CW Blog

With an improved thermal efficiency of up to 28% and 10% less overall weight compared to conventional truck body wall materials, the all-composite Cold Chain refrigerated truck body series, designed and built by Wabash National Corp. (Lafayette, Ind., U.S.), has now been on the market a little more than three years. Wabash introduced the new line with a series of 14- to 26-foot trucks — often called box or straight trucks — made from molded structural composite (MSC) panels mounted directly on the chassis. According to Robert Lane, vice president of engineering for commercial trailer products, Wabash has built more than 100 of these MSC trucks, and they are now produced at its 500,000-square-foot facility in Little Falls, Minn., U.S., which the company purchased from a boatbuilder in 2017. The plant is dedicated solely to the manufacture of the Cold Chain MSC panels, as well as the final assembly of the panels into truck and trailer units.

In 2018, Wabash also began manufacturing a 53-foot refrigerated trailer, also called a “reefer.” It has sold a little more than 100 of these as well. The trailer incorporates an MSC nose, sidewalls and roof, as well as a hybrid metal-composite flooring system with a 24,000-pound dynamic load rating. Rather than doing a general commercial launch of the new trailer, the company elected to run a smaller, controlled launch and supply the trailer to three customers in the logistics industry, as well as a distributor, who in turn agreed to participate in the product rollout, says Lane.

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Wind tunnel testing is a longstanding technique used by aerodynamicists to directly measure forces, moments and pressures — and to visualize air flows — of aircraft designs. Typically, small-scale models of the proposed designs are built for the tunnel test. However, producing scale models can be laborious, as aerospace companies can attest. Leonardo SpA (Rome, Italy, formerly known as Finmeccanica) had in the past made models from wood and metals, and later, traditional composites, which took considerable time and effort, particularly when engineers wanted to make changes to the design during the tunnel testing process.

Leonardo’s helicopter division (formerly known as AgustaWestland) needed a 1:8.5 scale model of its new AW609 tiltrotor aircraft for a series of dedicated low-speed tests at standard flight attitudes, to be performed at the company’s own wind tunnel as well as at a facility at the Politecnical di Milano. Further, engineers wanted the freedom to quickly change the model’s external geometries to understand its aerodynamics. To accomplish this, Leonardo turned to Metaltech Srl (Cavazzale di Monticello Conte Otto, Italy) and trademarked Windform 3D printing materials from CRP Technology (Modena, Italy).

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Tooling is one of the most rapidly evolving segments of composites manufacturing across industries, as materials suppliers, service providers, toolbuilders and manufacturers develop, adopt and adapt to new technologies and processes to cut costs and speed deliveries. A few of the new technologies reshaping composites tooling design are 3D printing, out-of-autoclave infusion and the rise of thermoplastic composites for automotive and aerospace applications.

Thermwood Corp. (Dale, Ind., U.S.), a manufacturer of CNC machinery and large-scale additive manufacturing (LSAM) technology, recently introduced a higher-capacity LSAM print head with an output of up to 570 lb./hr. of composite material. The principle component of the higher capacity unit is a 60-millimeter melt core, which is interchangeable with the standard 40-millimeter print head melt core with a maximum output of 210 lb./hr. The higher capacity print head can print up to 100 feet of bead per minute, compared to about 50 ft./min. with the standard head.

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The SAMPE 2019 conference and exhibition, produced by the North America Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE, Diamond Bar, Calif., U.S.) kicked off in Charlotte, N.C., U.S. with a keynote from Dr. Greg Hyslop, chief technology officer for the Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill., U.S.). Hyslop briefly addressed the challenges Boeing is currently facing in the wake of the two fatal crashes and subsequent grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft. While Hyslop was unable to comment on the ongoing investigation, he assured the packed room that teams at Boeing are “working tirelessly” with the FAA to certify updated software that the company claims will correct the problem.

The keynote quickly shifted to a look at the future of advanced materials and highlighted the importance of collaboration and the willingness to share information and ideas.

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