CW Blog

An SMC machinery provider adds automation

 

About the time that I started writing about the composites industry, I was introduced to the concept of SMC – sheet molding compound. SMC was already a well-established technology then, and that was about 20 years ago. The concept of cutting the glass roving over the moving resin film, flattened by the doctor bar, was explained to me by the principals of Finn & Fram (San Fernando, CA, US), including Dr. Jerry Fram. Many articles about SMC and its growth trajectory, including ever-improving quality and lower density, as well as machine improvements, have followed in CW ever since. So, I was intrigued this year at the JEC World in Paris to meet with a German company, Schmidt & Heinzmann (S&H, Bruchsal, Germany), a name that has turned up almost every time I tour a composites facility and see its equipment. It got its start in 1949 producing machinery for the plastics industry and started selling SMC and BMC equipment in 1973. It considers itself the leader in SMC technology, and is currently producing a wide variety of automated solutions for composites processing that go beyond just sheet molding compound production.

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If you are connected to the surface finishing industry through machining or manufacturing materials, then Cleveland is where you will want to be June 4-6 when the community gathers at the Sur/Fin Manufacturing and Technology Trade Show and Conference hosted by the National Association for Surface Finishing.

“With more than 80 technical presentation and over 180 experts in the industry on hand, Sur/Fin is the place to learn, meet and discover all the latest in technology and innovations,” says Matt Akin, chairperson of the Sur/Fin Conference.

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When you really think about it, tree limbs and bones don’t break as often as you might expect them to. Natural composite materials such as wood and bone are low in weight and density, yet are strong and sturdy. This is often due to complex and diverse arrangements of fibers within a system. While humans have fabricated increasingly complex composite materials throughout history, achieving the same kind of intricate microstructures and mechanical benefits as those found in nature is a challenge.

Researchers at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS, Cambridge, MA, US) have come up with a new 3D printing method inspired by natural composites. The idea was to achieve the best arrangement of short fibers at each location of the part being printed.

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I’ve reported on carbon fiber use in the marine industry for over a decade now. It’s one of those trends that is always “imminent”. However, when you look at new product announcements over the past few years, a trend does seem to be emerging.

All of these production boats use carbon fiber and resin infusion. The Scout and Hinckley models also use epoxy resin. Carbon fiber has made its way into production boats in the past, for example in Baja’s 30-ft Outlaw. But then the recession hit, and the marine market dropped by 80%.

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