Category Archives: Concrete & civil engineering

Technology & design expertise enabling composites scale new frontiers

Hello all,

Welcome to another post……

Fingers crossed

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We are midway through the second quarter of 2016.The global economy continues to send mixed signals that basically stem from the rise and fall of crude oil price resembling more of a W-curve. The one thing that is certain in this fuzzy scenario is that not many have a clear idea as to how the oil price range will pan out for the rest of the year and going further into 2017, plus the fact that it is unlikely to breach $100 anytime before 2020. It will be foolhardy to make any predictions beyond the end of this decade. Geopolitics aside, nature has its own uncanny way of influencing oil prices marginally – case in point is the recent wildfire in the oil sands province of Western Canada affecting output of over one million barrels per day.

Growth is back, albeit…

Stay optimistic on ESSJAY COMPOSITES

World trade is down 0.4% this year on a volume basis and by 3.8% in dollar terms [Newsmax]. In early May, the World Bank lowered their 2016 global GDP forecast from 2.9% to 2.5%. The latest JP Morgan-Markit global manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) showed the weakest quarterly performance (1Q 2016) in years. The good news however is that the global economy is slowing down and not contracting. The eurozone has actually experienced growth above its long-term average for the past six quarters – this is forecast to continue over the next two years as Europe stages a measured comeback [Export Development Canada].

The common view is that growth is back, though not seen by many. Above all the gloom and doom on the oil front, hope is the current elixir of the global economy.

Moving on…..

2015 – a record year for wind power

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The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016 report was released in end March by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The report showed that the 2015 renewable energy market was dominated by solar photovoltaics and wind, which together added 118GW in generating capacity – far above the previous record of 94GW in 2014. Wind added 62GW and photovoltaics 56GW [United Nations News Center]. 2015 witnessed a 22% increase in wind power installations over 2014, globally. With around 433GW of cummulative wind power towards the end of last year, this source of renewable energy supplied more new power generation than any other technology in 2015, according to the International Energy Agency [Global Wind Energy Council].

US – offshore wind debut

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When it comes to offshore wind farms, Europe is years ahead compared to the rest of the world. Construction of the US’s first offshore wind farm in Rhode Island began in 2015 and is due to be completed by the end of this year [Gizmag]. The wind farm’s 30MW capacity will be met by five 6MW turbines from GE – turbine diameter is in the 150-meter range. Around 125,000MWh of electricity can be produced annually, once the wind farm is commissioned. Great news for carbon fiber and glass fiber producers.

Better late than never when it comes to the US nursing ambitions in offshore wind energy.

Resin chemistry – up to the challenge

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The spray-up technique for molding GFRP products using a chopper gun has been prevalent for decades in spite of VOC (volatile organic compounds) issues such as conformance to environmental regulations such as MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Standards laid down by EPA. A recently developed VOC-free polyurea resin offers an affordable, non-toxic solution with a cure time under 60 minutes and drying time less than 30 seconds [Plastics Today]. Spraying is achieved with a plural component spray gun connected to a long heated hose and pump. The structural polyurea components are mixed in the spray gun nozzle during application – hence pre-mixing is dispensed with and there is essentially no waste. The polyurea product is reportedly waterproof while exhibiting superior physical properties such as hardness, high elongation and tensile strength.

Chemistry has been in the forefront in several breakthroughs involving thermosetting resins for composites processing over the years. This trend will continue in the foreseeable future too.

Composites – designer’s delight

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Judicious choice of the form of fibrous reinforcement (whether as unidirectional roving, woven or multiaxial fabrics and combinations thereof) is the key to maximizing strength of composites without cost premium – designers will testify to this aspect. Flexibility in design has always been a much touted plus point of composites vis-a-vis metals. A recent example was the solution (by a car manufacturer) to reinforce a battery box molded from DLFT (direct long glass fiber reinforced thermoplastic) wherein PP was the thermoplastic matrix. By itself, the DLFT compression molded product was unable to meet the crash test requirement stipulation that a 29kg battery was not allowed to break through the console wall at an impact speed of 50.4km/hour – equivalent to a force of around 45 times that of gravity [Plastics Today]. The solution lay in using a 320x230mm, 0.5mm thick insert consisting of a single-layer fabric containing 47% by volume of continuous glass fiber roving predominantly aligned in the same direction that was fully consolidated, impregnated and embedded in a PP matrix [Bond Laminates]. The original insert based on a consolidated hybrid yarn fabric made of glass and PP fibers could not satisfy the impact requirement of high and low temperatures that necessitated the switch to the new insert with higher strength, stiffness and toughness over a broader temperature range (-30°C to +85°C). The replacement (insert) composite was around 8-9 times more impact resistant at room temperature than a pure DLFT-PP based compression molding compound. The stiffness was also six times greater and portends extended applications to components where a high degree of crash resistance is a key performance requirement.

Another classic, successful example of the permutations and combinations possible with fibrous reinforcements and their forms to result in an optimum design.

CNG – to the fore

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The shift to CNG powered vehicles in general and trucks, in particular, is gaining momentum. UPS announced its intention in 2012 to purchase 150 composite-body vehicles as a way to reduce fuel consumption. It is now deepening its commitment to natural gas as a vehicle fuel with new CNG-fueled tractors and 12 new CNG fueling facilities [Fleets and Fuels]. This is in tune with its goal of logging one billion miles with its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet by 2017. The CNG will be stored in four carbon fiber-wrapped composite cylinders [Hexagon] neck-mounted with anti-spin design to eliminate tank rotation that can stress fuel lines.

Leaders walk the talk and UPS is doing exactly that.

Conquering the next frontier

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The composites industry is leaving no stone unturned in popularizing the widespread use of carbon fiber through innovative developments in resins and processing techniques. Current-day embryonic R&D work in general, sets the prospects of commercialization several years down the line. The same is the case in the application of metallocene catalysis for isotactic PP (iPP) in-situ to form multiwall carbon nanotube (MWCNT) composites [Plastics Today]. It has been found that 20-nm CNT fibers as well as silica -based glass fibers can immobilize the molecular methylaluminoxane (MAO) component of the metallocene catalyst system on their surfaces, resulting in high molecular weight iPP being polymerized and adsorbed over entire fiber surfaces. It is well known that adsorption has very close connotation to adhesion – in other words, adsorption is the accumulation and adhesion of molecules, ions, atoms. The composites thereby formed in-situ exhibit double the stiffness of unreinforced iPP with a MWCNT loading of just 2-3%. Molded composite parts are more likely to return to their original shapes if impacted (compared to conventional composites) in view of the inherent thermal properties of the iPP. The ability of these composites in absorbing impact energy is 4-5 times better than steel – thereby leading to safer vehicles.

Could this development accelerate further use of CFRP in automotive in the next decade?

Seismic reinforcement – a marvel

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The practice in use of carbon fiber composites for seismic retrofits continues to be in vogue. The former head office building of Komatsu Seiren has been renovated with the world’s first seismic reinforcement that uses a thermoplastic carbon fiber composite as the seismic reinforcing material. It uses carbon fiber as the interlining, while its outer layer is covered with synthetic fiber and inorganic fiber. Finishing is done by impregnation with a thermoplastic resin.The 160-meter long spoolable roll weighs just 12kg (a metal wire with the same degree of strength is five time heavier). Unlike rigid rods that require drilling for installation, the thermoplastic carbon fiber composite is flexible and is secured using screws and an adhesive [Gizmodo]. It essentially works in the same way as the traditional brace-and-bolt; but, instead of anchoring the building walls to its foundation, it tethers the roof of the structure to the ground. In the event of an earthquake, the entire building moves together. Komatsu Seiren used the carbon fiber composite as an architectural element – the strands drape off the side of the building like a harp and are then attached to the building’s frame below the ground.

The Japanese have yet again proved their conceptualization and design prowess through this development!

Natural gas products such as CNG and LNG contain less carbon than any other fossil fuel. Natural gas vehicles produce at least 13 to 21% fewer GHG emissions than comparable gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles [The Motley Fool]. Variations of methane-based fuels are now in the offing. A new form of renewable natural gas that is 90% cheaper than conventional fuels has been produced on a mass scale through a process that collects methane gas from farms and landfills, purifying the gas of impurities and then distributing it through pipelines. GHG emissions reduction ranges from 50 to 125% depending on the source of renewable natural gas (biogas). UPS is reportedly one of the users of the renewable natural gas.

