SPE’s ACCE 2014 preview

Automotive composites a hot topic in the Motor City.
#outofautoclave #sheetmoldingcompound #adhesives


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The 14th annual Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE), organized by the Automotive and Composites Divisions of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Newtown, Conn.), returns Sept. 9-11 to the Diamond Center at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich., in the Detroit suburbs. This year’s event, its second at what was a new show location in 2013, promises to be bigger and busier. 

The SPE ACCE moved house last year after 12 years in its original location across town at Michigan State University’s Management Education Center in Troy, Mich. The timing proved fortuitous because the 2012 show at MSU-MSE drew a record 636 registered attendees, and last year’s event boosted that number to 903, who attended a new high of 96 presentations, and visited double the number of exhibitors. The 2013 event simply would not have fit in the old location. Automotive composites continue to be a hot topic as automakers scramble to find effective ways to take significant mass out of vehicles to meet new fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions standards pending in many parts of the world. Event organizers, therefore, predict that the 2014 show will easily draw more than 1,000 attendees.  


Strong sponsorship, strong technical program

At CT press time, ACCE event organizers had already booked a record numbers of exhibitors and sponsors for this year’s show — the exhibition area has been expanded twice — and expect another good showing in the student poster competition. They also report a strong technical track with a variety of papers on innovative composites applications as well as timely reports about materials, processing and equipment advances.

For a third year, the ACCE will feature a Tutorials track, designed to help attendees learn the fundamentals of various aspects of composites technologies — a feature that OEMs have requested to get younger staff members up to speed on the differences between composites and metals. This year’s track will be held on the third day of the show and its focus will be on long-fiber thermoplastics and nanotechnology. Creig Bowland, president of Colorado Legacy Group LLC (Shelby, N.C.) and three-time SPE ACCE conference chair, and his co-presenter Vanja Ugresic, research engineer from the Fraunhofer Project Centre @ Western University (FPC, London, Ontario, Canada), will give a 90-minute primer on “Use of Long Fiber Thermoplastics in the Automotive Market.” After a short break, the focus will change. Three presenters will cover a range of nanocomposite technologies during a two-hour session. The tutorial will begin with a talk by Tie Lan of Nanocor LLC (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) on “Chemically Modified Bentonite Clays (Nanoclay) as Plastic Additives – Applications in Automotive,” and will be followed by a talk by Prof. Lawrence Drzal, from Michigan State University (East Lansing, Mich.) on “Graphene Nanoplatelets: A Multifunctional Nanomaterial Additive for Polymers and Composites.” Next up, Prof. Alan Lesser of the Polymer Science & Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Amherst, Mass.) will give an hour-long overview of “Engineering Nano-Reinforced Composite Materials.” Tutorials will be recorded, so SPE members who are unable to attend the event can take advantage of the content at a later time by visiting the SPE’s Web site (http://4spe.org).

In addition to the Tutorials track, returning technical sessions include Advances in Reinforcement Technologies, Advances in Thermoplastic Composites, Advances in Thermoset Composites, Bio- & Natural Fiber Composites, Business Trends & Technology Solutions, Enabling Technologies, Nanocomposites, Opportunities and Challenges with Carbon Composites, and Virtual Prototyping & Testing of Composites.  Speakers will cover topics ranging from new additives and reinforcements to broader use of thermoset and thermoplastic composites in ground transportation applications. 

Enabling Technologies, a strong process-and-equipment session in three parts, will showcase advances in injection, compression and resin transfer molding processes.  The perennially strong Virtual Prototyping & Testing session will cover the latest advances in computer-aided analysis and testing of composites, including new work on simulation advances with discontinuous reinforcements and with laminates and fabrics, as well as manufacturing corrections in simulations, new accelerated weathering tests for automotive composites, and adhesive applications in motorsports. 

Papers in the Thermoplastic Composites session will discuss technologies for replacing carbon fiber/epoxy Type IV pressure vessels with new thermoplastic composite alternatives. Other presentations in this session will examine the latest advances in polyamides, polypropylene, additives and new polymers. On the thermoset composites side, sheet molding compound (SMC), polyurethane and epoxies will make a strong showing. For nanocomposites, an extensive, three-part track will feature carbon nanotubes, nanofibers, graphene, attapulgite and new assessment tools. In the reinforcements arena, speakers from PPG Industries Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Owens Corning Composite Solutions Business (Toledo, Ohio) will each introduce new fiberglass technologies, while a Johns Manville (Denver, Colo.) author will discuss a new generation of thermoplastic honeycomb, based on polyester spunbond.  Additionally, presenters will discuss new polyurethane surface treatments for basalt fibers and work on the carbon fiber/vinyl ester interface. Additional talks will include the following:

  • Advancements in bio-polymers and natural fiber reinforcements.
  • A new report on the recently formed Society of Automotive Composites in Japan.
  • A paper on substitution of virgin material by recycled material from Institut Supérieur de Plasturgie d’Alençon (ISPA), Pôle Universitaire de Montfoulon (Alençon, France).

Along with its perennially strong technical program, the SPE ACCE is well known for its lively panel discussions. This year, a three-hour executive forum organized by Jay Baron, CEO at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR, Ann Arbor, Mich.), will help the composites supply chain better understand OEM perceptions of issues with implementing composites in passenger vehicles. Panelists confirmed to date include Frank Macher, CEO, Continental Structural Plastics(Auburn Hills, Mich.); Nigel Francis, senior VP, Michigan Economic Development Corp. (Lansing, Mich.); and Harry Singh, program manager, EDAG USA (Auburn Hills, Mich.).  

The ACCE also is known for its numerous and diverse keynotes, and this year won’t disappoint. Prof. Jan-Anders Månson, Ph.D., head of lab, Laboratory of Polymer and Composite Materials (LTC), Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland), will explain “Why Sport is Important for Automotive Composites.” Månson will draw from his work consulting for the International Olympic Committee (IOC, Lausanne) on new technologies that improve performance as well as safety. Another keynoter, Prof. Habib Dagher, Ph.D., P.E., director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center (Orono, Maine), will speak about “Polymer Composite Materials in Infrastructure Applications” (see “Learn More”). Daniel Ageda, secretary general/chief operating officer at JEC Composites Group (Paris, France) will speak on “Overview & Dynamism of the Wordwide Composites Market.” Matthew Marks, chair of the American Chemistry Council Plastics Div.  Auto Team and senior business manager, Automotive and Mass Transportation at SABIC Innovative Plastics, will discuss the latest “American Chemistry Council Plastics and Polymer Composites Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets.” And Kestutis (Stu) Sonta, senior materials engineer, General Motors Co. (Detroit) will speak about “Novel Composite Developments on the Chevrolet Spark Battery Enclosure.”

Also popular are free plant tours in the Detroit region. At press time, an hour-long tour of Century Tool & Gage Co. (Fenton, Mich.) was set from 3 to 4 p.m. the day before the conference. A second will be announced.