CW Blog

In its seventh year of growth, the marine industry is surging in boat production and new models. This could be seen in the 28th International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference (IBEX, Oct. 2-4, Tampa, FL, US), which posted a 23% increase in attendees to reach 4,300 and a 14% increase in exhibitors, totaling 700 different companies. Four International Pavilions — Australia, France, Italy and South Korea — were part of a growing global  presence, with 55 countries represented this year.

The heart of IBEX, its Education Conference, also saw growth this year, with seminar sales up 27%. For me, notable topics were 3D printed composite production tooling and thermoplastic composites. Highlights and composites-focused offerings included:

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I’m back in the office after a week in Dallas at CAMX 2018. Having joined the CW team in February, this was my first CAMX so I went to the show expecting to be blown away and I have to say, the show delivered. 

Composites is a complicated industry and trying to learn about all of the different materials and processes and technologies has been, to use a cliche, very much of a drink from the fire hose. So I went to CAMX hoping to connect some of the dots for a few things I’ve seen at other industry events I’ve attended over the past 6 months. I’m happy to report that I did have a few eye opening moments, but also some unexpected moments of inspiration that seriously raised goosebumps.

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Whether you are aware of this company, or not, Advanced Composite Products & Technology Inc. (ACPT, Huntington Beach, CA, US) says it thrives on providing innovative and cost-efficient composite solutions to some of the most difficult and demanding real world applications. Founded in 1977 by Dr. James C. Leslie and his son, James Leslie II, the company is involved in design, development and manufacturing of advanced composite applications for research, commercial, government, and private institutions, with an emphasis on filament winding. The market sectors that ACPT serves include space, aviation, defense, motorsports, marine, converting, heavy industry and drilling.  

ACPT is located within what might be called the Huntington Beach composites cluster, in close proximity to at least six other composites companies. Like its neighbors, ACPT offers a wide range of in-house capabilities. It has a number of 4-axis CNC filament winders, the largest having a length of 11.1m or 36.2 ft, electronically-controlled tensioners and numerous curing ovens. Lamination-related equipment includes a clean room, vacuum mixer, bladder and trapped molding equipment, and a finishing area and paint booth. Ovens and autoclaves are on premises, as are hydraulic presses for compression molding and press-forming. A fully-staffed machine shop allows for grinding, drilling, milling and all other required finishing operations. The company conforms to its quality assurance management system and has been audited according to the requirements of AS 9100.

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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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