Composites could be the ultimate beneficiary as the material of construction for storage tanks for the vehicles using renewable natural gas.

The breakthroughs continue unabated, though not at breakneck speed; but at a pace that allows the composites industry to throw the gauntlet to competing traditional materials for commercial applications. After all, when it comes to material substitution, composites still have a single digit penetration level overall – but it is growing for sure!

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

Twitter: @essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

We specialize in customized Market Analysis Reports in Composites

 

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Innovation and Speed of Commercialization in Composites Sector – is the glass half-full ?

Hello everyone,

Here we go again with another post…….

GROWTH  EUPHORIA

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As we weave our way into the last month of Q2  2014, several factors stand out that merit mention. Per PWC, the Eurozone is on the way to recovery and poised to register growth this year – for the first time in three years. This is substantiated by stock markets posting returns of more than 20% in the past year, while yield on corporate bonds are nearing record lows. The UK economy is also reportedly in good health according to two major business lobby groups – the Confederation of the British Industry (CBI) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The CBI says growth reached a record high in May. The BCC has also upped its growth rate for 2014 from 2.8% to 3.1%, which is well above the 2.7% forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – the Government’s independent fiscal watchdog [BBC]. Though the U.S. economy contracted the first quarter after it began the year on a roller-coaster ride, it is still on track to register a 3% annual growth backed by statistical data on movement of goods (trucking sector), unemployment  rate  and other relevant factors. The dip in Chinese exports has reiterated the need to focus on boosting domestic consumption which is a better-late-than- never scenario.

GFRP FORMWORK – IN REAL TIME

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A key advantage of prefab sandwich panels in composites such as ease of transportation and installation is legion. Building bridges over busy waterways are generally accompanied by delays and disruptions to shipping traffic. In a departure from conventional norm, rather than moving the steel structure into place and building the formwork, engineers building the Uyllander bridge in Amsterdam (Netherlands) turned the process around. The steel structure – steel arch and steel trusses spaced 3.8 meters apart was constructed onshore, after which a lightweight GFRP sandwich panel formwork was installed, also onshore. Lightweight and stiffness were key requirements in the the GFRP design – the deflection in the middle of the panel could not exceed 25mm when concrete was cast (weight of concrete + steel reinforcement was ~800kg/sq met). Another challenge was to provide a supporting edge with a thickness of 15mm so as to limit the supporting thickness at the edges. 72 GFRP sandwich panels were produced by vacuum assisted RTM, complete with integrated holes needed for installing the steel strips to hold the pipes running under the bridge. The panels were installed onshore, after which the bridge was moved into place, the steel rebar was constructed and the concrete deck was cast. A key aspect was to minimize traffic interruptions, which was successfully accomplished [Plastics Today].

Novelty in thinking and execution is a key trait in problem-solving.

Innovations abound when it comes to responding to market needs for lighter/stronger materials with improved performance. The icing on the cake is, undoubtedly, overall cost reduction. A new generation of carbon fiber reinforced polyamide compounds processable by injection molding, to potentially replace structural metal components in automotive, oil and gas and industrial applications hold great promise. The company (Lehvoss NA) claims that the compound has 50% greater tensile strength,15% more stiffness and 90% greater impact strength than traditional carbon fiber reinforced polymers. Further advantages claimed are good tribological properties, electrical conductivity and low co-efficient of thermal expansion [Plastics Today].

JUGGLING WITH CYCLE TIME & COST

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Cannon‘s Epoxy Structural Reaction Injection Molding (ESTRIM) is a faster alternative to traditional resin transfer molding of epoxy parts. The company’s processing technology for CFRP parts for the BMW (i3 and i8) that has been supplied to Benteler-SGL Automotive Composites, has a dosing unit with a liquid lay-down distribution method which deposits a liquid ribbon of formulated resin over the carbon fiber reinforcement. The uniform film of resin impregnates the fibers once pressed in the mold. The absence of in-mold flow of reacting resin coming from the mixing head drastically reduces the counter-pressure generated during injection, allowing for use of low-tonnage clamping presses [European Plastics News]. The obvious economics are low investment in molds and clamping tools, lower energy consumption during each cycle, all culminating in lower production costs. The ESTRIM mixing head technology allows fast-reacting formulations to be used with demolding possible after three minutes !

Long glass fiber reinforced PP (in the LFT category) has been employed by automakers as a weight and emission reduction solution for large molded structural parts such as front-end modules (FEM), door modules, instrument panel carriers, tailgates and seat structures. A leading sustainability independent consulting firm has found that a FEM made of PP based LFT had a life cycle greenhouse gas emission (GHG) of 78 kg vs. 149 kg with a polyamide hybrid solution – a 48% reduction. The data also showed that the PP based LFT had a lower life cycle energy footprint of 1,200 megajoule vs. 2,140 mj for one with a polyamide hybrid solution – a 44% reduction. The advantages of PP based LFT on vehicle emission reduction are obvious [Plastics Today].

CONCEPT – TO – TESTING

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When it comes to lightweighting in automotive design, the permutations and combinations are endless; depending to some extent, on the end performance requirements of the component in service. Composites continue to make inroads in the metal domain for under-the-hood applications. An interesting, as yet untested development is a thermoformed hose. The technology consists of weaving carbon or glass fibers together into a hose, which is then transferred to a mold along with a thermoplastic such as polypropylene (PP). The mold is subsequently heated to 240°C for three minutes, after which air is pumped into the mold, raising the air pressure in the mold. This causes the reinforcing fibers to be pressed against the hot wall of the mold. The materials come together, following which the part is finished under normal pressure (5-6 bar) used for thermoforming. The finished part could replace different metal brackets under the hood, it is claimed [Plastics Today].

THRESHOLD OF REALITY

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Ever head of biomimicry ? It is all about learning from nature – studying nature’s designs and emulating these to solve human challenges. Typical example – the famed Velcro ! Following the success story of self-healing polymers, nature has once again shown the way for self-healing composites ! The bane of composites damage, as we all know, is delamination. Internal delamination is not only difficult to detect, but well nigh impossible to repair by conventional techniques. Perhaps, this has been the most single limiting factor in greater widespread use of composites, as a small internal crack can lead to irreversible damage. It appears, there is now hope. Researchers at the Beckman Institute’s Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group in Illinois created 3D vascular network patterns of micro channels filled with healing chemistry – that threads through a fiber reinforced composite. When damage occurs, the networks within the material break apart and allow the healing chemistry to mix and polymerize, autonomously healing the material, over multiple cycles. Creating the vascular architecture integrates seamlessly with typical manufacturing processes of polymeric composites, thus rendering it a strong candidate for commercial use. The vessel system is made up of two different micro channel networks, each containing one of the two liquid healing agents (an epoxy resin and hardener). Delamination damage to the composite ruptures the capillary network and triggers the delivery and subsequent polymerization of reactive chemical species. It was found that arranging the vessels in an overlapping herringbone design promoted better mixing of the liquids (enhanced mixing through increased interfacial and overlapping fluid boundary layers) compared to parallel configuration (diffusion is primarily limited to adjacent bands between the delivered heating agents). When a fracture occurs, it ruptures the separate networks of healing agents automatically releasing them into the crack plane – akin to a bleeding cut. As they come in contact with one another in situ, or within the material, they polymerize to essentially form a structural glue in the damage zone. After each healing cycle, it was found that higher loads were required to propagate the crack with the herringbone configuration [Plastics Today].

BIO-BASED : THE  FUTURE

CHEMICALS, PRICES, periodic table on ESSJAY COMPOSITES

The shale gas boom has resulted in North American ethylene producers shifting more to natural gas based feedstocks and away from petroleum based naphtha, as reported in our earlier posts. The result has been a sharp reduction in production and availability of propylene. This has resulted in bio-based chemicals attracting serious interest as drop-in replacements for petroleum based commodity chemicals. Epichlorohydrin (which is one of the starting materials for epoxy resin) is now being produced from glycerol (instead of propylene). Likewise, propylene glycol (a key ingredient for unsaturated polyester resins) is now being produced from glycerol. Such paradigm shifts are bound to affect (ease) the raw material availability and price volatility witnessed in the resin market over the years and provide a boost to bio-based chemicals in the long run [Plastics Today].

