CW Blog

Overmolded hybrid parts open new composites markets

Often in the aerospace market, an OEM is willing to pay more for a composite component, knowing that the investment will return dividends in fuel savings due to the component’s light weight, a longer life due to less wear and tear, or other reductions in operational and maintenance costs. This “product lifecycle” view has opened many markets and applications to composites. More unusual is a composite component for which the acquisition cost itself is less than that of the metal version. But this is changing. Some new automated composites fabrication processes are starting to tip the scale in favor of composites, and among these is a hybrid overmolding process developed by TxV Aero Composites (Bristol, R.I., U.S.).

A joint venture of Tri-Mack Plastics Manufacturing (Bristol, R.I., U.S.) and Victrex (Thornton Cleveleys, U.K.), TxV has advanced its hybrid overmolding technique to the point of commercial production status. The company has partnered with SFS intec Aircraft Components (Althengstett, Germany) to redesign and commercially produce an aircraft storage bin bracket previously made from aerospace-grade aluminum. A success story of its own, the bracket also demonstrates the potential of hybrid overmolding and VICTREX AE 250 unidirectional carbon fiber/polyaryletherketone (PAEK) tape for valuable weight and cost savings in numerous aerospace applications — advantages achieved by replacing a subtractive metal machining process with a composites process in which material is added, not subtracted.

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The R&D we don't see

​​​We have a dog. His name is Leo, and he’s a Golden Retriever. Actually, Leo is our son’s dog, but our son is away at college, so Leo is on loan with us for a few years. Most days Leo gets two walks, during which I listen to podcasts and recorded books. One of my go-to podcasts is Freakonomics, hosted by Stephen Dubner. 

In an early December 2019 episode of Freakonomics, Dubner explores the hidden innovation economy. Dubner argues that although large firms, universities and government institutions get much (deserved) credit for the products and technologies that emerge from their research and development (R&D) work, there is another group that also innovates, but does so with little or no recognition. This group, called household innovators, is composed of garage inventors, tinkerers and problem-solvers whose homemade creations and solutions go largely unnoticed.

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By: Karen Mason 12/12/2019

Recycled carbon fiber on the rails

A large market for composite structural components may be opening up within a decade, and recycled carbon fiber may be the key. At least, this seems to be the promise proffered by the recent completion of a prototype rail bogie by a United Kingdom industrial-academic consortium. Bogies are the four- or six-wheel trucks that support rail vehicles and provide traction and braking. Usually each rail vehicle has two bogies, one near either end. Funded by the U.K.’s RSSB (Rail Safety Standards Board), the composite bogie prototype represents the culmination of a three-year effort, which has included conceptual and design work, materials testing and qualification, manufacturing engineering and fabrication of the bogie and assembly with standard fittings. The bogie, which is made primarily with recycled carbon fiber composites but is supplemented with virgin carbon fiber composites in places requiring additional strength or stiffness, was the subject of two presentations at the “Unlocking Innovation Scheme — Composites in Rail” event in June 2019, and was unveiled during a subsequent “Unlocking Innovation” event in Dec. 2019.


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Ford to turn McDonald's coffee waste into sustainable autocomposites


In efforts toward sustainability, some people compost the waste from their morning coffee grounds. McDonald’s, on the other hand, is turning its coffee waste into automotive composites. Announced on Dec. 4, Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, Mich., U.S.) has teamed up with fast-food chain giant McDonald’s USA (Chicago, Ill., U.S.) to turn coffee chaff — the dried skin of the coffee bean that peels off naturally during roasting — into commercial vehicle parts such as headlamp housings.

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