The markets: Industrial applications (2018)

A number of manufacturers in the composites industry have relatively quietly carved out a lucrative and growing share in the market for brackets, fixtures, ductwork, pallets, and other often hidden and typically less newsworthy parts that nevertheless require complex shapes, must perform at high levels and are targeted for weight, cost and production-time reductions. 

“Manufacturers are under constant pressure to improve performance while reducing cost and lead times without sacrificing quality,” says Tri-Mack Manufacturing Corp.’s (Bristol, RI, US) president Will Kain. Tri-Mack has answered industry’s need for a single-source partner, providing design assistance and materials/process development through to qualification and commercial production while cutting lead times for its customers. “Projects that were previously allotted 18 months must now be completed in 3 months,” notes director of sales and marketing Tom Kneath. Those words, spoken during an interview for our January 2017 CW Plant Tour of Tri-Mack’s Bristol production facilities, encapsulate the mission of composites manufacturers who design, prototype and manufacture the myriad unsensational but nevertheless critically important industrial parts like those pictured above. A number of manufacturers in the composites industry have relatively quietly carved out a lucrative and growing share in the market for brackets, fixtures, ductwork, pallets, and other often hidden and typically less newsworthy parts that nevertheless require complex shapes, must perform at high levels and are targeted for weight, cost and production-time reductions. 

Methods for combining continuously reinforced prepregs or preformed laminates with injection overmolding processes have extended the composites manufacturers ability to provide parts with the requisite strength, modulus and toughness economically. These hybrid continuously reinforced/discontinuously reinforced composites afford them the ability to place continuous reinforcement only where it’s needed, to the extent that it is needed. The result is a product that meets customer spec at minimum cost in what is still an efficient, one-shot injection or compression molding process. Thermoforming processes and ultrasonic welding also figure into the mix. Another aspect of the industrial composite market is hybrids that involve composites and metals, in designs where each material is used where it is the most effective.

Durable replacements for short-lived wood pallets also have been in the crosshairs of many composite manufacturers for years. “Many people have tried to commercialize heavier-duty composite pallets. All have struggled and many have failed,” says Derek Mazula, CEO of Integrated Composite Products Inc. (ICP, Winona, MN, US). In 2017, ICP introduced its version, designed for the food transport industry, on the strength of its advanced fiber reinforcements (AFRs), which enable selective reinforcement of pallet components.

 

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