The Alfa Romeo is set to return to the U.S. this month after nearly two decades. The 4C is a carbon fiber fitted sports car optimized for low weight and agility. It has an one-piece monocoque CFRP chassis weighing just 65 kg. More models are on the way in 2015 [Plastics News].

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX !

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Hitherto, offshore wind turbines are installed in water less than 30 meters deep. The concept of undersea energy storage through the use of giant concrete storage spheres is now being touted by researchers at MIT. The idea is that when offshore turbines are producing more electricity than the grid needs – overnight or on weekends, when demand is slack; power would be used to pump seawater out of the hollow spheres placed at the seafloor beneath the turbines. When extra power is needed, the system would take advantage of hydrostatic pressure, opening up to suck water back into the spheres, with the water passing through a hydropower turbine to generate electricity. Reportedly, one such 25-meter sphere in 400-meter-deep water could store up to 6 mWh of power. To be economically feasible, the system would need to operate in water at least 200 meters deep with cost/mWh dropping until 1,500 meters, before beginning to trend upward. The turbines would float, anchored by the massive concrete spheres that also store energy. Now comes the hard part – preliminary estimates indicate that one such sphere could be built and deployed at a cost of $12 million. This could yield an estimated storage cost of 6 cents/kWh – a level considered viable by the utility industry [Earth Techling]. This is more relevant in Europe where offshore wind power rules the roost. The U.S. though is still grappling with its first major offshore installation.

The good news is that constant efforts are being made technologically and otherwise, to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy and it is yielding positive results. The first step is the willingness to think strategically and then evolve ways to execute the same.

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Co-opetition : the new mantra for business growth & survival

Hello everyone,

Here we go with the first post of Q2, 2013………

CHARTING OWN COURSE

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In a highly symbolic show of unity in Durban in late March; leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (collectively referred to as the BRICS) agreed to create a development bank to create funding for infrastructure projects in a potentially historic challenge to western-dominated financial institutions [The Guardian]. While various technical details need to be hammered out, the BRICS bank could potentially rival the World Bank. Other developing countries are  eventually expected to be invited to join the bank. Per a recent column in the Business Standard, ” the richest nations can stew about this turn of events, as those on the periphery of the world economic system start seeing themselves as the core. Or developed countries can look in the mirror, and consider how their actions have helped accelerate the shift.”

The concept may be considered outlandish and fraught with consensus on minute details that have yet to be discussed…..but the seed has been sown. Lets wait and watch as to how it slowly fructifies.

TAPERING OFF ?

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The International Monetary Fund [IMF] has jumped into the climate change debate and globally, is against government energy subsidies. Its latest report calls for an end to energy subsidies across the board (about $1.9 trillion annually around the world) OR for these subsidies to be offset with taxes that could pay for expensive social programs [Oil and Energy Insider]. Essentially, the IMF is subscribing to the idea of a “sin tax” on fossil fuels to reduce consumption and raise money for other sectors.

Coming at a time when many nations are toying with the idea of a gradual cutback in subsidies in the coming years, the IMF’s school of thought should not be surprising.

NOD TO COMPOSITES

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Admittedly, the building and construction sector has had a conservative approach in use of composites over the years. The American Composites Manufacturers Association [ACMA] actively initiated work several years back to modify the International Building Code in an effort to create greater awareness on environmental sustainability of composites. This culminated in the International Code Council [ICC] voting in 2009 to allow use of composite materials for both interior and exterior wall applications as reflected in the code’s latest edition : IBC, Chapter 26,” Plastic ” and Sub-section 12 ,” Fiber reinforced Polymer” [Composites World]. While Europeans rely on the Eurocode; in the Middle East and Asia, codes tend to be a mix of U.S. and British standards. The fact that designers are beginning to actively interact with architects at the drawing board stage itself to highlight the advantages of composites in reducing building dead load/smaller foundation & manageable seismic design and the resulting favorable life-cycle analyses; are definite pointers to the growing acceptance of composites, albeit slowly [Reinforced Plastics].

Just goes to prove that architects’ minds need not necessarily be set like concrete… with the right approach, they can be flexible.

UPPING THE ANTE

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The addition of liquid epoxidized natural rubber to epoxy resin matrix in an E-glass fiber reinforced composites threw up interesting results on the resultant mechanical properties at varying glass fiber loadings. It was observed that the presence of liquid epoxidized natural rubber improved the flexural strength & modulus, tensile strength & Young’s modulus and impact strength (up to a certain % loading of glass fiber by weight)  due to the plasticizing effect of the rubber particles in the matrix. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) revealed the thermal stability of the composites, while the scanning electron microscopy(SEM) revealed a heterogeneous dispersed phase of morphology. Adhesion was reported to be poor if untreated glass fiber was used, which is to be expected [Sciencia].

Would multiaxial fabrics have been a runaway success without German machines of the likes of LIBA and Karl Mayer ? An university in Dresden, Germany [TU Dresden] has partnered Karl Mayer to produce concrete reinforcement from carbon fiber heavy tows using a specially modified multiaxial warp knitting machine. Each heavy tow consisting of 50,000 individual filaments (50K) can reportedly reduce material costs for a higher fiber volume fraction in each textile concrete-reinforcing layer; representing a considerable economic advantage over alkali-resistant glass fibers and conventional CF with 12,000 individual filaments (12K) that are currently used for maintaining and restoring buildings [Innovation in Textiles]. The key lay in delivering the heavy CF tows in the main reinforcing warp direction without damage and with precise positioning of the fibers through gentle warp yarn brakes and combined warp yarn/holding down sinkers for placing the warp yarns accurately between the needles. The warp yarns were fixed without being pierced and the weft yarns were fixed in a reduced width during the warp knitting process. Both yarn systems lie completely parallel and stretched in the reinforcing textiles, thereby causing a positive effect on the strain characteristics. Mechanical properties were improved by integrating online coating and drying process. Machine running speeds of up to 560 rpm were achieved thereby meeting productivity requirements.

When it comes to sturdy machinery innovation; the Germans have few peers, with no perceived slight on other nations.

JOINING THE BANDWAGON

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Clean wind power is becoming infectious, with Japan  announcing ambitious plans that are not idle rhetoric. Japan aims to triple its supply capacity to 7.5 GW by developing transmission grids in Hokkaido and Tohoku regions. Wind power generation costs are estimated at 10 yen/KWh – almost the same as thermal power generation by liquefied natural gas [Asiaone]. In addition, tapping the wind potential in other regions such as Hokuriku, Sanin and Kyushu regions could increase the nation’s capacity to 14.7 GW….which is a six-fold increase over current levels. The Japanese have the enviable reputation of walking the talk….the wind energy sector should take their plans seriously [Renewable Energy World].

Germany’s path-breaking clean energy transition has resulted in onshore wind power (30+GW) generating nearly 40% of the country’s electricity production, roughly equal to 40 nuclear reactors. According to the Department of Climate and Energy Change, U.K.’s offshore wind power rose to 7.5 TWh in 2012, up from 5.1 TWh in 2011 and driven mainly by capacity addition [Bloomberg].

The wind energy sector definitely appears to be on a tear in many countries in spite of several Governments keeping the industry on tenterhooks till the last minute when it comes to extension of tax credits (aka, incentives) – India being the latest example. The battle for supremacy seems to be more related to onshore vs. offshore.

PLASTICS TO THE FORE

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Daimler is installing the world’s first plastic engine support for a six-cylinder diesel engine (in the new GL class) in lieu of aluminum resulting in improved acoustical properties, better thermal insulating characteristics, higher load bearing capacity  and a 30% weight reduction. The part, which supports the engine with the aid of mounts is injection molded from a highly reinforced specialty polyamide. Engine supports are crucial as they have to support both the permanent load (engine’s weight) whilst simultaneously absorbing the engine’s torque and high bending moment + low tendency to creep [Plastics Today]. The plastic part also passed the repair crash (that replicates smaller crashes) and the massive offset crash (head-on crash) with flying colors.

