CW Blog

Most people in the composites industry know Seemann Composites Inc. (SCI, Gulfport, MS, US) as the company founded by Bill Seemann, the inventor of Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process (SCRIMP). In fact, Bill is being honored next week at CAMX 2018 (Oct 15-18, Dallas, TX, US) with an ACMA Lifetime Achievement Award (see below).

I met Bill in the early 1990s when I was still new to the composites industry, and even newer to marine composites, having started out working with Kevlar and Nomex in aircraft applications. Bill was so gracious, explaining the development work he was doing at the time, testing various geometries of flow media for SCRIMP. We kept in touch over the years and I have tried to write about SCI’s developments, though much of it has been for defense projects, and thus, was not going to be written about in any detail by CW or any other publication. But I had no idea that SCI and Materials Sciences Corporation (MSC, Horsham, PA, US) had such a long relationship of close collaboration.

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A few days ago, I was contacted by Tom DeLay, founder of Cimarron Composites (Huntsville, AL, US), because I had written about DeLay and work he was involved with at NASA in the area of high-performance composite pressure vessels. That 2005 article (here’s the link: https://www.compositesworld.com/articles/an-update-on-composite-tanks-for-cryogens) was a review of sorts, describing the state of composite pressure vessels for space applications, including storage of cryogens like liquid oxygen. 

Unbeknownst to me, DeLay, in 2008, started Cimarron Composites to focus on composite pressure vessels and improving their performance in cryogenic applications. At the time of my article in 2005, tankage for super-cold liquid fuels — liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen (LOX) and others — was still the purview of metals, due to the potential for microcracking in traditional carbon/epoxy composite laminates at cryogenic temperatures. Microcracks can occur in any laminate because of the difference between the axial and transverse coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE) in each ply, as the laminate cools after cure, and as temperature is lowered to cryogenic levels. Even at moderate pressure, the composite's exposure to temperature extremes and repeated fill-and-drain cycles can exacerbate cracking and can lead to permeation leak paths, easily traversed by small hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The issue isn't helped by the fact that most legacy thermoset systems lose strain capacity and become brittle at cryogenic temperatures.

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In September Allite (Miamisburg, OH, US) launched its Super Magnesium alloy to a new market: the cycling industry. Originally developed in 2006 the material has been classified for defense and aerospace applications. Now the company is looking to open up the material to a whole new range of markets from sporting goods to electronics to aerospace — you name it.

Allite claims the material weighs “33% less than aluminum by volume, and stiffer and stronger pound for pound.” Meanwhile, it is less expensive than carbon fiber. The company seems to be gunning for a spot in between carbon fiber and aluminum in terms of lightweighting with three magnesium alloys: AE81, ZE62 and WE54.

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Architecture studio MVRDV (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) has completed construction on The Imprint, a two-building addition to an entertainment complex in Seoul, South Korea. The new buildings house a nightclub and an indoor amusement park.

The windowless abstract structures use glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels to mirror the façades of surrounding buildings, which are “imprinted” as a relief pattern that appears to drape over the buildings.

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Prepreg materials have been used for decades in sporting goods, aircraft and wind blades. As the composites industry has sought to reduce cost and increase production rates, it has replaced hand layup with automated methods. In commercial aircraft, gantry-based automated tape laying (ATL) and now robot-based automated fiber placement have become increasingly common. But the tapes that feed these machines are typically slit from large-width prepreg rolls. Indeed, as Jeff Sloan pointed out in the preview of his CW Talks podcast with Web Industries, Boeing and Airbus cannot make a single 787 or A350 XWB (respectively) without prepreg first being slit into tapes.

Now, fiber handling and converting specialist Cygnet Texkimp has launched a slitter-spooler machine to make carbon fiber prepreg tape more accessible (scroll down to see video). The machine can create up to 48 tapes at once at a speed of up to 50 m/min. It enables prepreg manufacturers to vertically integrate the slitting process into their production lines. For manufacturers, slitting in-house can reduce the cost and time of storing and transporting prepreg in climate-controlled conditions.

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