On June 25, 16 trophies rewarded composites innovations & excellence at the JEC Asia composites show in Singapore. Among them, four awards showcase the expertise of JEC Asia 2013 Country of Honour: Japan. The innovations were selected by the jury on the basis of their technical interest, market potential, partnerships, financial & environmental impact and originality.
Winner: National Aerospace Laboratory, India
Composites wing and empennage
CSIR-NAL has taken up the development of a 14 seater civil aircraft, ‘Saras’. For this aircraft, the entire wing and empennage are being developed using composites. One of the main components of the horizontal tail is the ‘bottom integrated skin’. The entire bottom substructure (5.1m x 1m), which consists of the skin, two spars, elevenribs and eight stringers have been co-cured in one single operation.
All the spars, ribs and stringers were laid to the net shape on the CFRP contoured tools. Later, these were transformed on to the already stacked skin using the ‘specially developed locating media’ to meet the stringent dimensional requirements. This was then vacuum bagged and cured in an autoclave at 175°C and 7bar pressure. Carbon/epoxy prepreg was used as the basic raw material to realise the structure. The entire co-cured structure has been developed using innovating tooling technology consisting of ‘hybridised silicone rubber tooling and CFRP tools’.
Compared to an equivalent box in aluminium, the weight savings wereabout 25%. The integral construction not only reduced the number of individual parts but also eliminated 2,500 fasteners and lead to a cleaner aerodynamic surface. This technology has resulted in the reduction in manufacturing time and cost. The design of ply development includes the entire sub-structure consisting of bottom skin, front spar, rear spar, ribs and stringers which could be developed in one single shot.
Raw materials category
Winner: Composites Consulting Group, Australia (partnership network with UES Marine, Malaysia and Veetek Plastics, India)
Fire retardant resin and gel-coat system for infusion processing
The resin system is epoxy based and the properties for engineering are said to be equal to or better than non fire retardant epoxy properties for high level engineered laminates. The fire retardation provides a nontoxic self-extinguishing system that has almost no loss of laminate structure after being burnt.
The product brief was given by CCG engineers to Vee-Tek epoxy manufacturing to develop a resin that would easily infuse as well as a gel-coat that could be applied to mould tooling by rolling or spraying. The trials were carried out both in lab and on sample panels and then geared up to full size military vessels.
Winner: University of Nottingham, United Kingdom & Malaysia (partnership network with Camira Energy, UK, and Safilin, France)
Sustainable natural fibre reinforced composite small wind turbine blade
Manufacturing process trials included vacuum infusion, resin transfer moulding (RTM) and light resin transfer moulding (LRTM). The latter was observed to produce higher fibre volume fractions and thus composites with better mechanical properties. A novel study realised by the Polymer Composites Group of the University of Nottingham using flexible reusable silicon “B” face tooling in an LRTM process has shown rapid production times with the ability to produce undercuts on the moulded part. This flexibility in the tooling allows greater scope for design of the components. The silicon “B” face tool is only 10% of the cost of an equivalent composite “B” face tool.
The global small wind turbine (SWT) industry has shown an aggressive annual growth rate of over 35% for the past few years, and this rate of growth in installed SWT capacity is anticipated to continue until 2015, and possibly until 2020.
Winner: Smithline Reinforced Composites, United Arab Emirates (partnership network with VIT University, India)
Use of FRP waste in concrete mixtures
These new lines of composite material developed jointly by Smithline and VIT University will initially target the industrial concrete flooring market. Construction activity especially in the housing market which declined precipitously during 2007-2009 is witnessing an improvement in the post-recession period. As a result the demand for cheaper alternative concrete products is expected to increase by approximately 6% annually. By 2015 the demand for these products will be driven by the expected rebound in the construction activity.
Winner: Gaius Automotive, Taiwan (partnership network with Advanced International Multitech, Taiwan)
Carbon fibre isogrid-stiffened automotive suspension arm
In this work, an aluminium automotive suspension control arm was re-designed by Gaius Automotive, Taiwan, to use carbon fibre composite materials. The end result shows a 40% weight savings compared to the aluminium part, with only a slight increase in deflection. An isogrid rib pattern was employed to increase part stiffness and stability, and the composite system is comprised of vinyl ester and chopped carbon fibre moulding compound, and unidirectional prepreg in a toughened epoxy matrix.