A dent to aluminum ?

 LOWERING CYCLE TIME

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A reduction in molding time of a large component by a factor of 10 ? Welcome to ESTRIM (Epoxy Structural Reaction Injection Molding) – a new process that takes advantage of new fast reacting epoxy formulations targeting lightweight structural automotive parts and sports applications [Molding blog]. Cycle times for large parts have a drastic reduction from 30 minutes for conventional RTM to 3 minutes with ESTRIM. The system includes a series of integrated products – carbon fiber reinforcement handling systems, dedicated preformers, high-pressure dosing units for epoxies, multi-component mixing heads with different injection and distribution methods, polymerization presses and relevant handling systems of preforms and molded parts. The icing on the cake…… ability to incorporate recycled carbon fiber from aerospace and other applications.

PARADIGM SHIFTS

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Per European Plastics News, the pipe segment will be the principal growth driver for HDPE through 2019, riding on strong demand from Asia Pacific (growth rate of 4.4%). Eastern Europe, Middle East and South America will also generate strong growth rates for HDPE; while North America and Western Europe will witness slower growth rate [Plastics News].

In spite of higher costs being seen in PP, global growth rates are expected to increase from under 4% in 2007-12 to ~5% in 2012-17. Though the growth in North America is expected to remain low, the region could add new PP capacity towards the end of the 2012-17 period through the propane dehydrogenation route. Thanks to shale gas, at least six world-scale ethylene crackers are planned for North America that could boost ethylene capacity by around 33% resulting in exports as PE supply would exceed demand in the region.

The extent of impact created by the shale gas revolution in the U.S has caught even industry experts by surprise.

A new acrylic thermoplastic resin that can be processed on thermoset equipment for RTM and infusion, coupled with the ability to be reinforced with continuous glass or carbon fibers has been recently introduced. Cycle times and mechanical properties are similar to those for conventional thermosets such as unsaturated polyester, vinyl ester and epoxy resins. The thermoplastic structures are suited to thermoforming, welding and recycling. Parts consolidation through use of adhesives reportedly enhances mechanical strength. The resin is styrene-free and can be used with peroxide initiators. The traditional gel coat layer (used in thermoset parts) can be dispensed with and is replaced with a thermoplastic multi-layer sheet such as ABS/acrylic which is thermoformed in the mold prior to laying the reinforcing fabric [Plastics News].

NA – MAKING THE DIFFERENCE

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Designers realize the significance of bending rigidity of laminated fabrics (glass/carbon/aramid) and its relevance to the position of the neutral axis, especially in load bearing applications. In a recent study, theoretically derived equations were proposed to obtain the position of the neutral axis and to predict bending rigidity of laminated fabrics. Tensile properties, bending rigidities and thicknesses of samples were measured and used to investigate the validity of the theory. The positions of the neutral axes for the face fabrics were obtained and they were not close to the centroid of the fabric. The calculated bending rigidities of laminated fabrics using the obtained positions of neutral axes were found to be more in line with the experimental ones than the results by the method without considering the position of neutral axis. The conclusion was that the bending rigidity of a laminated fabric can be predicted more precisely when considering the position of neutral axis [Sciencia].

TALL, TALLER…

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In late February, the world’s tallest hotel [JW Marriott Marquis] opened its doors to the public at Dubai. Soaring at 355 meters, the building is just 26 meters shorter than New York City’s famous Empire State Building and boasts of 7,500 square meters of indoor and outdoor event space [Gulf News].

A French architect is hoping to build the Middle East’s first skyscraper covered in trees and pot plants in Dubai. Dubbed the “Flower Tower “, the concept would create the impression that residents are surrounded by forest – bringing greenery (on its facade) to apartments tens of meters from the ground. Dubai is aiming to cover one-quarter of the emirate – 38,000 hectares – in green space by 2025 [Arabian Business].

When it comes to buildings, Dubai sets its own standards of excellence (and records) and goes about achieving the same sans fanfare. Recall the Burj Khalifa ?

Speaking of hotels, its turning out to being a game of one-upmanship with China announcing designing of the Lotus Hotel….. a hotel that floats on sand ! Hidden in the Gobi desert, the green hotel of the future does away with bricks and concrete and, instead, will use materials and techniques to support low carbon construction. An ingenious skeleton distributes the hotel’s weight through its walls, rather than directly on to its floors; while, underneath, a system of containers allows the sand to move under and around the hotel while it stays in a relatively fixed position [Clean Technica].

Allowing imagination to run riot ? 

This blog’s readership has now reached the milestone of 100 countries spanning all continents.

Its a small world, eh ?

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Northward trend in prices and demand….. the 2013 scenario

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another post……..

MONETARY RESILIENCE

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At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month, participants were informed that the global economy is likely to face fewer headwinds in 2013 (compared to 2012) with prospects of a modest 3.5% GDP growth. Such a forecast from the International Monetary Fund which, in the same breath, described the recovery as fragile and timid, was indeed positive news. Little wonder that the theme of the WEF meet was aptly titled “Resilient Dynamism”. The outlook for emerging markets is higher at 5.5% compared to that for the developed nations at 1.5%. Riding on growing domestic consumption, China is expected to grow at 8%.

More than a faint glimmer of hope ? You bet.

 STOCKS & SHARES

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The stock market has obviously been on a tear with a raft of positive economic news in the U.S. driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a five-year high at the end of last week [Wall Street Journal]. Corporate earnings have been stronger than expected, the domestic economy is showing signs of improving and the construction sector is on the resurgence. The recent bullishness has also spread overseas with Japan’s Nikkei Average stringing together 12 consecutive weeks of gains and now at its highest level since April 2010. The contraction of manufacturing in the eurozone slowed down last month amid signs that the worst may be over [BBC News].

Events lending credence to the “what goes down must come up” adage ?

German machine builder Krauss Maffei has delivered machinery to produce the world’s largest long fiber  two-piece roof made of polyurethane by the RIM process for agricultural machinery that includes a long-lasting in-mold painting to boot [Plastics Today]. The superior mechanical properties and premium quality surface finish for ultra-large lightweight components could find applications in the automotive and commercial vehicle industry. Cycle time for the double shuttle mold carrier system can be around 9 to 10 min. for one of the two elements of the roof, with the ability of the upper plate of the top mold to be swiveled out by 90 degrees when the mold carrier is completely opened.

Layer-wise method is a new approach for predicting the tensile strength of discontinuous fiber reinforced composites with arbitrary fiber orientation angles. This technique assumes the discontinuous fiber-reinforced composites are identical to laminates that are composed of UD plies and have the same distribution of fiber angles over the entire laminate. The effect of fiber length on tensile strength and failure mode was studied on discontinuous carbon fiber reinforced polypropylene composites – the simulated results agreed well with those of  experiments [Sciencia]. An analytical model that was evolved based on micro-mechanics now has the capability to correctly evaluate the strength and fracture mode as effectively as the layer-wise method.

OFFSHORE WIND POWER – UNSTOPPABLE

wind mills (sept 29)

The jury is out on wind energy stats for 2012. Offshore wind power installations in Europe rose by 33% in 2012: 1,166MW versus 874MW in 2011, according to the European Wind Energy Association. This is expected to increase by another 20% in 2013 as developers build bigger farms in deeper waters. EWEA forecasts grid connections to total 1,400MW this year and 1,900MW in 2014. The U.K. led installations in 2012 with 234 of the 293 new turbines, totalling 854MW [Bloomberg]. A total of 10 European nations now have 1,662 wind turbines connected in 55 wind farms at sea totaling 4,995MW, with the U.K. accounting for 59% followed by Denmark with 18%. The UK. wants to cut the cost of wind from $210 per MWh currently to $161 by 2020 in its quest to install a staggering 18,000MW offshore by the end of the decade [Fast Coexist]. Companies are developing blades 100 meters in length and carbon fiber seems to be the current option. Onshore wind energy in the U.S. led the way in renewable energy sources, with 164 new units totaling 10,689MW in 2012 in new generating capacity [North American Windpower]. Wind pulled ahead of natural gas which installed 8,746 MW of new capacity according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Authority [Think Progress]. At a tower height of 170 meters, the structure will be 270 meters tall.

