CW Blog

By: Dale Brosius 8/5/2019

Merger mania, part II?

In June, aerospace and defense giants Raytheon (Waltham, Mass., U.S.) and United Technologies (UTC; Farmington, Conn, U.S.) announced they will merge by mid-2020 to form a single entity named Raytheon Technologies. If it goes forward, it will be one of the largest aerospace/defense mergers in history with pro forma revenues of $74 billion. Coincident with the merger, United Technologies will spin off or divest its Otis Elevator and Carrier (heating and air conditioning) subsidiaries, actions that were already planned for mid-2020 following the company’s acquisition of Rockwell Collins in 2018, after ´╗┐Rockwell Collins' acquisition of aircraft interiors supplier B/E Aerospace in 2017. UTC combined Rockwell Collins with UT Aerospace Systems (which was a combination of Hamilton Sundstrand and Goodrich Aerospace) to form Collins Aerospace. UTC will also bring Collins Aerospace and subsidiary Pratt and Whitney (jet engines) to the merger with Raytheon.

Are you lost yet? With so many moving pieces, it’s difficult to keep track. Over the last several years, there have been a number of mergers and acquisitions in the aerospace and defense arena. UTC sold off its Sikorsky Helicopters business to Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, Texas, U.S.) in 2015. Boeing (Chicago, Ill., U.S.) acquired Aurora Flight Sciences in 2017. There was the merger of Alliant Techsystems (ATK) with Orbital Sciences in 2014, followed by Northrop Grumman’s (Falls Church, Va., U.S.) acquisition of Orbital ATK in 2018. And we may not be done yet.

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High-speed, high-rate thermoplastic composites manufacturing

 

A new high-speed system for producing consolidated laminates from thermoplastic composite tapes, the Digital Composites Manufacturing Line (DCML) promises to be able to produce as many as four laminates (with up to 15 plies each) per minute and 1.5 million laminates per year from a single production line — including full inspection, which is 100% digital, including measurements and data tracking — of incoming material and outgoing laminates. That production rate is, apparently, significantly faster than any other commercial tape handling system available — for thermoplastics or thermosets — and this system has been specifically designed to meet the high output and effective conversion costs required by the consumer electronics industry (see “Consumer electronics: hybrid composite covers”). Fortunately, parts for this market aren’t huge — not on the scale of aerospace or automotive — but OEMs do need lots of them, on the order of tens of millions per year.

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Consumer electronics is a dynamic market with quite short cycle times between product generations. From their smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and notebooks/laptops, consumers want faster operating speeds, longer-lasting batteries, greater durability and more features at lower cost and weight. To meet consumer demand, OEMs ask suppliers for materials with high aesthetics and design freedom, excellent impact resistance and high stiffness — which connotes quality in this market — at low weight and thin wall sections. They also want cost-effective, highly repeatable processing methods that meet global production demand in the tens-of-millions of units annually. These pressures have pushed the market first to lightweight metals for covers/cases and frames, and now is driving it toward metal/composite and fully composite solutions.

A feasibility study conducted by SABIC (Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands) involved use of two types of thermoplastic composites to produce a 1-millimeter-thick notebook-computer/tablet cover. The study showed the hybrid thermoplastic composite design could be a viable solution for the challenging consumer electronics market.

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By: Amanda Jacob 7/31/2019

Highlights: Composites Convention 2019

Highlights: Composites Convention 2019

If the composites industry is to continue to grow and improve its competitiveness, it must exploit the opportunities that digitization and automation bring. Two recent aerospace-focused conferences in Germany looked at what the future of composites manufacturing could hold.

Future Factory for Composites was the theme for this year’s Composites Convention in Stade, Germany, held June 12-13. Jointly organized by CFK Valley e.V. (Stade, Germany) and Carbon Composites e.V. (Augsburg, Germany), the event attracted a record attendance of nearly 450 people. A strong U.S. presence resulted from a collaboration with the Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI, Kaysville, Utah, U.S.) as partner network and the United States as partner country.

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Injection-forming for high-performance, unitized thermoplastic structures

Current projections call for a doubling of the commercial aircraft fleet over the next 20 years. To accommodate this, production rates in 2019 for composites-intensive widebody jetliners vary from 10 to 14 per month per OEM, while narrowbodies have already ramped to 60 per month per OEM. Airbus specifically is working with suppliers to switch traditional yet time-intensive, hand layup prepreg parts on the A320 to parts made via faster, 20-minute cycle time processes such as high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM), thus helping part suppliers meet a further push toward 100 aircraft per month. Meanwhile, the emerging urban air mobility and transport market is forecasting a need for 3,000 electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) aircraft per year (250 per month).

“The industry requires automated production technologies with shortened cycle times that also allow for integrating functions, which are offered by thermoplastic composites,” says Daniel Barfuss, co-founder and managing partner of herone (Dresden, Germany), a composites technology and parts manufacturing firm that uses high-performance thermoplastic matrix materials from polyphenylenesulfide (PPS) to polyetheretherketone (PEEK), polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) and polyaryletherketone (PAEK). “Our main objective is to combine the high performance of thermoplastic composites (TPCs) with lower cost, to enable tailored parts for a wider variety of serial manufacturing applications and new applications,” adds Dr. Christian Garthaus, herone’s second co-founder and managing partner.

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