Automated, Inline Inspection Comes of Age

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One of the great bottlenecks in hand-layup or machine-layup is the chore of manually checking for gaps, overlaps, wrinkles and debris. Automated, in-situ inspection promises to bypass such manual labor and is already at work in several high-profile operations. More.

International Innovation Could Have Game Changing Implications

According to market research firm Lucintel, the global composites end product market is expected to reach $113.2 billion by 2022. While North American companies will play a major role in helping the industry reach that projection, composite and advanced material innovation from Europe and Asia will also contribute to the industry’s growth. As always, the industry’s performance in the automotive market will be a critical barometer of where the industry stands.

In France, an industry consortium known as FastRTM, led by the Institut de Recherche Technologique – Materiaux, Metallurgie et Procedes (IRT M2P), recently demonstrated technology that could be a game changer for automotive composites. FastRTM has successfully shown the feasibility of manufacturing large, net-shape composite parts at an industrial scale. IRT M2P believes the platform may serve as a model for automotive manufacturers seeking to integrate weight-saving structural composites into their mass production vehicles.

The consortium’s novel process consists of a press, modular tooling, high-pressure injection machines, temperature-controlled flow tube technology, two 6-axis robots, online monitoring and control, and a fast-cure resin system from Hexion. Together, the equipment and materials enable an innovative process called compression resin transfer molding (C-RTM). In this two-step process, Hexion’s resin system is injected into a mold with a preform, a preliminary fiber shape, when the press is slightly open, allowing for partial impregnation. Then, a compression stroke presses the resin through the preform for complete impregnation. This allows for very fast resin injection and curing – from 15 seconds to one minute – and less than two-minute part-to-part production.

France is also home to what is widely seen as the most complex science project in history – the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) for fusion energy. According to ITER’s project managers, fusion energy, if harnessed effectively, can potentially offer almost limitless clean energy. The energy is created by fusing two lighter atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus, which requires plasma that is hotter than the sun. Scientists have not yet been able to generate more power from the fusion reaction that takes place than it takes to create the reactions in the first place. However, if the ITER is successful, that will change, providing enough electricity for millions of years.

The project’s members – China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States – agreed on a doughnut-shaped device called a “tokamak” that traps hydrogen that’s been heated to 150 million degrees Celsius (270 million Fahrenheit) for long enough to allow atoms to fuse together. The tokamak is surrounded by giant magnetic coils that confine and circulate the superheated, ionized plasma.

Last month, Finnish manufacturer Exel Composites agreed to collaborate with French industrial contractor CNIM on the manufacture of three of fiberglass/epoxy components for the coil support structure. GFRP was selected as the most suitable material to withstand such extreme loads, avoid circulation of electromagnetic currents and deliver a long service life. The coils are supported by six CFRP composite rings fabricated by Spanish company CASA Espacio. The rings will each be able to withstand 7,000 tons, as well as temperatures hotter than the sun. Construction of the entire reactor is now halfway complete, with initial operations scheduled for 2025. ITER scientists predict that fusion plants could start to come on line as soon as 2040.

Outside of the ITER project, China and Russia are also working to develop a family of long-haul jets that could give Boeing and Airbus some competition. In February, CRAIC, a joint venture between Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced a major milestone in the development of their CR929 aircraft.

The CR929 draws on composite expertise gleaned from COMAC’s C919 and UAC’s Irkut MC-21 programs. COMAC is working on the fuselage and UAC is developing the composite wing, wing flap systems, engine pylons and main landing gear. China and Russia will each take half of the work, and send design staff for exchange visits on a non-scheduled basis. Although the main design center is in Russia, Shanghai will also have its own design office.

CRAIC’s goal is to claim 10 percent of a market dominated by Boeing and Airbus of 9,100 widebody aircraft over 20 years through 2035. CRAIC plans to achieve that by having the CR929 approximately 10-15 percent cheaper to run.

Another market within the transportation sector that could see drastic change as a result of Chinese innovation is rail. Earlier this year, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles, a leading Chinese train car maker, announced that it has developed a prototype of the world’s first subway train made of carbon fiber. CRRC says its composite prototype is more durable and requires less energy than traditional metal cars. It is also believed to be 35 percent lighter due to its use of carbon fiber.

The subway cars are expected to last at least 30 years as carbon fiber is more capable of resisting fatigue, corrosion and UV radiation. Carbon fiber is also stronger and quieter compared to metal, CRRC notes, and offers in better thermal and sound insulation performance. The cars will first be used for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Orange Line. In January, the Engineering News Record (ENR) reported that testing of the prototype, which has arrived by ship from China, will begin at the MBTA’s Wellington Yard in Medford, Mass. ENR reported CRRC is currently building a $95-million factory in East Springfield that will be used to assemble the subway cars.

To learn more about the latest innovation coming out of Europe and Asia, make sure to visit the Business France, Composites Europe and Composites of China pavilions at CAMX 2018! Registration opens next month.

Join the Winners Circle at CAMX

Enter the prestigious CAMX Award or the Awards for Composites Excellence (ACE) presented at CAMX, and your company could join an elite group of award winners—leaders and visionaries within the composites and advanced materials community. The deadline for submissions is June 15. Enter to win today. Special thanks to CAMX Awards Sponsor – Ashland – and ACE Sponsor – Composites One.

Stand Out from the Crowd at CAMX

Maximize your exposure to a captive audience, including national media and press, at CAMX with custom sponsorship options. Make an impression among 8,000 industry professionals and leaders that is customized to reflect the personality and style of your brand. Sponsorships drive additional traffic to your booth, promote engagement and sales before, during, and after the show, and are tailored to meet any investment level and company goal. Learn more.

Experience Everything Dallas Has to Offer

Dallas, Texas is most famous for its significant oil industries and the historical landscape of the “wild, wild west”, but this thriving and exciting city offers a wealth of entertainment, cuisine, and culture as the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the United States. From the classics like Reunion Tower and Perot Museum of Nature and Science, to new experiences in must-see spots like Trinity Groves and the Design District, you’ll find plenty of ways to make the most of your stay. Make your plans to attend CAMX 2018 and discover things to do while you’re in Dallas.

Prime Booth Space Still Available – Book Today!

More than 50% of booth space is already sold. With 8,000 attendees and 550+ exhibitors from around the globe, CAMX is where business is done and connections are made with 93% of attendees making new connections in 2017. Showcase cutting-edge applications, materials, technology at the largest composites and advanced materials industry event in North America. View the 2018 Exhibitor Prospectus and reserve your booth space today.

Spread Your School Spirit at CAMX

Make sure that your alma mater is represented at CAMX either in the University Pavilion or Poster Session! CAMX provides complimentary exhibit space to colleges and universities with engineering and technical training programs. Furniture packages are available at an additional fee. Poster Sessions, where students present and discuss their latest research and ideas, allow students to compete for the chance to present their winning Poster in the main stage on the CAMX show floor. Additionally, CAMX provides support and opportunities for students, including contests, discounted registration, and more. Reserve booth space and enter the Poster competition today. More.