Big is beautiful ? Nay, awesome in the offshore wind energy context ! No wonder, carbon fiber producers are rubbing their hands in glee at the potential.

PRICE SALVATION ?

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Increase in styrene monomer price resulted in major resin producers announcing price hikes of unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester resin in January. Polypropylene prices increased by $0.15/lb in January in North America with further increase likely this month [Plastics Today]. Polycarbonate prices climbed by 3% while nylon declined by the same margin [Plastics News].

PLATINUM- THE NEW GOLD

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Is platinum likely to have the edge over gold in 2013 ? Very likely, as currently both are trading around $1,680/ounce. Rising labor and electricity costs have resulted in closure of several mines in South Africa ( the biggest producer of platinum) leading to supply constraints. The prediction is that platinum will breach the $2,000 mark this year, ahead of gold [CNBC]. Glass fiber producers who are planning to expand existing capacity and/or set up greenfield plants would be well aware of the need to factor this aspect when they lease/purchase the precious metal.

VYING  FOR A SHARE OF THE PIE

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Large diameter pipe demand in the U.S. is expected to rise 6.2% annually through 2016 from the repair and replacement of wastewater infrastructure. Both storm and sanitary sewers will continue to drive the demand for large diameter pipes for water and wastewater, accounting for one half of total demand [Plastics Today]. The need to expand oil and gas transmission lines, especially near shale plays will spur growth, according to a Freedonia Group report. While steel and HDPE remain tied at 31% apiece as the most widely used material; corrugated HDPE is expected to replace concrete pipe in many drainage applications, primarily due to ease of installation & lightweight. HDPE is projected to grow annually at 6.9 % and PVC 5.7%, through 2016. Large diameter pipes are in big demand in Europe and South America as well. Weholite HDPE pipes have a unique profiled-wall structure that enable fabrication of pipes up to 3,500mm diameter. The pipe’s smooth surface enhances flow rates compared to steel or concrete.

A leading German automotive supplier ZF who is already producing automotive brake pedal systems in glass fiber reinforced thermoplastics is currently developing a prototype of a long glass fiber reinforced transverse leaf spring within an axle system. The flexibility inherent within the plastic in the composite leaf spring eliminates the need for metal coil springs, thereby reducing complexity within the axle, whilst simultaneously reducing weight by 12-15% [Plastics News]. The company is also reported to be developing a lightweight suspension strut wheel carrier that would use a hybrid mix of materials, including plastics, which would be half the weight of a traditional steel and aluminum strut.

ALWAYS A NEW ANGLE

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There is continuing work on recovery of glass fibers from GFRP sheets containing  styrene cross-linked unsaturated polyester resin, calcium carbonate (as filler) and glass fibers. This time around, pyrolysis was carried out in a helium and steam atmosphere to recover glass fibers and valuable organic pyrolysis products. Glass fibers were separated from calcium carbonate and calcium oxide by dissolving calcium salts in hydrochloric acid. Residual organic material was burnt later. Best results were obtained at a pyrolysis temperature of 600C and 700C, resulting in a large liquid fraction rich in styrene, leaving little organic residue on the glass fibers. Degradation of the polymer matrix was incomplete at 500C. At 900C the glass fibers were destroyed in the presence of calcium oxide, leaving calcium silicate as a product [Sciencia].

Would there be a SMC/BMC/DMC consortium in the making, to pool resources to render this a commercial success? Time will tell.

The global thermoset resins market is forecast to reach 95.5 million tons by 2016, primarily supported by the unsaturated polyesters (UP), phenol formaldehyde (PF) and epoxy/polyepoxide resin market segments [Plastixanz]. UP and PF account for 30% of the thermoset resins market. Europe is expected to be the fastest growing region for epoxy/polyepoxides with a CAGR of 12.5% followed by the Americas at 10.2%.

 NEXT GENERATION BIOPLASTICS

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Drop-ins are materials produced from monomer building blocks from biomass feedstocks that can directly replace conventional petroleum-based products. The carbon content of plastics produced on the basis of these biomonomers originates from renewable sources, such as plants or biowaste. So what does this imply ? Potentially, all grades of PE, PP, PVC can currently be made via biobased routes as also polyamides and polyesters [Plastics Today]. The feedstocks used to produce bioplastics currently are from food crops – mainly starch or sugar derived from potato, sugarcane and beetroot. The coming years will see a shift from the so-called first generation feedstocks to second-generation feedstocks such as cellulosics. Cellulosic feedstocks consisting of crop residues, wood residues, yard waste, municipal solid waste & algae sidestep the conflicts in arable land use. They can be converted to sugars by enzymatic hydrolysis and biomass pre-treatment. Cellulosic feedstocks are already being used to produce cellulose acetate and and lignin-based polymers. Non-foodcrop based fermentable sugars will become available for energy, chemicals and polymers as biorefineries perform various process steps required to produce different bioproducts. Where biodegradability and/or compostability used to be the characteristic property of bioplastics, more biopolymers are now being developed that instead are built-to-last. Landfills will no longer be an option.

Mind blowing stuff indeed… basic polymers derived from materials other than oil is becoming a reality ! Conquering the last frontier ?

CFRP REPLACES GFRP

SPORTS CAR

We all know that GMs Corvette was one of the earliest vehicles to use GFRP body in the 1950s. Almost 60 years later, the 2014 Corvette will come with a CFRP bonnet ( replacing the current SMC version with a weight reduction of 50% ) and roof [Plastics & Rubber Weekly]. The weight reduction helps to lower the Corvette’s center of gravity, thereby improving performance. The CFRP panels come to the assembly plant ready to be painted as in the case of current SMC panels. This facilitates bringing the carbon fiber on line seamlessly.

Classic case of how technology changes with time and manufacturers embrace the same without shirking…can there be a better example than GM ?

China became home to the world’s longest high speed rail line in December 2012 with the opening of the 2,298 kilometer stretch of metal bisecting the country between Beijing in the north and Guangzhou in the south [Wall Street Journal, China].China already boasts of several firsts in numerous fields. Hence, no surprises on this one.

And the award goes to ……..

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February is a big month for the entertainment industry. The Grammy Awards are due in the second week followed by the Oscars in the last week. As the world awaits the verdict, it is fair to state ….may the best in each genre bag the award.

The weather had been unpredictable for the major part of 2012 and this January, with bitter cold spells, lots of snow and even temperatures well above the freezing mark in some instances. At  the annual Groundhog day late last week; groundhog Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, which signaled the advent of early spring….well before mid-March.

It is quixotic…. while we rely on breakthroughs entrenched in a swathe of hi-tech for scientific advancements on one side, we also turn to folklore to predict the advent of change of season that some meteorologists may find baffling.

In this fast paced world, I guess we need a healthy mix of both to keep the positive thoughts flowing and remain optimistic of the outcome.

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Polymeric Composites……benefiting from Bio (resins) Evolution

Hello again,

By winning UEFA Euro 2012, Spain had the last laugh and let it’s soccer skills do the talking. They simply brushed aside their economic woes ( and their opponents on the field) and proved they are the undisputed soccer kings.  Aptly summed up by Bloomberg Businessweek  thus ” Spain played a distinctive brand of soccer known as “tiki-taka” – a mesmerizing skein of quick passes that breaks down opponents’ defenses with a lock picker’s patience and guile”.

Sports, they say, is a great leveler…how true.

DESPERATE MEASURES

Late last week, banks hogged the headlines. The Bank of England turned printing presses back on by deciding to pump 50 billion pounds into the stalled economy [Financial Times]. Almost at the same time, the ECB cut all main interest rates to a record low, while China’s central bank cut interest rates for the second time in two months to bolster an economy widely expected to record it’s sixth successive slide in growth in April-June. In the U.S., there is growing evidence that the political gridlock in Congress has actually done more damage to the economy than realized [CNBC].

Is there a silver lining ? Yes, if one were to go by  the views of Templeton Asset Management, that Europe’s economy will recover and that companies in fast-growing emerging markets would be looking at making acquisitions in the region. The average growth of emerging markets is expected to be around 5% this year [CNBC].

