CW Blog

The Composites Index closed July at 47.4, ending a 31-month expansion that first started in late 2016. The duration of the expansion was the longest on record, dwarfing the last recorded expansion on record of 10 months set in 2014. The latest Index reading is 17.4% lower compared to the same month one year ago, and 10.6% lower from just the previous month. Index readings above 50 indicate expanding activity, while values below 50 indicate contracting activity. The further away a reading is from 50, the greater the change in activity. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying data revealed that the Index experienced a steep contraction in both production and new orders. The Index — calculated as an average of its components — was pulled lower further by the ongoing weakness in exports. Contracting new orders and production data pressured backlog activity, which reported the lowest reading in July among all components.

Surprise declines in new orders and production activity have occurred in the past, and each time the Index was able to quickly recover. Since late 2011, there have only been two periods of sustained contraction, both of which lasted for approximately six months before the Index resumed expanding.

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By: Dale Brosius 8/22/2019

The impact of Apollo 11

The impact of Apollo 11

It’s July 20 as I start this column, exactly fifty years since Apollo 11 became the first space mission to land Earthlings on the moon. After the landing, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent a few hours collecting dust and rocks from the lunar surface before catching a bit of sleep and departing to rendezvous with Michael Collins in the command module orbiting above. The trio successfully splashed down in the ocean three days later, completing the first manned mission to the moon, which had been promised by President John F. Kennedy eight years earlier in 1961.

The night of the landing, I was one month shy of my 11th birthday. Right after Armstrong took his first steps on the surface, my younger brother and I ran outside, looked into the sky and both claimed we could “see the astronauts on the moon!” Of course, we couldn’t, but as sibling rivalries go, neither of us would be willing to admit that! We lived in a Houston suburb, only 15 miles from NASA Mission Control, and without a doubt the Apollo program, especially Apollo 11, inspired my already engineering-inclined mind to pursue a career based in science.

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Increasing access to AFP

 

“Our goal is to reduce the barriers to composites manufacturing,” says Addcomposites CEO Pravin Luthada. Addcomposites has developed an automated fiber placement (AFP) tool that mounts onto any existing robot arm.

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Elevated Materials (Gardena, Calif., U.S.) takes a bit of an unconventional approach to recycling carbon fiber. While studying aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California (USC, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.), company founder and CEO Ryan Olliges saw the amount of unused carbon fiber being sent to the landfill. With the help of USC assistant professor Greg Autry, he launched 121C Inc. (learn more about 121C Inc. in “Compression molding: New Materials and Markets”) and and built a heated press to create carbon fiber skateboards. Once the fledgling company realized just how much carbon fiber scrap existed, it saw a larger opportunity to do more than just make skateboards. Olliges says the ultimate goal wasn’t just to be a skateboard company, but to save the valuable material from the landfill and use it to do something good for the earth.

“Between 20 and 40% of material is thrown away from the production line,” says Olliges, speaking of the commercial aerospace and space flight industries. “And that’s still good, unused material.” 

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As composites technology develops, so too should our understanding of what composites can be and what they can offer.

This blog originated from a press release that I received from IntegriCo Composites (Sarepta, La., U.S.), which manufactures composite railway crossties and construction mats. In looking at their press release and website, both of which focused on recycling and transforming plastic waste into sustainable, improved-performance end-products, I realized this was a 100% plastic technology. So, I wrote back and said, “your definition of composite does not match ours.” But I was wrong.

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