SPE's Automotive Composites Conference

The Society’s Automotive and Composites Divisions’ annual fete adds new features.
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The Society of Plastics Engineer’s (SPE) Automotive Composites Conference & Exposition (ACCE) returns for its seventh year on Sept. 11-13 to Michigan State University’s Management Education Center in Troy, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. Now billed as “the world’s leading automotive composites forum,” the show attracted more than 400 participants last year from 11 countries, half of whom were employed by automakers and automotive tier suppliers. This year, show organizers have added new features they hope will attract even more sponsors, speakers and attendees than last year’s record-breaking conference.

One big change is that all exhibits now will be housed in a single large room on the east side of the building rather than spread out across four rooms on the west side. Although this could potentially reduce the number of exhibitor displays that can be accommodated — a perennial challenge faced by show organizers at this location — it does provide for more natural traffic flow and simplifies the process of obtaining food and beverage during breakfasts, breaks and the show’s two evening networking receptions. Lunches will now be served in the rooms that previously housed exhibits.

New this year is a Best Paper Awards ceremony, early in the conference, to recognize the best submissions in three categories. Winning manuscripts will be selected from papers submitted for peer review for the current conference. Their authors will receive a plaque honoring their achievement.

Also new for 2007 are two SPE ACCE Scholarships, awarded for graduate research in composites that impacts ground transportation. This year’s awards are being given in honor of long-time composites industry insider and journalist, Steve Loud. Born in Detroit, Loud grew up in a family that worked in the auto industry. He received a Business degree from the University of Michigan and joined Owens Corning in sales and marketing, where he stayed for the next 18 years. In 1981, Loud moved his family to California to become vice president of Teledyne Ryan before starting his own company, Composites Worldwide (Solano Beach, Calif.). Until his death in July 2006, he and his wife, Susan, published award-winning print and online newsletters on high-performance composite materials and processes, and maintained the Composites News supersite on the Web. Loud provided media sponsorship and support for a number of professional organizations and conferences, including the SPE Automotive Composites Conference.

The scholarships — each $2,000 (USD) and funded from 2006 ACCE show proceeds — were awarded on Aug. 1. Recipients were Roston Elwell from Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas), for work on composite sandwich structures with active cores; and Alejandro Londono from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, Wis.) for research on reduction of fiber-matrix separation defects in molded automotive parts. Students will present the results of their work at the 2008 SPE ACCE show.

Program highlights m&p diversity

This year’s technical program has shaped up with strong sessions covering Advances in Thermoset Composites, Advances in Thermoplastic Composites, Bio- & Natural-Fiber Composites, and Enabling Technologies, as well as a new session in Virtual Prototyping & Testing of Composites. Nanocomposites also will have a strong showing. In fact, the program could break the 2006 record for the most presentations given at an ACCE conference, with more than 65 talks now confirmed. Papers will review not only new materials but new processes as well, including two papers on direct long-fiber compounding techniques applied with thermoset matrices, and a new sequential-gate compression molding system to maximize flow and minimize glass breakage in direct long-fiber thermoplastic (D-LFT) materials. Keynote speakers already identified for the event include Dr. Mike Fisher, American Chemistry Council (Arlington, Va.), who will, on Tuesday morning, reprise his well-received extemporaneous talk from last year, entitled “Plastics are for Cars After All – The Rest of the Story” (see “Learn More,” below). The afternoon keynote will feature Chuck Segal, OMNIA LLC (Raleigh, N.C.), discussing “Is the Carbon-Fiber Industry Ready for the Automotive Market and Is the Automotive Market Ready for the Carbon-Fiber Industry?” Tuesday evening’s speaker is Robert Kisch, The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash.), who will speak on “Composite Process Technology & Innovation at Boeing.” On Wednesday morning, Victor Liu, who serves AZDEL Inc. (Forest, N.C.) in China, will provide an overview of “Composites in China.” The noon keynote address, sponsored by the Automotive Composites Assn., will be given by Richard Morrison, president of The Molded Fiber Glass Cos. (Ashtabula, Ohio), on a topic not yet determined at press time. On Thursday morning, Ron Babinsky of market research firm Townsend Polymer Services & Information (Houston, Texas) will speak on a new study completed just before the show, entitled “Current & Future Markets for Long-Fiber Reinforced Thermoplastics (LFRTs).” Later that day, Dr. Amar K. Mohanty, director of the University of Guelph’s (Ontario, Canada) newly formed Bioproducts Discovery & Development Center, will wrap up the keynote schedule with a presentation entitled, “Bio-Cars: Where We Are, and Where We Are Moving.”

Two panel discussions are scheduled for this year’s conference. On Wednesday afternoon, Jim Plaunt of AOC (Collierville, Tenn.) will moderate a panel on “Composite Industry Imperatives to Meet the Needs of the Next Decade.” Joining him will be Ed Zenk, International Truck & Engine Corp. (Warrenville, Ill.), Tyler Hardy of Meridian Automotive Systems (Allen Park, Mich.), and Tom Hilborn from Continental Structural Plastics (Troy, Mich.), with additional panelists expected (but not yet confirmed) from Honda Motor Co. (Tokyo), Toyota Motor Corp. (Toyota City, Japan), and Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, Mich.). A second panel, moderated by CT editor-in-chief Jeff Sloan, is on “Marketing the Value of Composites.” Panelists already confirmed include Melanie Cook, AZDEL Inc.; Roland Polet, Ticona Engineering Polymers (Florence, Ky.); Lou Luedtke, National Composites Center (Kettering, Ohio); Len Nunnery from Bulk Molding Compounds Inc. (West Chicago. Ill.); and David Dyke of Meridian.

SPE posts past acce proceedings

In the lead up to this year’s ACCE event, SPE has posted online the program guides and all the papers and presentations from five of the last six years’ ACCE programs. The material is available for free viewing and downloading on the SPE Automotive Div.’s Web site at www.speautomotive.com/comp.htm.

The posted material covers a broad range of composite materials, such as long fiber reinforced thermoplastics (LFRT), glass mat thermoplastics (GMT), natural-fiber composites, bio-composites (using non-petroleum feedstock for the resin’s monomer), nanocomposites, sheet molding compound (SMC), and advanced carbon fiber composites. Topics covered in the documents include novel fabrication technologies, finishing, comoldable pigmented thermoplastic “paint” films, design and testing of composites, structural applications, and new uses for composites in ground transportation applications.

The Web archive includes the event’s 2002-2006 electronic proceedings, for which interested parties previously were charged as much as $100 (USD) per CD, per year.

“We decided to make this content available to the global automotive composites community to help promote the value of composites in ground transportation,” comments Dale Brosius, who is the executive director/COO for Quickstep Technologies Pty. Ltd. (Brighton, Mich.), the immediate past chair of SPE’s Thermoset Div. and the returning ACCE program chair. “There exists a large body of work as a result of six years of successful ACCE conferences,” he continues. “Having this material available online, 24/7, will benefit a number of groups, including OEM engineers, tier suppliers, material suppliers, industry consultants, university students who are studying composites technologies, and members of the media.”