INROADS IN INFRASTRUCTURE

Composites and plastics are being increasingly used across Europe as energy and cost-efficient alternatives for buildings, bridges and structures. In March this year, a pedestrian overpass made of composite lattice structure was erected in Moscow. The decorative spiral lattice made in GFRP was based on multi-axial quasi-isotropic glass fibers and polyester resin with a total weight of 13,689 kgs compared to 38,447 kgs ( if made in metal). The overpass reportedly consisted of  four 33-meter spans integrated into a single unit at a center support with four vertical towers at each extremity containing pedestrian staircases. In Spain, a composite pedestrian bridge was recently made from a resin infusion of carbon fiber with epoxy resin. For the world’s longest stress ribbon bridge; wound, unidirectional solid carbon fiber cables were used as the primary load-bearing supports [European Plastics News].

Lattice structures and geodesic domes in composites… now you know why designers’ minds brook no limit when it comes to conjuring geometric shapes  !

COMPOSITES – THE IDEAL CHOICE

Thermoset composite parts in monorail trains are gaining ground. In partnership with German and U.K. companies, a Malaysian processor has developed GFRP components for an Indian metro rail project. The ceiling was from a phenolic/glass fiber prepeg sandwich construction with PET foam  to meet BS 6853 fire/smoke/toxicity requirements. The vacuum-infused epoxy/glass fiber laminate  resulted in the ceiling weight of 413kg per train carriage – a 53 % weight saving over an aluminum composite panel with tubular steel frame [Plastics Today].

BASF‘s work  on multi-faceted materials for RTM processing in the automotive sector is interesting. The carbon fiber roof module utilizes closed-cell PU foam as the core between CF facings. Apart from good insulation characteristics and high component stiffness, the lightweight roof segment weighs just 2.6kgs. This is 30% lighter than an aluminum and 60% lighter than a steel counterpart [Plastics Today].

HYBRIDS – THE FUTURE

Welcome to the world of polyester/urethane hybrid SMC for the transportation, industrial and military market segments. With a notched Izod impact strength of 40-60 ftlb/in., applications include protective barriers in transportation, housings for medical devices and safety helmets with little or no degradation in extreme hot and cold temperatures [Thomas Net News].

A composite alternate to plywood ? 3M has developed  PU foam boards with glass fiber reinforcement providing high strength in marine, transportation and general construction applications with a weight saving claimed to be in the 30-60 % range [Plastics News]. The composite foam board, available in five densities (15-26 lbs/cu ft), reportedly can be easily shaped with tools and secured to substrates with screws and does not degrade over time when exposed to water (plywood’s bane).

SPACE – THE FINAL FRONTIER

Soaring into outer space… a carbon fiber reinforced silicon carbide ceramic composite is on its way to Jupiter on NASA‘s Juno spacecraft. The composite forms an optical bench on the outside of the spacecraft at the end of one of the solar array wings. The CF-SiC composite is non-magnetic with high resistance to wear and fracture and ability to withstand temperature extremes. The manner in which the carbon fibers are reinforced is interesting –  when the hard silicon carbide is stressed, it becomes pseudo-ductile…so it bends instead of breaking [Design News] !

Juno, launched last August, is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. This is not a deja vu Star Trek fantasy. It is for real.

Damping characteristics of composites are well known. Tests have shown that with identical resin systems, damping characteristics of CFRP show improvement compared to GFRP. Further, the form of the  fibers also plays a role. Mat has a higher loss factor compared to cloth – the reason being mat has the ability to deform and the composite has higher resin content [Sciencia].

ECO-FRIENDLY & MAINTENANCE-FREE

The world’s first all-composite  ferry pontoon has been installed at a beach in Queensland, Australia. The structure is 374 ft long with a deck area of 6,168 sq feet and designed to accommodate five high-speed catamaran ferries during cyclone conditions. The glass fiber and vinyl ester composite pultruded structural sections are similar to rolled hollow steel sections. Composites obviate the need for ongoing maintenance in the harsh marine environment. To ballast the lighweight composite structure and improve its dynamic response characteristics, pre-mixed Earth-Friendly Concrete (EFC) was used. EFC, that uses a geopolymer binder system replaces Portland cement in the concrete, thereby reducing carbon emission by 80-90%. It is made from the chemical activation of blast furnace slag (waste from iron production ) and fly ash ( waste from coal-fired power generation). EFC has better durability, less shrinkage, faster strength gain and higher flexural strength [Design News].

An eco-friendly composite ferry pontoon – fits the description on all fronts !

Polymer blends are not a novelty. The latest in the stable is an acrylonitrile styrene acrylate/polyamide (ASA/PA) blend successfully used as an insert in the center console of Renault‘s forthcoming electric model. The pre-colored material, specifically suited for light-colored interior parts (dashboard components,interior trim) has good flow characteristics, good feel, high sound absorption, enhanced impact strength and excellent chemical resistance [Plastics Today].

HDPE – CARVING A NICHE

HDPE pressure pipes with slow crack growth resistance are finding favor in many applications. Traditional methods for assessing long-term behavior in pressure pipes such as the Full Notch Creep Test (FNCT) take months or even years – the downside is that they are costly and their reliability is uncertain. A new Strain Hardening Test Method (SHTM) developed by SABIC reduces the test time to just a few hours, requiring a simple tensile test at 80C and using under 50 grams of test material. SHTM is based on fundamental theories of crack propagation in terms of basic polymer properties and satisfies pipe installation requirements of Publicly Accessible Standards PAS 1075. Initiatives to adopt SHTM as a standard test method for the pipe industry by test houses in Europe and globally, are underway [Plastics & Rubber Weekly].

Technological advances rely a lot on basics of science and engineering. Need further proof ?

BIGGER IS GREENER !

Wind power currently provides 2% of global energy and likely to create 10% of worldwide electrical power by 2020. The average size of commercial turbines has grown from 50 ft diameter in 1980 to 500 ft today and approaching 1000ft in the near future. Swiss researchers opine that bigger wind turbines produce greener electricity [United Press International]. Borrowing on the economic concept of progress rates ( if the progress rate is 100%, no learning takes place, hence no cost reduction – logically, the lower the progress rate, the better !!) to calculate global warming potential; the Institute of Environmental Engineering in Zurich looked at resource extraction, production of turbines, disposal as well as learning curve of businesses to adopt new manufacturing processes. It studied the impact per produced KWh versus the total cumulative installation of wind turbines in Europe and found that the environmental impact was reduced as more turbines were installed. The calculated environmental progress rate was 86%, resulting in a reduced global warming potential of 14%. In other words, using more, bigger turbines is 14% better for the environment ! Validation in other regions would require changes in used electricity mix, wind speeds, wind shear, transport distances, raw material production and disposal [Renewable Energy World]. Considering the fact that Europe is way ahead in harnessing wind energy, it may be logical to state that their findings sound credible.

Big IS beautiful AND green. Are CF producers rubbing their hands in glee at the prospects of bigger turbine blades?

HASSLE-FREE LASER REPAIR

Repair of large composite structures is generally considered a hassle. Not anymore, if one were to use the new method of combining robotics and lasers to make repair more consistent and less expensive (as much as 60%). Manual repair techniques involve time-consuming grinding away of damaged structures. Housed at GKN Aerospace‘s composites research center in the U.K., the first prototype robotic machine uses laser technology to remove damaged composite structures on aircraft, while leaving intact the undamaged fibers and resin. As the technique dispenses with applying force or vibration, the structure’s overall strength or integrity is not compromised. After the laser treatment, the damaged area is left clean and ready for repair with a replacement patch, cured in place using localized heating mat. GKN’s German program partner SLCR Lasertechnik specializes in using lasers to selectively remove coatings as well as surface activation of CFRP/GFRP composites and removing paint in both types of composites [Design News].

Reduced downtime, faster turnaround. After seeing Ironman, the movie; robotics in composites repair seems like child’s play !

HEADING SOUTH? NOT FOR LONG

Average North American prices for several resins such as PE, PP, PVC, PET witnessed a downward trend in June. Declining feedstock costs and lethargic consumer demand were the reasons cited [Plastics News]. Natural gas price continues to be at an all-time low, thanks to the fracking (shale gas) success which has even made the wind energy sector nervous in the U.S. Crude oil price continues to fall and any breach of the $100 mark in the near future, appears bleak .

