CW Blog

By: Karen Mason 26. November 2018

The building of a composites manufacturing niche

Travel through the Charlotte, NC, US, metropolitan area, where Composite Resources is situated, and to this day you will find abandoned textile mills dotting the landscape. Economically, the 1970s and 1980s were unkind to this region, as textile manufacturers moved their operations to other parts of the world. As recently as 2010, local newspapers reported little change in the jobless rate — 15.7% in York County, SC, just south of Charlotte, compared to 9.5% nationwide.

But positive economic signs began emerging in York County during the past decade, and today you will find vibrant and growing industrial parks, home to numerous manufacturing success stories. Composite Resources counts itself among them. The revitalization of this region, the training of a new composites workforce, and interestingly, the locale’s passion for racecar driving, are intertwined with the founding and growth of Composite Resources and distinctively color the company’s corporate culture.

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British company Prodrive Composites (Milton Keynes, UK) is known for design and manufacture of advanced lightweight structural and non-structural composites for a wide range of applications across the automotive, motorsport, aerospace, marine, defense and other sectors. It is the first UK composites business certified to IATF 16949 (an international standard for quality management defining the requirements of a quality management system for organizations in the automotive industry) and is leading the development of some innovative manufacturing processes including the application of graphene into structural composites.

The company recently issued a press release about a process for manufacturing recyclable composite components that can satisfy future end-of-life requirements without any compromise in the performance of the original parts. Called P2T (Primary to Tertiary), the process not only simplifies recycling, but endows a composite material with the potential to fulfill three or more useful lifetimes. John McQuilliam, chief engineer, Prodrive Composites answered some questions that CW posed about the P2T process.

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CAMX 2018 had no shortage of eye candy for those amazed by sleek, lightweight vehicles. From Formula One cars to sports cars to bobsleds, there were plenty of fun composite applications on display. CW had the opportunity to interview members of the University of MI solar car team during the show. The project was sponsored by Teijin (Tokyo, Japan), which supplied carbon fiber and aramid materials for the vehicle. The car took second place in the American Solar Challenge and the team has its sites set on the World Solar Challenge in 2019.

 

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Composite Advantage (Dayton, OH, US) recently announced the completion of two new FRP bridge projects employing the company’s FiberSPAN FRP composite deck. The supplier has been developing lightweight, high-strength, cost-effective FRP products for structurally demanding applications and corrosive environments since 2005.

In October, Composite Advantage announced that a 143-year-old wrought iron bowstring arch-truss bridge in London, Ontario was given a new deck. In 2017, the City of London, Ontario launched a $7.9 million project to remove, dismantle and rehabilitate Blackfriars Bridge – Ontario’s oldest working crossing. Concrete combined with current traffic loads proved too heavy for the historic structure. London-based Dillon Consulting (London, Ontario, Canada) and the City of London selected Composite Advantage’s fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) FiberSPAN deck following research and study of the product’s performance on two Ottawa vehicle bridges. 

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CAMX 2018 offered tons of insights materials, processes, tools and innovations for the composites industry. CW was treated to an upclose peek at a tool used in creation of a part for the carbon fiber wing of Boeing’s (Chicago, IL, US) 777X airliner. Cincinnati Inc.’s (Harrison, OH, US) additive manufacturing product and sales manager Rick Neff was kind enough to spend some time walking us through the company’s additively manufactured trim tool that it created for Boeing – a tool that happens to hold the record for the world’s largest 3D printed tool. In this video, Neff explains the creation of the tool and also how Boeing uses it for laying up the carbon fiber wing tip for the 777X airplane.

 

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