CW Blog

Hexcel (Stamford, Conn., U.S.) held its annual press conference at JEC World 2019 and reported promising numbers. The company had 2018 sales of $2.2 billion, with 48 percent of that coming from the U.S., 48 percent from Europe and 4 percent from other regions. The company enjoyed 10 percent growth in 2018 and expects similar in 2019. In aerospace, the Airbus A350 and Airbus A320 neo are the most important aircraft programs on the company’s books, with the former consuming $4.8 million in Hexcel materials per shipset, and the latter consuming $450,000 in Hexcel materials per shipset. In the last 18 months Hexcel opened its new engineered core plant in Casablanca, Morocco, and a new $250 million polyacrylonitrile (PAN)/carbon fiber plant in Roussilon, France. Early this year Hexcel will open an R&T center in Les Avenieres, France, that will work on out-of-autoclave (OOA) technologies. This includes a joint effort with resin supplier Arkema to develop carbon fiber/PEKK tapes for next-generation aircraft programs.

The largest composite structure at JEC World 2019 was an A380 empennage structure developed by Hexcel with FIDAMC (Getafe, Madrid, Spain) and MTorres (Torres de Elorz, Navarra, Spain) and intended to demonstrate the large-structure, high-rate capability of current AFP/ATL technology in commercial aerostructures (see photo). The MTorres machine used to fabricate the part, says Hexcel, has a laydown rate of 100-150 kilograms/hour and can place tapes up to 2 inches wide, enabling efficiencies heretofore not seen in aerospace manufacturing. Notable on the Hexcel stand was an integrated wing panel demonstrator (see photo), made with HiMax AS7 non-crimp fabric and infused with HexFlow RTM6 resin.

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Hexion (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.) emphasized several technologies, starting in automotive where the company is still seeing resistance to composites use, driven primarily by cost concerns. To address this, Hexion counsels use of existing automotive manufacturing equipment (presses) as much as possible. To that end, the company introduced version two of its epoxy sheet molding compound (version one was introduced at JEC World 2018), which is compatible with existing automotive compression machines. It features a higher Tg and increased/better viscosity properties. Also new is a phenolic SMC designed specifically for heat and fire resistance in battery enclosures for electric vehicles (EV). It offers low free-form formaldehyde levels and has passed the bonfire test critical to enclosure use. Hexion’s Francis Defoor, global market segment leader transportation, says the company see much EV use being driven aggressively by China. Further, he says EV OEMs seem generally more receptive to use of composites, particularly in parts and applications (like battery enclosures, see photo) that do not have a history of legacy materials use.

Also for automotive, Hexion has partnered with Votteler and KraussMaffei to develop an in-mold coating process for resin transfer molding (RTM) or liquid compression molding processes that provides a Class A surface on the finished part.

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Kordsa (Istanbul, Turkey) has, in a just a few short years, transformed itself into a major supplier in the composites supply chain, and at JEC World 2019 it occupied a large, highly visible stand. Kordsa CEO Ali Caliskan sat down with CW and outlined his company’s goals. First, however, Caliskan noted that Kordsa is part of a larger organization that has a long history in the tire reinforcements business. In 2014, in an effort to diversify, the company expanded into composites, focusing on the manufacture of honeycomb cores, fabrics, prepregs and other fiber-based reinforcements. Since then, Kordsa has worked hard to establish a presence not just in Europe, but North America as well. “We are seeking balance between the market in North America and in Europe,” Caliskan said. “And we look for synergies to exchange information between the two.”

To that end, Kordsa in February acquired U.K.-based Advanced Honeycomb Technologies and, in late 2018, U.S.-based Fabric Development Inc. (FDI) and Textile Products Inc. (TPI). Going forward, Caliskan says Kordsa has plans to expand into composites fabrication operations, either via organic or acquisition growth. “We continue to search for companies that are a good fit for the Kordsa strategy,” he says.

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Boston Materials (Bedford, Mass., U.S.) announced at JEC World 2019 the development of its Carbon Supercomposite, a carbon fiber fabric that features milled carbon fibers magnetically aligned in the “z” direction to provide uncommon ply-to-ply strength. Although Boston Materials is working with Sabic (Pittsfield, Mass., U.S.) to integrate Carbon Supercomposite with polyetherimide (PEI) and polycarbonate (PC), the fabric, says the company, is resin agnostic and compatible with any thermoset or thermoplastic resin matrix. Anvesh Gurijala, founder and CEO of Boston Materials, says Carbon Supercomposite can increase compressive toughness by as much as 300 percent and compressive strength by 35 percent compared to traditional prepreg systems. He said the company is initially targeting sporting goods and overmolding applications, but the material clearly has potential in a variety of end markets.

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Porcher Industries (Eclose-Badinières, France), a supplier of fabrics, preforms and intermediates, featured on its stand a thermoplastic 5G SATCOM radome structure (see photo), developed in cooperation with aerospace composites fabricator Meggitt. The challenge, says Porcher, was creation of a glass fiber-based composite material that would deliver high impact resistance and efficient processing while providing the ability to tune the dielectric constant (Dk) for optimizing 5G air-to-ground transmission. Porcher’s BGF Industries site in Greensboro, N.C., U.S. supplied the material to Meggitt.

Andre Genton, CEO of Porcher, says his company is in the midst of aggressive research and development (R&D) spending and facilities expansion. To that end, Porcher has recently hired Jean-Marc Senecot to be global head of R&D. Also, in 2018, Porcher inaugurated a new facility in Zheigang, China, to manufacture technical textiles for the local automotive market. In the U.S., Porcher has built a new purpose-built R&D facility in Danvsville, Va., that will employ 65 people. And, by 2020, Porcher expects to finish establishment of a new Centre of Excellence in Saint Julien en Saint Alban, France. Porcher currently has revenues of $320 million, employs 2,250 people and operates 16 facilities throughout France, the U.K., Germany, the U.S. and Asia.

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