BIO-FUEL IN AVIATION – FUTURE IS HERE

Are you aware that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Washington to Tokyo in April 2012 across the Pacific Ocean, used biofuel derived from cooking oil? Coupled with the fuel-efficient design of the 787, the biofuel served to lower  CO2 emissions on that flight by 30%. Design efficiencies contributed  20% while  biofuel chipped in with 10% [Design News].

The dream combo of composites and biofuel renders the Dreamliner an aviation marvel. No two opinions on this.

Composites based on carrot waste ? It could be a commercial reality. A cellulosic material extracted from carrot waste can be combined with a variety of resins to create biocomposites with good strength, stiffness, toughness and light weight. A Scottish company, in fact, has demonstrated  the successful application of combining the material with carbon fiber to create a fishing rod – that combines the stiffness of CF with the light weight and improved impact strength of the cellulosic material from carrot waste. The cellulosic content, ranging from 50-90%  can be combined with resins such as epoxy, PU, polyester and is being commercialized in Q4 this year [Plastics News].

If you still intend scoffing at this development, examine the fishing rod and then be your own jury.

Brace yourself for further news…. PU from citrus fruits ! Limonene, a by-product of orange juice extraction has been successfully reacted with carbon dioxide to produce a pourable limodenecarbonate that can be hardened with citric acid amidoamine to form polyurethanes with potential applications in moldings for interior and exterior trim of cars [Plastics & Rubber Weekly]. The Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg, Germany worked jointly with auto major Volkswagen on this development.

 BEST OF BOTH WORLDS ?

The quest for identifying alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals is gaining momentum. The Biorenewables Development Center (BDC) – a facility designed to make the U.K. a world leader in green chemistry was opened at the University of York last week [BBC News]. The Center, funded by the Government, aims to help industry make the transition from petroleum-based chemicals to renewable feedstocks.

The International Energy Agency has described shale-gas production as a “complete game changer”. The aviation sector has used biofuel in more than 1,500 commercial flights. Biocomposites and bioresins have already reached various stages of commercialization and are contenders for numerous applications where cost and performance go in tandem. The exotic fibers and resins (carbon /aramid /epoxies /polyurethanes) and the mundane “naturals” ( flax /hemp /corn /sunflower based cooking oils) have to co-exist.

Science & technology show no discrimination when it comes to breakthroughs in the two extremes of the composites spectrum. End users embrace both gracefully and mankind is the ultimate beneficiary. 

With most readers being away on their summer sojourn in August, we will be back with the next post in early September.

Till then,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Speeding up Technology Commercialization…..the Holy Grail of Polymeric Composites Industry

Hello all,

Here we go again…….

BATTLING FISCAL PRESSURE

The World Trade Organization (WTO) came out with a statement in April that global trade was expected to slow to just 3.7 % in 2012 in the aftermath of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and events such as Japan’s earthquake and the Arab Spring, with U.S.debt concerns & flooding in Thailand contributing to a certain extent. Sobering news indeed, when one compares it with the 5 % slowdown in 2011 and 13.7 % in 2010. The figures are based on the total volume of merchandise exported across borders, accounting for changes in prices and exchange rates [Yahoo Finance]. Developing countries are expected to lead the growth in goods traded this year with a  forecast 5.6 % increase in exports compared to 2 % for industrialized nations.

The biggest news to cheer about was perhaps the free fall of crude oil price last Friday due to adequate supplies and waning geo-political tensions in the Middle East [CNBC]. Consumers can expect to witness oil at below $100 through the summer, barring unforeseen circumstances. Less pain at the pump in the weeks ahead ?

 RIDING IN COMFORT…WITH COMPOSITES

Designing with composites is a fascinating  experience as engineers will testify. More often than not, it involves using principles of statics and dynamics especially for load-bearing applications. Carmaker Audi is about to roll out glass fiber reinforced epoxy coil springs in one of its models by the year-end and this will be followed by extending to more mid-sized and luxury models in 2013 [Plastics & Rubber Weekly]. Any reduction in unsprung mass in a car’s chassis and suspension improves ride comfort and handling which has been exemplarily demonstrated in the composite spring that is 40% lighter than its steel counterpart in spite of an overall increase in diameter. Though the composite “wire” (in reference to the shape) is thicker, the number of turns is fewer. GFRP helices are known to absorb torsional loads. Alternating layers of glass fibers at +/- 45 degrees (acting either in compression or tension) are wound on a central core of glass fiber impreganted epoxy resin. Torsional loads in the glass fibers are thus converted into tensile and compressive loads. Weight reduction is to the tune of 4 kgs. While the composite spring is unusually bright green in color, a dose of graphite in the mix renders it black. Audi states that it is already working on red and blue springs for enthusiastic drivers !

The joy of a comfort ride on colorful composite springs would be unmistakable…that’s the icing on the cake. 

ALLIANCES – MEETING OF THE MINDS

The key to maximizing composite performance is fiber orientation…a maxim that is always in the minds of product designers. This has added significance in automotive applications where stiffness, strength, impact resistance and toughness of parts can positively influence weight reduction. The plastics industry, in conjunction with several universities and testing labs has now developed process modeling for LFRT injection molded parts. The modeling reportedly facilitates prediction of mechanical properties well in advance and would enable companies to bypass the trial-and-error phase. The simulation software enables engineers to use data to judge how glass fibers are affected by the molding process and how the molding will affect the finished part. Toolmakers can effectively determine the positioning of the gate [Plastics News].

There are several links in the concept-to-commercialization chain…it is heartening to note that the confluence of software developers, designers, fiber/resin producers and automakers contributes to a high level of synergy that makes technology appear so simplistic in the final analysis ! 

STRATEGIC CHOICE OF PLIES

Techno-commercial economics has been one of the reasons for evolution and success of hybrid composites. Judicious choice is however a prime requisite. Recent tests on mechanical properties of contact molded specimens with an interply configuration of high modulus glass and carbon fibers in an epoxy resin matrix provided interesting results.It was observed that the flexural modulus decreased with increasing % of high modulus glass fibers. Further, positive hybrid effects were found by substituting carbon fibers for glass fibers. The presence of a thin layer of high modulus glass impregnated epoxy on the compressive surface of the hybrid laminate yielded the highest flexural strength [Sciencia].

The best of both worlds in laminate configuration ? Not a new concept, but it does provide a greater insight to tailoring design, nevertheless !

OFFHORE WIND – GIANT STRIDES

When we speak of wind energy installation in Europe, giga is the current buzzword..mega is considered the dinosaur age (in a lighter vein !). This is more so with offshore wind energy. The U.K. has more than 2GW of wind turbines installed at sea, representing more than half of the European total and is targeting 18GW by 2020 [Yahoo Finance]. Germany plans to build 10GW which is the equivalent of nine atomic plants. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, offshore wind costs about $232/MWh of power generated, compared to $80 for onshore wind, $62 for gas-fired plants and $77 for coal.With a view to reduce costs, offshore windpower producers are building custom ships at record rates that allow one to install turbines in deeper waters, lift heavier weights, cope with bigger swells and carry more machines to wind-farm sites, thereby speeding up project completion. The bottomline…reduce cost of technology to bridge the price differential.

I have always been awed by the European wind energy business model, in general and the U.K. in particular. They think years ahead and plan resourcefully to circumvent potential roadblocks. That admiration has been upped a notch yet again and not without good reason.

PLASTICS : ONE-UPMANSHIP

The battle between thermosets and thermoplastics is perennial. Volvo heavy duty trucks from 2013 could well feature an injection molded PC/ABS roof fairing. Replacing traditional thermosetting resin for this application, SABIC claims that the thermoplastic replacement replete with proprietary in-mold coating (IMC) technology reduces energy requirements, enables recycling, achieves 30 % weight reduction, produces a part with a Class A surface finish ready for in-line painting; whilst simultaneously delivering an ideal balance of impact resistance, co-efficient of linear thermal expansion, density and heat deflection temperature (HDT) to withstand bake ovens [Plastics Today].

