CW Blog

Happy New Year!

It’s early January and a time to reflect upon the past year while looking ahead to 2019. As we look back, here’s a list of the most viewed articles on the CompositesWorld website in 2018. 

Read More

Editor’s note: CompositesWorld senior editor Sara Black, the magazine’s longest tenured employee, is retiring at the end of February. I asked Sara, as she says good bye, to reflect on her two decades of working in and writing about the composites industry. Below are Sara’s parting words. She will be missed. — Jeff Sloan, editor-in-chief

Well, I’ve come to the end of the road here at CompositesWorld, and will be officially retired next month — although you might see my byline now and again as a contributing writer. How did nearly 20 years come and go so quickly? I got this job through a newspaper ad in the summer of 1999 and was lucky enough to figure out what “the glue and the string” meant, at least for simple applications. Eventually I was able to cobble words together in the magazine’s style. I had never interviewed anyone before, so that took some courage to do, and to learn. An early lesson: Shut up and listen and use a small pocket tape recorder, then transcribe the tape.  

Read More

In a lot of industries, the aphorism “garbage in, garbage out” is a reliable maxim. If your inputs are of poor quality or little value, your final products will probably be as well. However, the automotive industry is turning that adage on its head by repurposing waste materials normally considered to have no use into functional, beautiful and valuable automotive parts for vehicles already on the road. In doing so, automotive companies are keeping materials out of landfills and waterways, providing jobs in distressed communities and giving farmers another income stream, all while reducing part weight and cost, stabilizing long-term material prices, and greening their vehicles. This is a good example of another saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

A lot of these repurposed waste materials are the agricultural by-products of food production. They’re generally the outer wrappings of crop plants, such as tomato skins from ketchup production or agave fiber from tequila production. These inedible wrappings (often from seeds) are the parts of plants that either will not compost or will not compost easily, and that have little or no utility as animal bedding. Their lack of utility causes these wrappings to accumulate in waste piles where they can prove a nuisance or, if ignored long enough, become a health and safety challenge. However, these fibrous outer wrappings are proving to be useful as natural fiber reinforcements for a variety of composites.

Read More

Any educational institution that has developed a specialized area of study — engineering, history, art, medicine — likely can trace its genesis back to a person who supplied a great deal of personal dedication and passion to help bring that specialization to life. More often than not, that person is an educator, and someone who sustained that dedication over many years, in the process drawing the students and acolytes who built the critical mass necessary to make the program self-sustaining.

The composites industry, which is itself relatively young, has had only a little time to develop such specialization at colleges and universities. Still, throughout the world, there is now a healthy handful of strong composites engineering programs that are turning students into composites manufacturing professionals.

Read More

Vabo Composites (Emmeloord, The Netherlands) designs and builds a diverse array of composite structures. The company began in 2001 with several small marine projects, as well as antennas for mobile television broadcast systems, carbon fiber-reinforced manipulator doors and valves for fast-moving palletizing machines and a glass fiber-reinforced front-loader bucket, for which it won a 2015 JEC Innovation Award. The company has also become adept at architectural and building projects and continues to advance its industrial production of ACCEDOO composite ship doors (read VABO Composites: Dutch innovator excels in diverse applications”) which won a 2017 JEC Innovation Award.

Vabo Composites has also become well known for its expertise as a fabricator of large radar masts for yachts, which house navigation electronics and circuitry as well as exhaust systems from the engines. It has recently completed a 10-by-10-by-10m glass fiber/vinyl ester mast for a 156m-long megayacht, as well as a 10m-tall mast with a 10-by-14m canopy beneath, both made from carbon fiber/epoxy, for a 90m yacht. Normally built from aluminum, these composite masts provide unparalleled structural performance, resist corrosion, help lower the center of gravity on the yacht and, of course, save weight — the first mast, made using glass fiber, achieved a 30% mass reduction and the second, made with carbon fiber, increased mass savings to 50%. “The average weight for this lighter carbon composite structure is 10 kg/m2 while the canopy is supported at only four points,” says Vabo Composites director Arnold Vaandrager. “Aluminum was not an option because of the lightweight and structural performance required.”

Read More