Rethinking Aerocomposites Manufacturing

Composites machinery specialist MTorres is trying to change the way aircraft OEMs fabricate and assemble large aircraft fuselage structures. Might this new method be the tool to fabricate next-generation aircraft? More.

Biocomposites On the Rise

In the composites and advanced materials industry, the most common reinforcing fibers are glass and carbon. However, in a marketplace that demands increased sustainability, biocomposite materials made from natural fibers and bio-based resins are making inroads, especially in the automotive market. According to Lucintel, the global biocomposites market is expected to grow 7.9 percent from 2018 through 2023, reaching an estimated $7.6 billion in value.

Composites and advanced materials have traditionally been used by OEMs that are looking to make vehicles lighter and therefore more efficient. However, over the next few decades, some experts anticipate that OEMs will need to push the envelope even further with parts that are not only lightweight, but also biodegradable.

“We need to be concerned about what happens with the material that you use in cars after their service life,” says Joshua Otaigbe, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at the University of Southern Mississippi, which will be exhibiting at CAMX 2018. “So if you have biodegradable components, they’ll get a useful life. Those materials can either be recycled, or they can biodegrade without harming the environment.”

Last summer, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program, Otaigbe and doctoral student Shahab Rahimi developed a patent-pending cellulose-reinforced Nylon 6 material that is not only biodegradable, but also has mechanical strength and stiffness comparable to glass fiber composites. The researchers say the material could be applied to roofs, door panels and interior parts in automobiles, as well as rear decks, sidewalls and fenders in trucks and trailers.

Ford, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jaguar already have interior products made with biocomposites, ranging from seat backs and door panels to carpeting and insulation. According to Deborah Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader for materials sustainability, biocomposites offer a wide range of benefits beyond biodegradability and weight. Unlike glass fibers, natural fibers don’t break during injection molding.

“Natural fibers tend to flow and bend and fill all the cracks and crevices where glass fiber does not make its way,” Mielewski says. In addition, glass fibers are less conducive to anisotropy (orientation in all directions) than natural fibers. “If our engineers got used to designing with natural fibers they would love it because they wouldn’t have to worry about all the directional shrinkage and directional reinforcement,” she adds.
Ford is currently developing a console for the Lincoln MKX that will incorporate both pulp and glass fibers into the composite, and Mielewski hopes that designers will use more biofibers as they learn more about them.

While biofiber-based composites are seen as the best solution to make products more sustainable, some companies, such as CAMX 2018 exhibitor Dixie Chemical, offer bio-based resins that could present a better option for OEMs. Alejandrina Campanella, the company’s thermoset and bio-based material platform leader, says it’s easier to work with plant oils, which are fairly consistent in their performance, than with biofibers, which can vary with environmental conditions.

In most cases the processes for manufacturing bio-based composites are no different than those for oil-based composites. “You may have to optimize your formulation, but that also happens if you’re using a resin made from oil,” says Campanella. Dixie generally sticks with palm oil, soybean oil and linseed oil or their fatty acids because of their pricing and availability.
Dixie currently produces two lines of bioresins; MAESO, derived from soybean oil, and MAELO, from linseed oil feedstocks. Like typical unsaturated polyester resins, they contain a reactive diluent such as styrene or vinyl toluene. However, Dixie also makes a methacrylated fatty acid (MFA) derived from palm, coconut and soybean oils, which can be used to replace all or some of the styrene or vinyl toluene. Using MFA reduces emissions and odors in the manufacturing process, and the MFA resins are tougher and less brittle than those made with styrene.

“We’re also working on a toughener made with soybean oil, which can be used for epoxies, vinyl ester and polyester resins. When we’ve compared it to products that are currently available in the market, it appears to have similar properties. This could have a really big impact,” says Campanella.

Learn more about biocomposites and their implications on the industry and meet with biocompoistes companies at CAMX 2018. Registration is open now!

Thermoplastic Composites Pre-Conference Tutorial

Tuesday, October 16 — In this three-hour course, Thermoplastic Composites: Technology and Applications, Arnt Offringa, director of research and development at Fokker Aerostructures, will cover thermoplastics technology and its processes and applications for the aerospace market. Attendees of all technical backgrounds will benefit from this tutorial. Registration is required.

View all pre-conference tutorials here. Register before September 21 and save with CAMX’s early registration discounts.

2018 Innovation Park Feature: Ask the Experts

For the unique challenges you often face working in the composites industry, a Google Search simply won’t cut it when you have a problem. As part of the Ask the Experts Zone in Innovation Park, you’ll have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with industry veterans and get valuable insights based on their years of experience. Bring your challenges, ideas, plans or samples to get a fresh perspective on how to move forward from consultants who care. To experience this and more in Innovation Park, register for an Exhibit Hall pass.

Free Composites Track

Curious how composite materials can solve your traditional material challenges? This free session track gives manufacturers access to several presentations designed to help you understand more about composites. Sessions include Composites 101, a 45-minute introduction to composite materials; Composites Success Stories, during which companies will make 10-minute presentations on how they have used composites to solve a specific challenge; and Composites is the Solution, a roadmap/overview of how a manufacturer might take steps to integrate composites into their manufacturing processes. To register for this track, register for an Exhibit Hall pass.

New Young Professionals Reception

Wednesday, October 17 — Young professionals under 35 years of age are invited to gather at the Young Professionals Reception to introduce themselves and connect with industry peers. Meet in small groups to solve common problems, share experiences, and grow a strong professional network of colleagues. The reception runs from 6 to 7 PM, and light snacks will be served. To attend, register for CAMX and add the reception to your experience.

Make a Plan with MyCAMX Planner

Plan your entire CAMX 2018 experience today with MyCAMX Planner, and get set to connect with the global composites and advanced materials communities as you discover new products and sustainable technologies, meet potential new customers, enhance your career, or simply increase sales and your organization’s bottom line. Easily access floor plans, search exhibitor listings and schedule meetings to make the most of your visit. The full conference schedule and sessions will be available soon!

Meet Potential Customers – Reserve Your Booth Space

CAMX brings you face-to-face with top decision makers, including CEOs, owners, presidents, engineers, marketing and sales managers, consultants, and other executives. You’ll meet new contacts you couldn’t get in front of before and solidify relationships with current customers. View the floor plan and prepare to grow your business by capturing leads from 8,000 attendees.

Claim your booth space online or contact Lynn Ishman or Efren Pavon to find the best spot for your company today.

Stand Out with Customized Sponsorships

Looking for something special you want to do during CAMX to help your company’s brand stand out from the competition? Sponsorships can be tailored to meet any investment level, company size and business goal. Contact Lynn Ishman or Efren Pavon to discuss your unique sponsorship needs or to view current opportunities, benefits and pricing.