A rubber isolator bushing is co-moulded with the arm, eliminating the need for secondary operations. Cycle time is primarily driven by the cure time requirement of the epoxy resin system of the prepreg phase, and is presently 11min. Follow-up research is under way to evaluate the use of modified vinyl ester and fast cure epoxy resins, which will facilitate a cycle time reduction to 5-6min. The composite charge consists of ten flat unidirectional prepreg layers sandwiched between stacked and shaped carbon fibre SMC meso-charges. There are two ten-layer stacks of UD placed in the two outer flange areas. These charges are inserted into both the top and lower mould halves, achieving 80-90% mould coverage. Mould halves are prepared off-line so charge placement does not impact the overall cycle time.
This work is scalable and transferrable to other suspension elements and other highly loaded structural parts of the vehicle. Such parts include currently cast aluminium door and window frames, suspension and subframe mounts and composite chassis inserts.
Winner: Lotte Chemical, Republic of Korea
Development of a woven and long glass fibre reinforced rear bumper back beam, using press and injection moulding process
The goal of this innovation was to improve the strength of glass fibre reinforced PP composites from external impact with relatively low glass fibre content reinforced by weaved high impregnation (>99%) of continuous fibre and LFT pellet. The extrusion and injection processes are combined to increase structural strength as well as the degree of design freedom so that it is possible to design various products.
The main advantage of this solution by Lotte Chemical is that it can replace steel, aluminium, and GMT bumper beam used to rear bumper beam. By extension, the front bumper beam could be replaced. The key benefits are weight reduction using PP/GF composite and it can apply to various products using combination of extrusion and injection process.
Non-destructive testing category
Winner: Suragus, Germany (partnership network with Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing, Germany)
The EddyCus CF map
The EddyCus CF map utilises the principle of high-frequency eddy currents to test carbon fibre composites and fabrics non-destructively. As opposed to other NDT technologies the eddy current test has the potential to characterise carbon fibre materials at any stage during production (roving, fabrics, tapes, preforms and final composites). The scanner moves an eddy current sensor across the part and performs up to 5,000 measurements per second. The sensor induces an electromagnetic field with a high local resolution, which causes eddy currents to flow within the conductive carbon fibre bundles. This creates a field which is then characterised by the sensor. All measurements are then displayed in an image, so called c-scan, which exposes many quality characteristics of the structures.
The main benefit is to determine structural parameters like fibre orientation, gaps, undulation, misalignment, wrinkles, and overlaps in hidden layers. The EddyCus CF map is capable of scanning slightly curved components and can be set up on top of a larger part. Soon more automation will enhance the usability and flexibility of the system.
Winner: Hyundai Motor Company, Republic of Korea (partnership network with EELCEE, Switzerland, and Hanwha, Korea)
Lightweight bumper beam incorporating skeletal reinforcements in the form of 3D-tow into glass mat thermoplastic (GMT) structures
One of the key features of this technology is to position 3D-tows in the optimal direction to take and distribute loads throughout the complete component through a topological evaluation of design and load cases. This is a way of benefiting from superior mechanical performance of fibrous composites. Compression moulding, one of the most cost effective processing methods, was adopted to manufacture composite structures with the tow reinforcement. The production of 3D-tow was done by a fully automated process giving low investment and production costs. 3D-tow can be formed with any thermoplastic resins. Polypropylene was used for this bumper beam development.
This innovation presents local reinforcement with continuous fibres (3D-tow), load-carrying composite structures for mass production in automotive industry as well as compatibility with currently existing facilities (without significant investment). The weight reduction is of 20% to 30% (compared with mere GMT version of bumper beam). The cost saving is of 10% to 20% (compared with mere GMT version of bumper beam). Finally, there is increased fuel efficiency (lowered CO2 emission) due to the weight reduction and good recyclability (fully thermoplastics).
The development will be launched in two Hyundai passenger car models in the beginning of 2014.
Civil engineering category
Winner: Everlast Composites, India
60t load capacity composite manhole cover
Everlast Composites has developed a 60t load capacity composite manhole cover with frame and 40t load capacity gully grating with frame using optimumquantity of glass fibres and core of polymer concrete combination using hand layup process, according to the Awards jury.
