CW Blog

In September Allite (Miamisburg, OH, US) launched its Super Magnesium alloy to a new market: the cycling industry. Originally developed in 2006 the material has been classified for defense and aerospace applications. Now the company is looking to open up the material to a whole new range of markets from sporting goods to electronics to aerospace — you name it.

Allite claims the material weighs “33% less than aluminum by volume, and stiffer and stronger pound for pound.” Meanwhile, it is less expensive than carbon fiber. The company seems to be gunning for a spot in between carbon fiber and aluminum in terms of lightweighting with three magnesium alloys: AE81, ZE62 and WE54.

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Architecture studio MVRDV (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) has completed construction on The Imprint, a two-building addition to an entertainment complex in Seoul, South Korea. The new buildings house a nightclub and an indoor amusement park.

The windowless abstract structures use glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels to mirror the façades of surrounding buildings, which are “imprinted” as a relief pattern that appears to drape over the buildings.

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Prepreg materials have been used for decades in sporting goods, aircraft and wind blades. As the composites industry has sought to reduce cost and increase production rates, it has replaced hand layup with automated methods. In commercial aircraft, gantry-based automated tape laying (ATL) and now robot-based automated fiber placement have become increasingly common. But the tapes that feed these machines are typically slit from large-width prepreg rolls. Indeed, as Jeff Sloan pointed out in the preview of his CW Talks podcast with Web Industries, Boeing and Airbus cannot make a single 787 or A350 XWB (respectively) without prepreg first being slit into tapes.

Now, fiber handling and converting specialist Cygnet Texkimp has launched a slitter-spooler machine to make carbon fiber prepreg tape more accessible (scroll down to see video). The machine can create up to 48 tapes at once at a speed of up to 50 m/min. It enables prepreg manufacturers to vertically integrate the slitting process into their production lines. For manufacturers, slitting in-house can reduce the cost and time of storing and transporting prepreg in climate-controlled conditions.

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On my third day on the job as digital editor for CompositesWorld, editor Jeff Sloan introduced me to Frank Roundy of Ability Composites in Loveland, CO, US. Frank was kind enough to give me a tour of his facility and share his insights into an industry that was completely new to me. At one point he handed me a rolled-up piece of material that looked kind of like the inside of a tape measure — or maybe a grey fruit roll-up. 

“What is it?” I asked turning the part over in my hand. 

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Currently, the most common recycling process used to recover carbon fiber from composite waste is pyrolysis, where high heat basically burns off the resin. Solvolysis, which uses a solvent to dissolve the resin, has long been claimed to offer superior properties. So far, commercialization of both pyrolysis and solvolysis has been through batch processes. But inline processing is finally in the works.

Shocker Composites (Wichita, KS, US) is a start-up out of Wichita State University (Wichita, KS, US) founded by Ph.D. student Vamsidhar Patlolla. He developed a method to recycle and reuse carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) test coupons during a research project on self-healing composites. “He came to us about 18 months ago, looking for sales channels for his recycled Aerospace grade fibers,” explains Stephen Rawson, a partner at R&M International (Fort Washington, PA, US), which specializes in the international import, export and trade of textiles, plastics and recycling materials. “The process uses solvolysis to dissolve the resin and then to completely remove it from the fiber. We were very interested because the recycled carbon fibers are not only very high quality, with the same properties as virgin aerospace grade fibers, but the process is profitable cost-wise.”

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