cautions that “Composites should have an industry-wide organization, like steel and aluminum have, to help grow our reach, going forward.” Trends identified by Reux include growing penetration of thermoplastics, increased market share by carbon fiber compared to glass, and greater use in automotive due to more electric cars.
The second block was anchored by keynoter Dr. Christian Weimer of Airbus Germany, who is general manager, materials and head of materials X. He addressed the issue of materials and process technologies as key enablers for aerospace innovation. Specifically, he spoke about the new Airbus concepts such as the E-Fan X, a hybrid-electric aircraft demonstrator, and Airbus’ concepts such as Vahana, an autonomous air taxi, which just completed its first flight. “Materials define products,” he points out, but cost, production process and even politics, such as regulations like REACH, also play a role in concept development. Next, Dr. Fabrizio Scarpa, professor of smart materials and structures at the University of Bristol (Bristol, UK) gave an interesting review of the wide range of materials that can be changed in response to temperature, pH, magnetic fields, electrical current, stress fields, light, and more. The global market for these types of smart polymers and composites, he claims, was about $28 billion USD in 2013, and has been growing at a 12.5% rate since. Scarpa covered a range of potential applications for these materials, including morphing/adaptive aircraft structure, energy harvesting and embedded structural health monitoring, and noted that these technologies can be combined with additive manufacturing. Next up, NONA Composites (Dayton, OH, US) president Ben Dietsch spoke about its “No oven, no autoclave” philosophy, eschewing prepreg for dry materials, with a cost 50% less then prepreg. Says Dietsch, “20 to 30% of recurring part costs comes from material cost, and 10 to 15% of recurring costs involves curing costs, and autoclaves are costly.” Barriers to greater adoption of infusion methods, like resin transfer molding (RTM), include the fact that many infusion resin systems are not qualified, or not available with tougheners, and RTM tooling costs can be high.
After a delectable luncheon, the third presentation block began with a keynote presented by Professor Werner Sobek, founder of the Werner Sobek Group and head of the ILEK (Institut für Leichtbau Entwerfen und Konstruieren) at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. With a philosophy of “build for more, using less,” Sobek gave a glimpse of future architectural trends, and in particular, the use of thin concrete shells, where “dead weight becomes a non-issue.” Avoid over-design, he cautioned, using some examples of futuristic construction with textiles and recycled materials. One hurdle to greater adoption of new construction materials and methods is insurance, and risk avoidance.
Ramiro Gonzalez, the operations manager at Carbures Civil Works (Madrid, Spain), together with Santiago Perez-Castillo of Saertex (Saerbeck, Germany) described the process by which the “Pavilion of Inspirations” at the Norman Foster Foundation headquarters in Madrid was designed and constructed, in particular, its composite roof. See the CW story on this architectural project here: https://www.compositesworld.com/news/composite-roof-built-by-carbures. Next up was Torben Jacobsen, senior director of manufacturing and production at LM Wind Power (Lunderskov, Denmark), who began his presentation by pointing out that the rotor blades offer opportunities for innovation, since the turbine elements (gears, etc.) have become commodities. The company, which began in the 1940s as a furniture builder, now makes an 88.4m blade — Jacobsen noted that scaling up to a blade that size presents difficulties, including manufacturing the very thick root section, cycle time/cure time and the enormous weight, which impacts transport: “Just the bagging film alone is a huge challenge. You have to be able to control all of the process steps.” He discussed that the 88.4 blade uses a new proprietary non-crimp fabric made with high-modulus glass, with, he says, S-Glass properties at the cost of E-glass. LM is able to use less-expensive room-temperature cure polyester resin with tougheners added, and employs a clam-shell mold that produces the blade in one piece, without bonding. For the future, he says that the company will begin to use more carbon fiber, and more thermoplastic materials, along with more optimized parts, that will employ rib structures: “We want to engage more in a circular economy, with less landfill. And, we’re going to use more automation, additive manufacturing and faster processing, that will be helped along with digital connectivity.”
Leading off the final speaker group was Jean Luc Macret, the senior manager of research and technology at ARIANE Group (Courcouronnes, France). Macret’s outlook for the company’s space vehicles is that by 2020, they will be 60% composite. For the ARIANE 6, due to take its first test flight in 2020, the solid rocket booster will be a filament-wound structure 11.7m long and 3.1m in diameter. Says Macret, “By 2030, we want to reduce the cost of our vehicles by 50%, to bring launch costs down. We will accomplish this through optimization and reusable and multifunctional elements.” He points to the increasing use of virtual platforms and digital design tools to minimize costly testing for design validation. Dr. Christian Sauer, the senior director for commercial and business development at Lufthansa Technik (Hamburg, Germany) took the stage to discuss the issue of repairs of composite aircraft structure. To address fuselage damage events, Sauer says that bolted doublers are an option (the same technique that’s used for aluminum) or bonded repairs, where scarfing is done to remove the damage area. “Many regulations and procedures must be followed to avoid disbands and loss of the the scarf joint,” he points out, with regulators requiring safe flight even if the repair completely fails. His company employs airline support teams, who fly to the damaged aircraft. Sauer described a milling robot that can be attached to the plane to safely mill the scarf area — a 2-ft diameter repair can reportedly be done in two minutes with the robotic solution.
The final speaker was Tia Benson-Tolle, the director of materials and fabrication at The Boeing Co. (Chicago, IL, US). Her presentation, entitled “Challenges and Applications for Materials and Fabrication,” focused on four areas where capabilities can be improved: aircraft systems, engines, materials and aerodynamics. “Materials systems are very complex today, and can be, for example, bio-mimetic, nano-tailored, virtually designed, and more. The future is no longer defined by one type of material,” says Benson-Tolle. She emphasized the increasing importance of manufacturability, and the increasing need for data analytics and design tools.
The afternoon ended with a panel discussion, led by Arnt Offringa of GKN Aerospace Fokker Aerostructures (Papendrecht, Netherlands), with the speakers taking questions from the audience. After closing remarks by Vuorinen, the day concluded with a networking dinner at the Pullman’s Roof Top Restaurant. SAMPE Europe’s next event will be the SAMPE Conference 18 Southampton, September 11-13, 2018, at the Hilton Ageas Bowl in Southhampton, UK. Here’s a link to the event: https://www.sampe-europe.org/conferences/sampe-conference-18-southampton.
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