CW Blog

Every multi-story building constructed today requires a facade. Derived from the French word façade, which in turn came from the Italian facciata, it means “face.” In short, the facade is the exterior, public-facing structure that gives the building its character, color and shape. For architects, the facade very much sets the tone for the rest of the building and says much about the designer’s architectural intent.

A facade is also functional. It provides the structure that surrounds windows and doors, protects the building from weather and impacts, and affects the building’s energy efficiency. A facade can be constructed from a variety of materials, including composites, stone, steel, glass or concrete. Concrete in a facade, by virtue of its formability, can be used to give a building a highly dimensional and visually impactful appearance, particularly if the concrete shapes are varied.

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Automated fiber placement (AFP) specialist Coriolis Composites (Quéven, France) has demonstrated inline inspection developed in partnership with Edixia (Vern-sur-Seiche, France), which supplies automated inspection and industrial vision technologies. The sensor built by Edixia is integrated into the placement head of Coriolis Composites’ AFP machines. “This solution detects all of the standard defects, including gaps, overlaps, twisted tows and fuzzballs,” says Godefroy Marechal, R&D project manager at Coriolis Composites. “It should allow for 100% inspection during continuous production of complex-shaped parts and can increase productivity by 20-30% compared to current methods. This system is easy to configure and can be used on a wide variety of composite materials, including carbon fiber-reinforced thermosets, thermoplastic and even ceramic materials.”

Marechal explains that Coriolis Composites has wanted to implement inline inspection for some time. “We understood that our customers want this solution and that all AFP must have integrated inspection for the future,” he says. “When Coriolis started working with automated inspection three to four years ago, we thought we’d find a plug-and-play system off the shelf, but then realized it doesn’t exist yet. Edixia is a good partner because it has more than 35 years of experience in vision systems and surface inspection. We had worked with Edixia some years ago to use one of their vision systems in the automated calibration of our AFP robot. So now we have combined the expertise of the two companies to develop an efficient, but robust solution.”

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As part of the 10th annual World Green Building Week, which took place in September 2019, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) issued a bold vision for how buildings around the world can reach 40% less embodied carbon emissions by 2030. To meet this goal, changes need to be implemented throughout a building’s infrastructure.

According to WorldGBC, buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions. Out of this, 28% come from the operational “in use” phase to heat, power and cool buildings, while 11% of these emissions are attributed to embodied carbons, the carbon released during construction and material manufacturing. But no matter where these carbon emissions come from, the sector must tackle energy inefficiency across the entire building lifecycle. A way of improving building efficiency is to evaluate where energy is wasted. One area that contributes to a large portion of wasted energy is through a building’s entry and exit points — its windows and doors.

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Hyperjoint is a patented technology that creates a stronger, tougher, more robust joint compared to traditional bolted and adhesively bonded joints. The concept uses arrowhead-shaped pins 3D printed as an integral part of additive manufacturing metal components. These are made using laser beam powder bed fusion, better known as selective laser melting (SLM). The pins, printed in titanium to avoid galvanic corrosion with carbon fiber, are pushed through ≈75% of a composite laminate’s plies and then the assembly is vacuum-bagged and cured. The result is a hybrid structure — half composite, half metal — which can handle higher loads than current bonded and bolted joints but without drilling holes or using redundant “chicken rivets” (see “certification of bonded composite primary structures”).

The technology was developed by Airbus Innovation Works in the U.K. (Filton) more than a decade ago and advanced as a means of achieving rivetless assembly. “Though we were proceeding with Hyperjoint within Airbus,” explains one of the technology’s key developers, Jonathan Meyer, “the process for application to commercial aircraft is very long and linear, moving in incremental steps.” Meyer saw a way to potentially speed and broaden applications.

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Last month, I wrote about the frustration of spending three weeks working from home due to protective measures necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, 30 days later, most of us, including me, are still doing the same, although there appears to be signs of “flattening the curve” and some promise of treatment and eventual prevention of infection. Here in the U.S. Midwest, spring weather is allowing us to spend time outdoors, albeit while maintaining social distancing. Some countries and U.S. states, after two months or more of partial lockdown, are starting to allow businesses and factories to reopen, although it will still take a while for manufacturing to return to robust levels. Similarly, it may still be some months before we are able to congregate as a composites community in something other than a virtual environment. I hope to be able to attend September events like the SPE Automotive Composites Conference (ACCE) in Detroit and CAMX in Orlando.

The world has changed as a result of COVID-19, and the implications are far-reaching. Two of the largest markets for composites, commercial aviation and automotive, have been hit severely, with production levels for 2020 shrinking to levels not seen in many years. As the economy – and employment – recovers, one hopes that there will be significant pent-up demand for automobiles such that assembly plants, and those factories supplying them, will start humming again. The travel and hospitality industry, which includes aviation, is in for a longer period of recovery, especially given the wild card of how virtual meetings may change business travel. Social distancing is difficult on airplanes, so it will be some time before the flying public develops enough confidence for airlines to justify taking deliveries of new aircraft from Boeing (Chicago, Ill., U.S.) and Airbus (Toulouse, France). The marine industry is also likely to see some contraction until employment strengthens. While the wind industry may suffer a temporary setback, it is still poised to keep expanding, which is positive for composites. And if part of government stimulus worldwide includes infrastructure investment, composites should benefit.

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