The weight of the product was reduced from 450kg (cast iron) to 90kg. Using this process, one can make substantial savings in the power that is required during the manufacturing process. It has zero scrap value, which avoids theft of the manhole cover and reduces the probability of accidents. It also has a low life cycle cost, and is a relatively green product. It is an economical solution to options available. The approximate market potential is of $ 20 billion.
Defence and protection category
Winner: VCAMM, Australia (partnership network with Defence Materials Technology Centre, Australian Defence Apparel, Deakn University, Australian Government Department of Defence – Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), PacificESI, Ballistic and Mechanical Testing, all Australia)
High curvature armour systems
High curvature armour systems (HCAS) focuses on the ongoing development of a suite of next generation manufacturing. The manufacturing of combat helmets by VCAMM was led by using low cost tooling and the latest ballistic materials with a modified double diaphragm deep drawing process. It improves the mechanical and ballstic performance of the finished article.
The novel lightweight composite armour demonstrates the formability of a polymer with ballistic characteristics close to those of sintered ceramics. This armour is shape specific (quasi-rigid, soft) which improves the impact response and protection of female combatants. The market potential is said to be high within the defence industry and there is a possibility for civilian applications. The modified double diaphragm deep drawing process (D4) developed in this project eliminates the requirements for splicing and touch labour common to the current technologies used in helmet manufacture. The process is also compatible with other high modulus fibre systems such as carbon fibre composites.
Special Japanese Innovations Awards
Urban sanitation category
Innovative sewage system engineered with composites
The total length of sewage pipes installed in Japan is huge (up to 40,000km) and the sanitation sector uses a lot of composites, for example, in large and small pipes, tank covers, treatment facilities, sewage tanks and chemical tanks.
The construction of these facilities and equipment involves sophisticated engineering. In particular, the systems are designed while keeping in mind earthquake protection solutions. A green technology was recently introduced in these systems, resulting in innovative solutions.
Special Japanese Innovations Awards
Winners: Mitsubishi Plastics Infratec, Takenaka Corporation, Constec Engi, Sanko Techno, Bond Engineering, Konishi
New method for the reinforcement of columns and beams with carbon fibre sheets
The renovation and reinforcement of roads, bridges and other infrastructures built during Japan’s economic growth period are attracting increasing attention. Moreover, buildings completed before the 1981 amendments to the Building Standard Act do not meet the current quake-resistance standards. These buildings were reinforced by a method using lightweight, high-performance carbon fibre sheets to strengthen columns and beams. However, the columns are often attached to the wall, so that they cannot be entirely wrapped with carbon fibre sheets.
The newly developed CFRP anchoring system is a strengthening method using carbon fibre sheets whereby CFRP rods are embedded in holes bored on the wall and secured by CFRP corrugated plates. This method was considered difficult to execute as it requires holes to be bored accurately on the side wall, but this problem was solved with a specially developed drill.
The need for methods to reinforce buildings with insufficient quake resistance is expected to grow further in response to earthquake disasters. The partners will work for widespread dissemination of the CFRP anchoring method, which protects lives and property from disasters.
Special Japanese Innovations Awards
Raw materials category
Winner: Nagase ChemteX
Newly developed thermoplastic epoxy resin and continuous fibre reinforced composites
The Research & Development Department of Nagase ChemteX Corporation has been investigating an in-situ polymerisable thermoplastic epoxy resin, a liquid epoxy resin mixture in the initial state that can be allowed to polymerise linearly by heating to produce a thermoplastic resin. This resin is said to be useful in the production of thermoplastic composites reinforced with continuous fibres at high volume contents because the liquid resin mixture can easily soak into dense reinforcing fibre fabrics. After impregnation, the resin mixture can rapidly polymerise and be converted into a non-cross-linked polymer. The results suggested that such thermoplastic composites are suitable for automotive applications such as impact energy absorbers.
Special Japanese Innovations Awards
Winner: AGC Matex
FRP solar panel mounting frames and bases
AGC Matex has developed new FRP solar panel mounting frames and bases for the solar panel sector. The solution is said to be easy to install, corrosion and weather resistant and low weight. The company also offers FRP bases that can be installed on rooftops with minimal structural load.