JEC Europe 2015: News briefs

Quick JEC Europe 2015 reports from Epsilon Composite, Hexcel, AkzoNobel, and Ashland Performance Materials.

A standout in the display area, which also included a multimedia “Composites for Better Living” exhibit of consumer items, was a one-third scale demonstrator vertical-axis wind turbine blade manufactured by carbon fiber pultrusion expert Epsilon Composite (Gaillan, France) using the company’s patented and trademarked K1 technology. Sales director Romain Coullette gave CW a walk around the massive 12m long part, which is made by combining pultruded carbon fiber stiffeners with filament winding. The size of, and carbon fiber type used for, the stiffeners can be tailored for many applications, including structural beams, large civil construction parts and more, to provide much improved stiffness and performance while enabling significant cost savings, explained Coullette. He also noted that large parts can be made quickly and repeatably.  

The strength of both the carbon fiber and the overall composites markets was reinforced by Hexcel’s (Stamford, CN, US) president Nick Stanage, who spoke at a press briefing on Tuesday morning. After presenting financial figures for the company, including a 2014 sales figure of US $1.9 billion, Stanage said that the company foresees 17% annual growth in commercial aerospace, which makes up 67% of Hexcel’s business, and that each commercial airplane built includes up to US$5 million of Hexcel materials. He went on to state a company goal of US$3 billion in sales by 2020 and 10% company growth. Hexcel will break ground on its two new plants (one for PAN and the second, carbon fiber) in Roussillon, France on May 21. 

Markus Majoor, global market segment leader, thermosets & acrylics at AkzoNobel (Amerfoort, The Netherlands), reported to CW that the company has been doing interesting work with its cobalt-free NOURYACT brand of accelerators for polyesters. AkzoNobel has discovered, says Majoor, that the accelerator is moisture insensitive, which means that fabricators who process natural fibers are not required to dry the fiber reinforcement before infusion. AkzoNobel would like to do more research on the material and is looking for fabricators of bio fibers with whom to partner.

At Ashland Performance Materials (Columbus, OH, US), Thom Johnson, marketing manager, specialty resins, related some of the product development details behind Epitome, a composite home foundation system manufactured by Composite Panel System LLC (CPS, Eagle River, WI, US). Designed to replace time-consuming and laborious concrete foundations, Epitome is comprised of panels that feature integrated attachment points, electrical and other hardware. They can be installed in as quickly as 90 minutes, says Johnson, which greatly speeds overall home construction time. Johnson says Epitome is gaining traction in Wisconsin where CPS is based, but the next step is to move it into larger metropolitan areas. In the meantime, says Johnson, “this project has singularly changed how Ashland pursues innovation in the market,” adding that Ashland is looking increasingly for opportunities to connect developers with fabricators to help bring products like Epitome to the market.