Jec Americas 2013 Innovation Awards


Ten companies and their partners received awards at the second annual Jec Americas Composites Show and Conferences at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on October 2, 2013. Jec considered applications from many different international companies for recognition in ten competitive categories, including Safety, Supply Chain, Design, Fibers, Process, Green Solutions and Multisectorial. Also, this year Jec Americas is introducing three new award categories: Innovation Spreading, Electric Vehicle and Pipes and Water Management, to reflect the expansion of the composites industry into new markets. The winners are as follows:

Ten companies and their partners received  the Jec Americas Innovation Awards. (photo: Jec)

Supply Chain category: Gascogne Laminates

Intelligent release liners dedicated to manufacturing of prepregs

(photo: Gascogne Laminates)

Most manufacturers provide a technical description of their products. Gascogne Laminates goes even further, offering a dedicated product range for each end-use market that focuses on the specific requirements of aerospace, wind energy, sports & leisure and automotive applications.

Because the use of release liners varies from one end-use market to another, Gascogne Laminate’s experts identified the specific criteria and required levels of performance (handling, processing, inertness, etc) to optimally satisfy the requirements of each market. This allowed them to create “intelligent” release solutions. The result is a range of release liners that are said to feature optimum performance levels and reliability for each dedicated end-use market. Therein lies the added value of the innovation.

Developing the line was a four-phase process: 1) gaining better knowledge of the market, for instance, understanding the usage, issues and requirements of customers, end-users, machine manufacturers and thermoset resin suppliers; 2) selecting the suitable criteria for each end-use market; 3) assessing the current offer based on these criteria and developing the products that needed to be added to the range; and 4) acquiring a state-of-the-art machine (€11 million) capable of manufacturing the silicone-coated release liners needed to provide customers with optimum quality and reliability.

R&D/Design category: Hanyang University

Specially developed beam element with composite cross-sections

Partnership Network: Stanford University (US), NUS (Singapore)

(photo: Hanyang University)

Composite materials have been widely used in beam-like structures, typically airplane wings and wind turbine blades. However, analysing such structures using general-purpose FEA software – such as ANSYS, ABAQUS, and MSC Nastran – is not easy. Modelling complex geometries and lay-up sequences is a tedious and time-consuming job. More importantly, there are few tools available to predict the fatigue life of these composite structures. Motivated by the aforementioned facts, an FEA programme called HyBeam was developed. The programme features a specially developed beam element with composite cross-sections. Such an element is not available in most commercial FEA tools, and designers often have to build a full 3D model of the wing or blade to be analysed using shell or layered elements, once fatigue behaviours of fibre, matrix and interface are known. A micromechanics-based fatigue module enables life prediction of composite materials with any fibre-matrix combination, fibre volume fraction and layup sequence. Compared to conventional macroscopic approaches, this method requires much less testing for material characterisation, and thus could reduce costs considerably. HyBeam is written in a Microsoft Excel Workbook, giving it good compatibility, portability and user friendliness.

HyBeam is intended to provide designers and engineers a quick way of modeling beam-like composite structures, evaluating their response to static loading, natural frequencies & mode shapes and, more importantly, life under fatigue loading. Therefore, the overall design can be optimised at an early stage to reduce both cost and potential risk in detailed design. Especially, the unique capability of micromechanics-based fatigue life prediction could reduce the number of fatigue tests needed, for lower cost and a shorter design phase.

A personal interest led to the development of HyBeam over a ten-year period. Many of the desired features have already been implemented, and there is an on-going upgrade process to make the product more powerful without sacrificing user friendliness. Potential users of HyBeam include designers and structural engineers working on wind turbine blades, airplane wings, yacht mast & rigging systems and other slender, beam-like composite structures for which fatigue performance is a major concern. HyBeam can also serve educational purposes, especially for students majoring in composites and their fatigue life prediction.

Fibers category: Innegra Technologies

Series of hybrid yarns for use in composites applications

(photo: Innegra Technologies)

Innegra H, a new line of fibres developed by Innegra Technologies, is a series of hybrid yarns for use in composite applications. The Innegra S fibre, a high-performance olefin yarn, was co-mingled with other high-performance composite fibres to form these hybrid yarns. The current offer combines the flexibility, strength and lightweight nature of Innegra S with carbon, basalt, glass or aramid fibres, thereby expanding the use of such fibres and providing performance and, in many instances, cost advantages.

