Five highlights from JEC World 2018

It’s not Spring without a trip to Paris, France for the JEC World 2018 composites conference. It’s become a very big show, and thus, offers some big announcements and some developing trends.

It’s not Spring without a trip to Paris, France for the JEC World 2018 composites conference. It’s become a very big show, and thus, offers some big announcements and some developing trends. As CW’s Jeff Sloan pointed out in his Day 1 video yesterday, many companies are focused on aerospace with numerous examples of fuselage and structural panel demonstrators. A great number of exhibitors clearly favor diving into the automotive supply chain, offering materials (resins, reinforcements) and equipment for fast, high-rate production — like last year, leaf springs are again on display are numerous stands. Building/construction, marine, sport, architecture, art and more are all represented with new products and concepts. And, automation, Industry 4.0-compliant equipment, software and design tools, and 3D printing are clearly on everyone’s radar.

With aerospace booming, more planes are being built, faster. One strategy for driving down the costs of aerospace parts is to forego prepreg and use dry reinforcements that are subsequently infused in out of autoclave (OOA) processing. Porcher (Eclose-Badinières, France) introduced a new range of dry carbon fiber tows and tapes, called, for now, Porcher Dry Fiber, for automated processes like AFP. The dry tapes have no binder veil and are produced in a fast (patented) process that uses no water or solvent. Pierre-Yves Quefelec, Porcher’s global aerospace and defense head, says the tapes are functionalized with in-house binder chemistry, either thermoset or thermoplastic, to increase toughness, and can help drive costs out of part processing. The material, at technology readiness level (TRL) 9, is being qualified now in Europe for applications such as fuselage window frames.

Airborne (The Hague, Netherlands), dedicated to making composites affordable with industrialization and automation, made two big announcements at the show. The first was that Airborne and Gunnar AG (Altstätten, Switzerland) are entering into a business partnership for developing and supplying integrated automated ply cutting, handling, stacking and sorting solutions for composites and advanced materials. With this partnership, say the two companies, fully-integrated systems can be offered to the composite manufacturing industry, enabling maximized composite material utilization. A second announcement said that Plataine (Waltham, MA, US), a leading provider of Industrial IoT and AI-based optimization solutions for advanced manufacturing, will also work with Airborne in a partnership to develop automated composites kitting solutions. By integrating Plataine’s Cut Plan Optimization Solution into Airborne’s automated kitting system, composite material utilization can be optimized for minimal material waste and optimized factory logistics, says the company. Plataine’s expertise in the field of digitizing and optimizing complex manufacturing processes using AI-based algorithms will create optimized cut-plans for dynamic nesting. Adopting these strategies will minimize material waste and optimize factory logistics when integrated into Airborne’s automated robotic cell, which can handle the complex sorting and kitting: “Combining Airborne’s, Gunnar’s and Plataine’s unique and complementary technologies enables ultimate nesting and material utilization for composite materials. For our customers, this will result in double digit material cost reductions,” says Arno van Mourik, CEO at Airborne.

Roth Composite Machinery (Steffenberg, Germany) told CW about a new, patent-pending high-speed filament winding technology for producing pressure vessels for hydrogen-powered cars. According to Bernd Fischer, sales director at the company, the filament-winding method is 5 to 10 times faster than current wet-winding technology, and can produce a Type 4 high-pressure vessel capable of containing 700 bar in less than 30 minutes. Key to the AUTOWIN technology is a high-speed spool creel developed in-house by the company.

At the Cobra International (Chonburi, Thailand) stand, a concept (new to this reporter) was on display: a motorized surfboard. The all-composite board, thicker than a normal board to accommodate the small motor inside, is one of six such models that Cobra is producing for customers. You can catch more waves in a shorter time, says company CEO Danu Chotikapanich, and go further, faster, while not having to paddle. Also on display were a variety of composite foils for small boats and boards, to really challenge the adventurous water sports aficionado.

Olin Epoxy (Clayton, MO, US and Zug, Switzerland), which in 2015 purchased a significant portion of Dow Chemical’s (Midland, MI, US) chlorine business, became the world’s largest chlorine and chlorine-derivative producer with that $5 billion (USD) transaction. Chlorine derivatives are one path to producing epoxy resins, making Olin a major epoxy producer, with a strong focus on composites. Olin is pursuing several major markets including building and construction. It displayed, in the JEC Building Planet parts area, a new type of composite rebar for concrete construction, made by customer partner No Rust Rebar Inc. (Pompano Beach, FL, US) using an Olin Epoxy from the LITESTONE product name. With a helical twist for better adhesion to the concrete, the rebar can be made in long lengths and coiled for shipment to the job site. Juan Antonio Merino, area president for Olin Europe, Middle East, Africa and India, says that rebar represents a huge opportunity for composites growth, and that the company continues to work on fire retardant grades of epoxy for more construction applications.

Last, the show does not end when you walk out the door. On the train, halfway to the center of Paris, my seatmates revealed themselves to be regular readers of CW magazine and employed by a major Tier 1 aerospace firm within the European Union. They were visiting the show to find the right supplier for some automated equipment —a sure sign of confidence and the availability of capital budget. Even better, one showed me his phone, revealing screen shortcuts to all of Gardner Business Media’s magazines — it’s great to meet enthusiastic readers!