SPE’s Automotive Composites Conference Preview

Automotive composites continues to draw global audience to the Motor City in 2016.
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For the sixteenth time in as many years, the Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) organized by the Automotive and Composites Divisions of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Bethel, CT, US) returns to the Detroit suburbs, Sept. 7-9. The event's mandate is to educate the global transportation composites supply chain on the latest developments in polymeric materials, processes, machinery and applications.

Organizers claim the event is "the world leading automotive composites forum." Although it is not the largest composites show or technical conference, it is certainly a contender for the largest ground-transportation composites event, with close to 1,000 attendees this past year and more expected in 2016. The conference has a global following and regularly attracts speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, press and attendees from 15 countries on five continents.

Owing to the venue’s close proximity to the Motor City (the Diamond Center at the Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi, MI, US) and the fact that entry fees are waived for transportation OEMs, the event boasts an enviable number of engineers and scientists who work directly for automotive, commercial-truck, agricultural-equipment, off-highway and plane manufacturers as well as their tier suppliers. Organizers schedule numerous breaks between technical programming to visit exhibits (numbering close to 100), and offer three evening receptions to help facilitate networking and energetic discussion about what the industry needs now and in the not-too-distant future.

At press time, organizers reported that the three-day event had already attracted close to 90 abstracts, and expected closer to 100 technical presentations approved for the final program, presented in 10 sessions:

  • Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing
  • Advances in Reinforcement Technologies
  • Advances in Thermoplastic Composites
  • Advances in Thermoset Composites
  • Bonding, Joining & Finishing
  • Enabling Technologies (process/machinery advances)
  • Nanocomposites
  • Opportunities & Challenges with Carbon Composites;
  • Sustainable Composites (recycled, bio-based, and natural fiber-reinforced composites)
  • Virtual Prototyping & Testing

Additionally, a special eight-paper session is planned to cover recent pre-competitive research by the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR, Southfield, MI, US) and its member companies on validation of material models for crash testing of carbon fiber-reinforced composite bumpers. Not yet named are an anticipated five keynote speakers from Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD, US), Local Motors (Chandler, AZ, US), the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI, Knoxville, TN, US), Dassault Systèmes (Waltham, MA, US) and Plasan Carbon Composites (Wixom, MI, US), plus at least one of the ever-lively panel discussions for which the ACCE is known.

Pre-event social outings on Sept. 6 include a day-long golf competition at Fieldstone Golf Club (Auburn Hills, MI, US) and a facilities tour at an as-yet unnamed location. Golf outing and conference attendees are invited to an evening reception afterward at the conference facility's Fireside Room.

To keep things interesting, the ACCE also features awards for best papers, student scholarships, student posters and best composite parts. Last year's part award for Materials Innovation went to the nomination submitted by Bright Lite Structures LLC (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK) and Huntsman Polyurethanes (Auburn Hills, MI, US) on the carbon composite chassis system for the Zenos E10 street-legal track car by automaker Zenos Cars Ltd. (Wymondham, Norfolk, UK). Both Process Innovation and People's Choice awards went to the first composite coil spring on the 2015 Audi A6 Avant 2.0-L TDI Ultra sedan by Audi AG, nominated by Hexion Inc. (Columbus, OH, US).