Innegra H fibres claim to offer the best of both worlds: Their high modulus and ductility resulting in lighter, more damage tolerant structures. Typically, hybridising to gain performance is done at the fabric level or in multi-layer composite configurations. Now, with Innegra H, the hybridization is at the filament level, which allows for a more homogeneous final part with uniform performance throughout. While high-modulus fibres have been combined with olefins in the past, the purpose here was to create a thermoplastic that was melted for use as a resin matrix. In the Innegra H product, the olefin fibre remains intact, allowing its toughness to be transferred to a composite structure in either a thermoset or thermoplastic system.

Innegra H fibres, fabrics and prepreg were tested during the summer of 2013 to prepare for a full launch and a supply chain ready for action in autumn of 2013.

These fibres can be used in most processes, and therefore in numerous markets. Those looking to add value, safety and durability to their final composite parts will be interested in the Innegra H series of fibres. Current target markets are Automotive, Luggage and Cases and Sporting Goods.

Green Solutions category: TSE Industries

Environmentally friendly, cost-effective high-performance PU resin system for filament winding applications

(photo: Tse Industries)

TSE Industries, has pioneered an environmentally-friendly, cost-effective (as compared to epoxy and vinyl ester thermoset resin systems), high-performance polyurethane (PU) resin system for filament winding applications, such as pipes and piping systems, tanks, and pressure vessels. Globally, the industry utilises about 454,000t of resin (epoxy and styrene based esters) annually. Products produced using these resin systems involve a threat of leaching BPA (a key component of epoxy resin systems and a known endocrine disruptor), and releasing styrene into the environment as a part of the curing process. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as styrene are suspected tumor-forming agents whose emissions are controlled by stringent factory emission regulations.

TSE-Eco Wind is a thermoset two-part resin system for filament winding and is 100% VOC-free, BPA-free, and free from similar curatives, like MEKP and cobalt octoate, that are potentially explosive fire hazards.

TSE-EcoWind PU resin systems are highly cost-effective and priced lower than commercially available epoxy and vinyl ester resin systems, resulting in drastic cost savings on a kilogram to kilogram basis. TSE’s patented applicator technology for PU results in a near dripless process and ensures ideal application of the resin to glass with far less waste. These benefits, coupled with a much shorter cure cycle, enable customers to capitalise on their current equipment with faster turnovers, thus achieving better production efficiency and a quick return on investment.

A Freedonia market study estimated 1.4 billion kg of epoxy and vinyl ester are used for the pipe and piping system industry. Conversion of the same to TSE’s high-performance PU resin system would lead to manufacturers realising immediate saving on resin cost.

Process category: Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT)

Integrated process chain for automated and flexible production of fibre

Partnership Network: Toray Carbon Fibers Europe (France), Suprem (Switzerland), TenCate (The Netherlands), University of Twente (The Netherlands), AFPT (The Netherlands), Trumpf (Germany), TWI (UK), Research Centre of Manufacturing (Czech Republic), Strojirna TYC (Czech Republic), Nikon Metrology (Belgium), Precitec (Germany), Missler (France), CTG (UK), Bf1 Systems (UK), MX. Composys (Germany), Fiberdur (Germany)

(photo: Fraunhofer IPT)

Industrials have to take into account the sensitivity of thermoplastic composites to the thermal cycles associated with all processing actions, as well as simulation and testing tasks, to allow the validation and advancement of effective prediction software. FibreChain Roadmap addresses these issues.

Materials and processes were improved and adapted to each other over a two-year period. New manufacturing and machining equipment was also developed and is currently under investigation. The new processes will be evaluated over the next 18 months, and a huge variety of demonstrator parts will be manufactured to demonstrate the potential of the new technologies, both alone and in conjunction. A comprehensive database on thermoplastic composite materials and processes will be established as well. The entire experience will constitute the first comprehensive cross-industrial market study on current and future applications for continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastic composites (FRTC).

