CW Blog

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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In 1992, Hurricane Andrew wreaked widespread havoc across South Florida, with 175-mph winds leveling neighborhoods, stripping roofs and causing more than $25 billion in damage. The severity of this Category 5 hurricane led Florida to develop the most wind-resistant building codes in the U.S. and was fully implemented for new and renewal construction within 10 years. Less than two years ago, Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, causing severe damage in the Florida Keys, yet causing relatively minor wind-related damage to newer roofs, windows and structures elsewhere in the state. Irma did, however, highlight another major effect of hurricanes: Tidal flooding caused by storm surges, augmented by significant rainfall. This flooding has become another issue to address for infrastructure developers, especially with continuing forecasts of rising ocean levels and more frequent severe weather events. Is it possible Hurricane Irma will lead to new codes aimed at these factors?

“South Florida has always lived with issues of water,” noted Julie Dick, a Miami-based attorney and advocate for South Florida’s water supply. Her remarks were part of a dialogue between government officials, private developers and the composites community, held in late April in Miami’s redeveloped Wynwood neighborhood. The event, titled “Composites Innovation for Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure,” was organized jointly by IACMI and Mont Vista Capital, a Miami investment firm.

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My wife is a high school history teacher (U.S. history) who is highly engaged with her students. One of the things she likes to do is organize out-of-school trips to explore local and regional history, and it’s not unusual for me to tag along and provide chaperone and general spousal support services, particularly if the group of students is large.

Whenever possible, I like to talk to these students about their interests, likes, dislikes, extracurricular activities, etc. As you can imagine, and as you probably know, the younger the student is, the less concrete and formed the answers to these questions are. By the time these students hit senior year, however, thoughts about life beyond high school become much more real and urgent. Campuses are visited, colleges are applied to, scholarships are pursued. All of this activity comes to a head in late April/early May as students make their final decisions about where they will go. It’s a tense time, with many students balancing the prospect of attending their “dream” school against the reality of the cost of that dream.

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By: Michael Guckes 5/20/2019

Index rises on surging new orders activity

The Composites Index moved higher in April to a reading of 54.4, up from 52.6 in March 2019, thanks to strong acceleration in new orders activity. The latest Index reading is 12.1 percent lower compared to the same month one year ago, indicating slowing growth within the industry over the past year. Index readings above 50 indicate expanding business activity, while a value of 50 indicates no change and a reading below 50 indicates contracting business activity. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying data indicates that the Index was propelled by new orders, production, supplier deliveries and employment. The Index — calculated as an average — was pulled lower by backlogs and exports; however, only exports contracted during the month.

April marked the highest reading for new orders activity in a year, while simultaneously, exports posted its lowest reading since mid-2016. The combination of total new orders expansion and contracting exports implies that domestic demand for fabricated goods more than offset shrinking global demand, according to the survey data. The surge in new orders during April is assumed to have aided backlogs that expanded in April after posting a sharp contraction in the prior month.

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