CW Blog

Arcitell (Sugarcreek, Ohio, U.S.), a manufacturer of residential siding products, revealed its innovative alternative to traditional building claddings at the recent 2019 edition of the International Builders Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, Nev., U.S., held Feb. 19-21. Qorad, a lightweight fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) panel that authentically replicates traditional brick, stone or wood siding, is designed to simplify the building process and, given its panelized format, provide an answer to the construction industry’s ongoing labor concerns. Qora will be available in the southeastern U.S. and Texas.

“Qora was born from the belief that Arcitell could produce a cladding product without trade-offs — and our persistence to not stop until that material existed. By creating this joint effort between Canton, Ohio-based Belcap Inc., a member of the Belden family of holdings, and Dublin, Ireland-based Acell Industries, we plan to do just that,” says Jeff Adams, president and CEO.

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SABIC (Sittard, Netherlands) at JEC World 2019 offered a virtual reality-based peek at its new Digital Composites Manufacturing line — a solution for automated, large scale laminate production of thermoplastic composite parts that the company developed in partnership with Airborne (The Hague, Netherlands) and powered by Siemens (Munich, Germany) and Kuka (Augsburg, Germany) technologies.

The display, which was called “Innovations of Scale,” offered a look at aspects of the manufacturing line which is designed for large-scale manufacturing of custom-made, thermoplastic composite laminates. The line uses digital technologies including robotics to enable customization of flat laminates while reducing cycle times and cost. The system is reportedly capable of producing four laminates every 60 seconds — 1.5 million parts per year. 

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A research program in the U.K. is attempting to achieve a fundamental step-change in the composites industry. The High Performance Discontinuous Fibre project (HiPerDiF), which began in December 2017 and runs through 2020, is a program funded by the U.K.’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It is exploring an alternate way to produce high-performance carbon fiber composites: start with discontinuous, rather than continuous fibers. The program, led by Professor Ian Hamerton of the Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS) at the University of Bristol, has an impressive roster of project partners, including Airbus, Toyota, BAE Systems, ELG Carbon Fibre Ltd., Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd. and several composite material suppliers including Solvay and Hexcel.

The HiPerDiF researchers argue that simplifying and automating manufacturing processes will increase composite part production volumes. And, if greater production volumes means using more carbon fiber, recycling processes are key to recovering and reusing the fiber. In other words, the goal is to develop a high-volume method that can readily, as the group says, “remanufacture” recycled short fibers and produce parts with mechanical properties comparable to continuous fibers, with those parts in turn (if coupled with a thermoplastic matrix) able to be recycled several times.

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HexMC from Hexcel (Stamford, Conn., U.S.), developed more than a decade ago, is a high-performance molding material that comprises chopped, randomly-oriented high-strength carbon fiber prepreg “chips” assembled into a mat-like material. The industrial version, trademarked HexMC-i 2000, is made with snap-curing HexPly M77 resin in a 2,000-gsm format for compression molding. According to the company, HexMC-i 2000 can produce complex 3D geometries and parts with varying thicknesses and is intended to bridge the price/performance gap between lower-cost sheet molding compound (SMC) and pricier, high-performance autoclave prepreg.

Hexcel’s automotive business unit was looking for a project that could demonstrate HexMC-i 2000’s performance, says Achim Fischereder, Hexcel’s director of sales and marketing for automotive. With a history of previous joint projects with Audi (Ingolstadt, Germany), Hexcel’s automotive business unit approached the OEM’s composites development team in early 2016 with the aim of qualifying the material into a production-ready manufacturing process. Audi was already evaluating carbon fiber SMC materials at the time and decided to assess HexMC-i 2000 as well. For the project, Audi selected the R8 engine bay brace, a cross-shaped component that braces the R8’s mid-mounted V10 engine, providing torsional stiffness to enhance driving dynamics. The project’s aim was to produce a lighter composite version of the existing aluminum part, with a more aesthetic molded shape.

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One of the finalists for the JEC 2019 Innovation Awards was Refitech (Waalwijk, the Netherlands), who specializes in engineering and producing industrial composite components for a variety of markets including industrial automation, UAV systems, medical equipment and marine systems. The company’s entry in the Innovation Awards’ Sports & Heathcare category was for a carbon-fiber guide dog handle that it produced for the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF).

According to Bas Nijpels, sales engineer for Refitech, the lightweight system replaces a guide dog handle constructed of metal tubing, offering a solution that weighs more than 50% less than the previous version. The solution offers more comfort to the guide dog as well as the owner. The lightweight handle stays in position above the dog’s back and easy to find for the owner. In addition, the new guide dog harness offers improved performance due to an improved fit of the harness. This allows for improved communication and coordination between the dog and the owner. The owner can better feel the movement of the dog and the dog can better sense signals from the owner.

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