CW Blog

FRP, pultrusion enable mobile Antarctic habitat module

 

Fibreglass Developments Ltd. (Feilding, New Zealand) has manufactured a composite living module for Scott Base, New Zealand’s Antarctic research station. The company was contracted to build the first mobile habitat in a new more durable construction design that is being trialed by Antarctica New Zealand. The self-contained living unit is designed to withstand the extreme environment, which can experience conditions of 200 kilometers per hour winds and 60°C temperatures. Strength, rigidity and insulation were all taken into consideration for the design.

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Injection overmolding of unidirectional fibers and preforms is an attractive process for many good reasons. It’s fast, consistent and repeatable, and it can be performed with a machine that is relatively easy to acquire, program and control. Injection molding’s disadvantage, however, is it requires tooling that is typically very expensive — certainly more expensive than tools for compression molding. Further, overmolding requires that the composite be encapsulated within the tool, and if it’s a larger part, that means larger tooling. Add it all up and the cost of composites overmolding can exceed its benefits.

Robert Davies, CEO of Fibrtec (Atlanta, Texas, U.S.), has developed an interesting solution to this particular overmolding dilemma. His system uses a hybrid injection/compression overmolding process of his own design to combine smaller injection molded parts or inserts within a larger compression molded part. In essence, the approach flips the script on the overmolding strategy. Rather than injection mold around a composite preform, Davies’ solution involves compression molding around an injection molded part.

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Composites training firm lends a hand with Mars rover

 

Of all the exciting applications that CW gets to report on, space applications are some of the ones that are especially quick to capture my imagination. Whenever a space story crosses my desk I jump at the chance to cover it, so I can only imagine how excited Wilson Boynton, founder and president of Advanced Composites Training (ACT, London, Ontario, Canada) was to be invited to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, Pasadena, Calif., U.S.) to help train engineers in the use of composite materials for construction of the Mars 2020 rover.

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Technical University of Munich researchers explore using algae to make carbon fiber

 

Technical University of Munich (TUM, Munich, Germany) researchers have been working to develop a process that uses halophilic algae, algae that thrive in high salt concentrations, to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and subsequently to make carbon fiber.

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The real future of composites

When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut— or at least I thought I did. I went to Space Camp and everything. But turns out, I’m kinda scared of heights. So I ended up doing other things and eventually became a writer/editor. And, don’t get me wrong — I love it. I love learning about what other people do and the exciting things that people in the composites industry make and make possible.

But sometimes when I’m researching a story for CW and learn about all the amazing engineering and rewarding work that goes into making something — a heat shield for a spacecraft, for example — I wonder what twists and turns my career path might have taken if someone had really impressed upon me as a kid that I didn’t have to be an astronaut to be part of space exploration. What if someone had taken time to take me on a tour of a production facility and showed me how I could be involved in the really important work that enables those space missions? They probably did some of that at Space Camp, but at the time I was pretty wrapped up my astronaut phase — but that’s not really my point. It’s important to remind kids we know of these opportunities whenever possible.

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