CW Blog

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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The challenge of identifying test procedures for recycled carbon fiber composites

 

The exponential increase in the global demand for carbon fiber products — and the waste associated with their consumption — raises a lot of sustainability issues. Carbon fiber has an embodied energy as high as that of aluminum, that is widely recycled, and the disposal of carbon fiber waste has a serious impact on the circular economy. As a result, recycling techniques such as hydrolysis, solvolysis and pyrolysis have been gaining momentum over the last couple of decades1. For example, the chain bed pyrolysis technique, employed by ELG Carbon Fibre Ltd. (Coseley, U.K.), has been set up at an industrial scale and was reclaiming more than 1,300 metric tonnes of CF per year, as of 20172,3.

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By: Dale Brosius 11/12/2019

Urban air mobility: The action heats up

Urban air mobility: The action heats up

I’m just back from CAMX, which was replete with exciting innovations, presentations and displays across the spectrum of composites. While at the show I took the pulse of the industry and caught up with hundreds of colleagues and acquaintances acquired over the years. One thing I really like about CAMX is that it goes well beyond the typical format for a trade show and technical conference. Beyond extras like tutorials and workforce development activities, there are numerous opportunities for special interest groups to congregate, and there are a number of side meetings covering specific topics.

A series of these meetings were organized by the American Composites Manufactuers Assn. (ACMA, Arlington, Va., U.S.) under the organization’s Composites Growth Initiative. These committees, largely consisting of industry participants and led by ACMA staff, delve in to ways to increase expansion of composites in markets like automotive, infrastructure, construction and corrosion resistance. Due to other obligations, I was only able to attend two meetings, one on automotive, and the second on a relatively new and exciting topic, urban air mobility (UAM). I had previously written about this topic in September 2018, asking whether there really is a market for flying cars and air taxis, and if a true business case can be made for them. To my surprise, more than 50 people attended the CAMX meeting, and it is clear there is great enthusiasm in the composites community for the potential of this yet-to-be-developed application.

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