For SMC, old is new again

Sheet molding compound (SMC) has been a longtime workhorse for the composites industry, but technical problems with the material a few years ago scared off automotive OEMs. Today, the problems are solved and SMC is proving again that it has a lot to offer the automotive industry — and others in the world of composites. More.

Teaming up with Traditional Materials

Throughout the composites industry, businesses often argue that materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber replace traditional materials like steel and aluminum in a wide range of structures. Sometimes, though, composites are at their best when they work in tandem with metals.
Read more about multi-materialism in manufacturing.

 Three months ago, Italian firm Dynamic Architecture announced that it will complete the world’s first rotating skyscraper by 2020. The eco-friendly skyscraper will have prefabricated floor units made with a combination of carbon fiber, steel and aluminum. The carbon fiber/aluminum duo is also common in aerospace, and particularly in rockets. Last month, the United Launch Alliance sent its Atlas V rocket to the International Space station. The rocket’s payload fairing a composite structure made from sandwich panels with carbon fiber face sheets and a vented aluminum honeycomb core.

While there are many other examples of multi-materialism in the aerospace and architecture marine markets, some of the highest profile cases in recent news have been in automotive. Last month, Audi announced the next generation of its A8 will have a mix of four materials – CFRP composites, aluminum, steel and magnesium, in the body structure, known as the Audi Space Frame (ASF). While most of the car will be made of different alloys, carbon fiber will be used to strengthen certain areas while keeping weight down, such as in the B-pillars and the rear panel of the vehicle. The CFRP rear panel is the largest component in the occupant cell of the A8.

“[Audi] consistently applies new material technologies and designs that are directly beneficial to the customer – and not only in terms of weight,” Audi wrote. “The upcoming flagship’s torsional rigidity – the critical parameter for precise handling and pleasing acoustics – surpasses its predecessor model’s rigidity value by up to 24 percent.”

However, combining dissimilar materials like composites and metals doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Composites and metals expand at different rates when heated and contract at different rates when cooled. That causes residual stresses in the joints that bond them together. Today, Dow Automotive Systems is exploring new structural adhesive technology that can account for potential corrosion as a result of contact from dissimilar materials. The result, experts say, is a strong, durable joint.

“If it wasn’t for adhesives, you probably wouldn’t be able to join the composites to the metal,” says Ana Wagner, global strategic marketing manager for Dow Automotive Systems. “We will have some adhesives with accelerated temperature curing, some that cure at room temperature, etc., so we can tune and modify the chemistry to the very specific needs of any manufacturing process.”

A case in point is the injection bonding technique Dow developed for its BETAFORCE™ bonding adhesives, which has used to bond carbon fiber parts to metal in side-frame applications along the roof of the BMW 7 Series.

Research is also being done at the university level to combat the challenge of combining composites with metals. One of the technical papers submitted to CAMX this year comes from Erick Stubblefield, a mechanical engineering student at Georgia Southern University who is exploring an alternative to traditional adhesive joints. According to Stubblefield, traditional epoxy-based bonding techniques are held back by their cure times.

To combat this issue, Stubblefield is exploring an electromagnetic induction bond with thermoplastic adhesives for combining GFRP parts to identical material parts as well as GFRP to metal. He believes the results of his research can help ease the assembly, disassembly, and repairing of multi-materials structures with glass panes or protective glass in vehicles, buildings, machines, or casings.

However, he adds that material manufacturers are not currently producing thermoplastic adhesives that OEMs can feasibly use, so getting the technology to market would have to start with private investment. But before you see this type of work done in a mainstream vehicle like the A8 or 7 Series, you’re likely to see it in a racecar first.

“A lot of automotive advancements come from the racing industry,” Stubblefield explains. “A lot of innovation starts at the race level and then trickles down into the automotive level. So if you’re seeing composite techniques in your standard monocoque seen in racing, those same processes will be used to produce the [A8].”

NEW – Innovation Park at CAMX

Innovation Park at CAMX is a new featured section in the exhibit hall, introducing a new exhibitor section where start-ups and first-time exhibitors are showcased, a presentation theater for breaking news, special announcements, and press conferences, a “Consultants Corner” section featuring experts ready to answer your questions, and Connection Zone with plenty of networking and social opportunities.

With a design reminiscent of a park, as well as plenty of seating for attendees to take a break, it will be a buzzing area for collaboration, networking, and innovation! Look for updates in the upcoming registration brochure and online in the coming weeks.

Start Your CAMX Experience with a Pre-Conference Tutorial

Build a foundation for improved learning and understanding on a specific focus area with a Pre-Conference Tutorial. Designed to immerse attendees in an industry area and all technical backgrounds, CAMX’s Pre-Conference Tutorials are comprehensive three-hour courses that are the perfect start to your CAMX experience. View the full list of sessions here.

The Industry’s Top Companies in One Place

CAMX brings together the top industry innovators, manufacturers, suppliers, leaders, and professionals to one amazing marketplace. Over 550 exhibitors from around the globe are expected at CAMX 2017. See who’s exhibiting at CAMX 2017 and make plans now to attend the industry’s premier expo. Still haven’t secured exhibit space? Learn more

Attendee & Exhibitor CAMX Registration Open Now

Why pay more when you don’t have to? Secure the best registration rate for education, featured sessions, technical papers, and exhibit hall passes at CAMX – the largest, most comprehensive composites and advanced materials event. Make your plans now and register by August 18 to attend CAMX. Exhibiting at CAMX? Visit the Exhibitor Service Center under the “Exhibitor Registration & Travel Information” tile to register as an exhibitor.

Calling Young Professionals & Students

Test your composites knowledge and compete with other teams to win cash prizes of $500.  Join us on Wednesday, September 13th as the 2nd Annual CAMX Race takes place in the Exhibit Hall.  You’ll have 2 hours to visit exhibitor booths to answer technical and general industry knowledge questions, and learn about the different companies that make up the industry.  The team with the most answers correct in the shortest amount of time wins cold, hard cash.  Sign up during your registration process, or contact Mutsa Meda for more information. Find additional details here.

Don’t be Scammed – CAMX Housing Alert

CAMX recommends that you make your housing reservations through the official CAMX Housing, which can ONLY be reached via our website.  We won’t call you to solicit reservations, or send out emails to solicit reservations.  If you receive these, please be aware that these companies are not always legitimate companies and you may be left without a hotel room.  CAMX has negotiated the best available rates with our recommended and these rates are available through our website.  The CAMX hotels are also all either within in walking distance, or provides complimentary shuttle bus service that runs all day.  Make your reservations by August 18th!

 Get Maximum Exposure at CAMX

Give your brand a special boost at CAMX with custom sponsorship options. Choose from packages that fit your style and budget to maximize your exposure to a captive audience of 8,000+ industry professionals and leaders from around the globe. Drive additional traffic to your booth and promote engagement and sales before, during, and after the show, with exclusive sponsorship and advertising options tailored to meet any investment level and company goal. Learn more here.