CW Blog

Live from 2017 Carbon Fiber conference

CompositesWorld’s annual Carbon Fiber conference, held this year in Charleston, SC (Nov 28-30), began with a tour of Boeing South Carolina’s composites manufacturing and final assembly facility for the 787 Dreamliner. The site builds all three versions of the 787 — the 787-8, 787-9 and the newest 787-10, which is also the longest, measuring 68.3 m (224 ft) in length vs. 62.8 m (206 ft) and 56.7 m (186 ft) for the 787-9 and 787-8, respectively. Though assembly of the first two versions is completed at both the Everett, WA and SC facilities, only Boeing South Carolina assembles the 787-10. The production rate of all versions is currently 12 aircraft/month but will increase to 14/mo by 2019.

Boeing is a co-sponsor of the Carbon Fiber 2017 conference, and event Co-chair Karin Anderson, senior lead engineer with Boeing, helped to arrange a perfectly tailored tour for this composites-focused group. Accompanied by multiple engineers and production managers, the tour led CF2017 attendees through both the Final Assembly and Aft Body buildings. Watching industrialized carbon fiber composite fabrication in the latter, from automated layup of stringers to placement of these into mandrel sections, assembly of the sections into full barrel mandrels and then layup of fuselage skins onto these mandrels by automated fiber placement (AFP) machines was truly amazing. After the barrels are cured in one of the facility’s two large autoclaves, composite and aluminum frames are installed and sections 47 and 48 including installation of the rear pressure bulkhead. This subassembly as well as sections 41, 43, 11, 44, 46 and the wings and then joined in the Final Assembly building.

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Automated manufacturing solutions from Airborne

When you receive the December issue of CompositesWorld magazine, you’ll see a Feature article on Industry 4.0, which looks at where the composites industry currently stands in relation to automated design and production. Because this topic is broad and growing, there just wasn’t enough room on the printed pages to include many of the innovations and companies involved. But I had the chance recently to interview Marcus Kremers, chief technology officer of Airborne (The Hague, Netherlands), who told me about his company’s growing smart automation initiatives for its customers.

If you don’t know Airborne, it is a composites part producer with about 120 employees focused primarily on space, aeronautics, maritime and the automotive industries. The maritime market sector (tidal turbine blades, ship propellers and other subsea composites) comes under the purview of Airborne Maritime (AEL in the UK), and a separate company, Airborne Oil and Gas (IJmuiden, Netherlands, Houston, TX, US and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), manufactures thermoplastic composite spoolable pipes for the oil and gas industry. The company is transforming itself into an automated solutions provider, using its more than 20 years of experience in advanced composite manufacturing.

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Australian research group launches carbon fiber manufacturing

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO, Canberra, Australia) says its scientists have produced Australia’s first entirely home grown carbon fiber, paving the way for Australian industry to mass-produce the material.

Australia’s first carbon fiber was produced using polyacrylonitrile fiber, spun on the joint CSIRO/Deakin University wet spinning line, then carbonized at Deakin’s Carbon Nexus facility.

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Ultrathin sandwich panels come to market

North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT, Renens, Switzerland), a lightweight prepreg materials specialist, has recently begun an collaboration with 4a manufacturing (Traboch, Austrial), a specialist in thin foams and micro sandwich materials for acoustic and lightweighting applications.

For more than 10 years, 4a manufacturing has produced tight-tolerance hard foam sheets — under the MILLIFOAM brand — as thin as 0.2 mm, and combining them with metal skins to form ultra-thin CIMERA sandwich materials. These materials are used to increase stiffness with no added weight, or to maintain stiffness while reducing weight and saving material across a diverse range of markets from micro-speakers in consumer electronics to ultra-light sports equipment.

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SolAero-powered wings progressing

SolAero Technologies Corp. (Albuquerque, NM, US) says it has successfully completed ground testing of the integrated solar wings on Bye Aerospace's (Englewood, CO, US) medium-altitude, long-endurance solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called StratoAirNet.

SolAero successfully integrated lightweight, flexible solar modules incorporating their state-of-the-art, high efficiency solar cell technology onto the wing structure, manufactured by Bye, while minimizing add-on mass and preserving the critical laminar flow surface of the wing.

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