FibreChain is a flexible automated process chain that can be established within a year at an investment cost of under one million euros. It features 1) integrated quality assurance systems along the process chains; 2) continuous tracking and evaluation of material properties and property changes (for instance, strength or crystallinity) along the complete value chain of thermoplastic composites, from raw material (fibre) to semi-finished goods (tape, composite sheet) to final products; 3) adapted fibre sizing for carbon fibres to give thermoplastics better adhesion and processability; and 4) UD tapes with improved performance at reduced cost. Another major advantage is that it requires only two processes – laser-assisted tape placement and thermoforming – to produce all major part-geometry classes (large structural, developable, small complex shapes). Other advantages include optimised milling tools for thermoplastic composites, and thermoforming moulds that enable the in-situ integration of holes and inserts into components during the forming process. FibreChain is also said to offer high performance levels and reduced production times.

Electric Vehicle category: Invenio

Solar car built with carbon fibre

Partnership Network: Universidad de La Serena (Chile), Minera Los Pelambres (Chile), Enaer (Chile) et al

(photo: Invenio)

A carbon-fibre solar car was developed and built using high-tech materials last year for the Latin American solar race. The vehicle won the 1,400km race, reaching 120km/h at a weight of 190kg. It also won the Atacama Solar Challenge in 2012 and took part in the World Solar Challenge in Australia in 2013.

The team had previously built a glass fibre car, but the use of carbon fibre made it possible to gain advantages and cut weight. The project based its choice of technology on the carbon fibre composite techniques used in the aeronautics industry, that helped to draw attention to the composite world and encourage the development of new products for industrial customers.

The master moulds for the model were created using modern manufacturing methods, with CNC water jet and a CNC router being used for the finishing steps. The whole vehicle was assembled in Invenio’s Santiago plant. The project’s main potential concerns the application of composite technology to the automotive industry, to reduce weight and hence save energy and reduce fuel consumption for electric vehicles.

Multisectorial category: Advanced Telescopic Technologies (A.T.T.)

Multi-stage composites telescopic hoist

Partnership Network. Stress Engineering Services Inc. (US), Global Composites Inc. (US)

(photo: Advanced Telescopic Technologies)

Conventional steel hoists have many drawbacks, including energy waste, depletion of natural resources,excessive weight, poor design, inefficient manufacturing and environmental hazards resulting from potential leakage. A.T.T. has secured the intellectual property of a new multi-stage telescopic hoist design which is said to be light, strong and corrosion- and leak-free. It requires less maintenance than existing metallic hoist, for a longer life and a smaller carbon footprint. The innovation here resides in replacing steel telescopic hoist cylinders with composite products and processes such as custom filament winding and moulding or pullwinding.

This lighter, stronger, corrosion- and leak-free product will provide a greener alternative to conventional hoists. The company’s technology will save billions of litres of fossil fuels for transport during manufacturing, leading to a smaller carbon footprint. The unit is stronger and safer, with fewer parts and an extended operating life. The improved design and materials are patented.

Te work was established along with Stress Engineering Services (Houston, TX, USA) and Global Composites (New York City). The prototype construction began upon completion of virtual testing, with a Jec Boston launch in October 2013.

A.T.T. is an incorporated Canadian company that holds many worldwide patents.

Pipes & Water Management category:  Ticona

A specific pipe for water infrastructures and oil & gas operations

Partnership Network: Composite Fluid Transfer (US)

(photo: Ticona)

The innovative Fiberflex-11 pipe concept, designed and manufactured by Composite Fluid Transfer targets applications in water transport infrastructure, including distribution systems, oil & gas operations, large irrigation systems, tank farm operations and other water transport applications.

The composite pipe incorporates Celstran CFR-TP, a continuous fibreglass reinforced HDPE thermoplastic composite tape manufactured by Ticona, the engineering polymers business of Celanese Corporation. The CFR-TP tape is wound around a specially designed, extruded thin wall HDPE thermoplastic liner and heat-consolidated by CFT’s proprietary process.

The lightweight pipe enables savings in transport and installation costs. The pipe is designed so that two men in the field can easily lift and carry it, thus avoiding the cost of using large unloading equipment, increasing safety and minimising worksite damage and reclamation costs. Several leak-free coupling/connector options are available, including a two-bolt patent-pending quick coupling design. The leak-free design potentially saves companies many dollars in environmental fines and system mandatory outages due to leaky pipe connections. The thin wall section makes the pipe relatively flexible, highly maneuverable and, therefore easily installed in a variety of topographies. The thinner wall section also reduces the overall time for joining pipe sections into continuous lengths. Two of the more commonly used methods are “butt welding” and “electro fusing”. Butt welding a typical 14″ SDR 9 HDPE joint requires approximately 45min to prepare, fuse and cool. The Fiberflex-11 pipe only requires 10min per joint, which means a 35min per-joint reduction in installation time.

A smaller wall thickness means a larger inside pipe diameter, resulting in a lower pressure drop. The increased pump efficiency reduces pumping time, labour and energy costs associated with pipe infrastructure operations.

Personal Safety category:  Go Composites

All-composite anchors for personal fall arrest systems

Partnership Network: Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal (Canada), BASF Chile (Chile), Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Colombia)

(photo: Go Composites)

Safety harnesses are commonly used to minimise risk falling from a great height. The anchors and adjusters used in harnesses to maintain the straps are traditionally made of aluminium and steel. The main drawback of such anchors is their electrical conductivity, weight and low corrosion resistance. This innovation concerns a novel all-composite anchor design for security harnesses.

In this application, electric insulation, corrosion resistance and weight saving are the key properties that make composite materials the ideal solution. In order to develop the new all-composite anchors, several challenges were progressively solved, starting with a three-dimensional weaving of the fibres, a new resin formulation, an innovative manufacturing process and, finally, the design and certification of the different anchors.

Initially, carbon fibres were explored to fulfill this application. However, two major limitations were quickly raised. The electrically conductive nature of carbon would limit the application to non-electrical fields, and the low impact resistance of carbon fibres would require a special design adding protective layers of impact-resistant fibres. The use of synthetic fibres was also seen as an option, but rejected due to the elevated cost of these materials. Finally, treated glass fibre tows were seen as the best solution for this application due to their electrical insulation, good impact properties and low cost.

To minimise friction, most mobile parts were covered with Teflon, and the mandrel was mirror-polished and thermally treated to increase its surface hardness. The thermoset resin used is also a key element of this innovation. It was decided to develop an in-house formulation based on a high-temperature polyester resin. The polyester-based resin was mixed with liquid rubbers in order to improve its impact performance at low temperature.

A special “gyroscopic filament winding” system was then developed. It includes a method and apparatus for producing filament-wound connecting components from fibre tows simultaneously in two orthogonal patterns. The process selected for manufacturing these composite parts was resin transfer moulding (RTM). It has the advantage of being tailored for low, medium or large production volumes with relatively low capital investment. Optimised RTM moulds with multiple cavities for high-volume production were used. Pre-production of the composite anchors is presently on-going at Go Composites after receiving a firm request from Capital Safety to introduce the first ever composite safety harness in 2013. The new product should be officially launched in the first months of 2014. The first harnesses will be delivered during the summer of the same year.

Innovation Spreading category: FS Cruing Diamond/FS Tool

Tooling solution that thoroughly evacuates hot dust particles produced during cutting operations

Partnership Network: Cruing Italy SRL (Italy)

(photo: FS Cruing Diamond)

By air cooling the material and cutter effectively, the Aerotech System is said to reduce machining temperatures. This allows manufacturers of composite parts to consider dry cutting their components, providing a practical alternative to machining with coolants.

Ever since composites became an important manufacturing material, aerospace and automotive companies have endured hot dust particles created while dry cutting composites. The only method available to solve this problem was to “wet-cut”, using coolant fluids that have an impact on health and water resources. A new idea was developed in 2006: using a turbine similar to that of a jet engine to draw in air, cool the cutter and material, and evacuate the hot dust particles created while machining. Aerotech changed its shape over the following years and the fluid dynamics were improved.

Any company producing composite parts on CNC machinery can now dry cut their components, making their production process more environmentally friendly and saving on energy costs. They can manufacture their composite parts without delamination, achieve lower roughness values, and gain better tool life from their cutters. The Aerotech System also facilitates the removal of debris at the point of cut. In routing operations that employ a nested-based process, the Aerotech system is capable of extracting over 97.4% of all airborne particulates and thereby dramatically increasing production throughput by reducing post-cycle clean-up time.

The system also extracts debris from the point of cut, thereby reducing the time required for manual vacuuming debris and dust. It also reduces the number of tool changes by extending the cutting tools’ edge life. This is achieved by air cooling the cutting tool and reducing the number of times that chips/debris are re-cut. It is claimed to be more environmentally friendly, to avoid health problems linked to cutting fluids and to save energy because it runs on passive energy.

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