At the end of the day, it is performance that matters. The automotive sector which is in top gear continues to be the beneficiary of path-breaking technological breakthroughs and consumers take pride in driving state-of-the art vehicles.

Entrapped air in cast parts could severely impact the performance in continuous service. Freudenberg uses Computed Tomography (CT) scanning technique to check even distribution of fibers in non-woven fabrics and enables objects to be viewed from all conceivable angles. The images generated can be used to identify component damage and analyze its causes. The entire component can be viewed as a transparent image or can make its plastic covering disappear at the click of a mouse. Developed on the basis of X-ray technology, the CT technique allows for creation of computer-assisted 3-D images that provide an exact look at the interior of components [Plastics Today].

STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT

How many of us have gone through the frustrating experience of limited elasticity of spectacle earpieces. A solution could well be in sight. An eyewear retailer in Japan has chosen SABIC’s Polyetherimide (PEI) resin to meet Japanese consumer demand for new eyewear styles. The exceptional elasticity, long-term performance and lightweight allowed the company to eliminate aluminum and titanium from the material selection process for the earpieces. The excellent elasticity (can be bent freely) coupled with resistance to deformation allows the spectacle frame to be bent easily, yet returned to its original shape. It meets JIS B7285 standard, the testing for which includes 20,000 bending repetitions (opening & closing the frame). The resin’s dimensional stability ensures that the lenses are retained in the frame, while heat deflection resistance at high temperatures protects the frame when exposed to hot sun. The clincher is the resin being amenable to precision thin-wall molding and it’s availability in custom colors to provide a wide range of aesthetic effects [Plastics & Rubber Weekly].

Can you think of other applications that require such exceptional elasticity, resistance to deformation and temperature resistance ? PEI may well be the answer.

STRONGER INTERFACE

Advances in thin film applications to improve adhesive strength have been the backbone of technological breakthroughs, especially in glass fiber sizing. In recent studies, hyperbranched epoxy was modified with by vegetable oil based highly branched polyester resin at different weight percentages and the properties of the cured systems were evaluated for their adhesive strength. FTIR, XRD, TGA & SEM analyses showed that the modified systems displayed improved properties over pristine epoxy. The hyperbranched epoxy with 30 % (by weight) polyester resin was found to be the optimum with respect to performance [Sciencia].

Could the findings provide further continuous improvements in glass fiber sizing ? Possibilities are endless, for sure.

As the curtain-raiser to the 2012 Arabian World Construction Summit in Abu Dhabi later this month, it’s boom time for the construction & infrastructure sector in the GCC. The region is all set to award projects worth $286 billion over the next four years for infrastructure (including roads, bridges, rail, sewerage, wastewater and marine) and construction [Trade Arabia]. The enormous potential for composites [RP-feature] in the aforesaid sectors cannot be overstated. It would be an excellent opportunity for composites processors[GCM-feature] to partake in the Summit.

 AMERICAN PRIDE

A few years back, offshoring was a dreaded word in the U.S. with several companies opening up manufacturing outlets in China to take advantage of lower production cost. This trend is now on the wane (with rising labor costs in China), and the word “reshoring” has now become music to the ears of Americans. Manufacturing is witnessing a resurgence and processors are slowly bringing back production to the U.S. The low cost of natural gas (read energy) is also aiding this transformation to a significant extent- thanks to fracking technology being so successful and NG being in oversupply, as we speak.

Patience and self-belief  are virtues …… add a dash of game-changing technological advancements and it is easy to comprehend why past glory can be restored over time.

TOWERING HEIGHTS

Crude oil being dubbed as “black gold ” is not without reason. In an attempt to raise its profile further, the Caspian sea country Azerbaijan is looking to build the tallest building in the world. At 1,050 meters, it will dwarf  Dubai’s showpiece Burj Khalifa and likely be taller than the  planned 1,000 meter Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. Azerbaijan obviously wants to use its newly found oil wealth to project an image of modernity [Arabian Business].

Aah, the towering beauty and power of black gold !!

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Choice of Materials for Applications ……..Options aplenty !

Hello everyone ,

Nature’s unpredictability is at the fore again. Several parts of Europe are battered by bitter cold and snow as we speak, while many regions in North America are being blessed with unusually balmy weather (and bereft of snow) at this time of the year – with even predictions of an early spring. Can weather be more fickle ?

Statistics released late last week indicate a semblance of slow recovery in the U.S. and one hopes that the trend continues through H1, from a holistic perspective. The eurozone is also not worse off since my last post, which is good news. China’s manufacturing, though lukemarm, is not too much cause for concern at this point of time – a pullback from the boom years; but, nevertheless impressive.

The global economy is in repair mode and it would take time for the scars to heal. Predictions are for better growth in 2012 compared to 2011 and that is something to cheer about, for sure. Stock markets have vindicated such a trend thus far. 

INFRASTRUCTURE  & LONGEVITY

The Canadian Government predicts that it will spend $74 billion to repair and maintain concrete bridges across the country [Composites Manufacturing]. Recent advances in reinforcing  concrete with GFRP could extend life of the structure to 100 years or more compared to steel-reinforced concrete,which would require major restoration after 25 years. Interesting data comparing the shear capacity of GFRP flat slabs with steel while be shared at the Composites 2012 shown in Las Vegas later this month. The CSAS 806 standard for designing and retrofitting with FRP reinforcement is proposed to be updated and the design codes completed by the year end.

Composites and concrete ….. the synergy extends more than just the common alphabets !

“Automakers race to lose weight “…thus read the headline in a recent issue of Chicago Tribune. Apart from the continuing efforts in making cars lighter; tightening up of regulations for reducing emissions by 2020 makes it necessary for breakthrough solutions. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids predominantly made of carbon fiber composites could be available from 2013. BMW is reportedly working to cut costs to a point where CFRP costs will be level with aluminum based on economies of scale. Recently, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced the Advanced Clean Cars program designed to reduce smog-causing pollutants and expected to lead to increased sale of zero-emission and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for model years 2017 to 2025 [Composites World].

When it comes to environmental awareness in reducing carbon emission, the whole world stands united.

AEROSPACE – REVOLUTIONARY TRENDS

Ever since international regulators approved the type of biofuel derived from biosynthetic kerosene and standard aviation fuel mix in late H1,2011; there have been a spate of “green flights”. Lufthansa‘s successful transatlantic flight last month from Frankfurt to Washington that burned 40 tons of a biofuel mix  resulted in a net reduction of 38 tons of carbon emissions – logic being that the carbon emitted during the flight was offset by carbon absorbed by the plants grown to produce the biofuel [Forbes].

An European mandate in the making that requires all jets that land or take off from the EU countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or buy credits to offset their carbon spew ?

Carbon and glass fibers are not the only reinforcements that witness constant improvements in mechanicals and processing capabilities due to developments in morphology. Treatment of aramid fibers in coupling agents’ solutions by gamma-ray co-irradiation, resulted in improvements in the interlaminar shear strength (ILSS) of aramid fiber/epoxy composites [Sciencia]. The irradiation technique enhanced the wettability of the fibers, improved interfacial adhesion, increased polar groups at the fiber surface and upped tensile strength.

MORPHOLOGY BREAKTHROUGHS

That’s not all on aramid… if you thought that only carbon fiber was black, here is an interesting update. Teijin recently announced production of what it claims to be the first all-black high performance aramid fiber wherein the fiber is injected with a black dye in the process. Mechanical properties are said to be the same as the traditional yellow fibers [Compounding World].

Teasing and mind-boggling ? I am still endeavoring to find an apt word in the lexicon  to describe such pathbreaking developments !  All black reinforcing fibers are not necessarily carbon. Huh?

More exciting news on the thermoplastics front… The development of a non-brominated flame retardant system for Polypropylene (PP) based on synthesized mineral-based additives that demonstrates better extinguishing results marks a significant breakthrough [Plastics News]. The new product contains no decabromo or antimony and exceeds testing standards of UL 94 and ANSI 4996 for pellets and can be injection/blow molded and processed by extrusion.

USHERING NEW CONCEPTS

Polycarbonate (PC) processors should have news to cheer about – it’s bane has been low scratch resistance. Dow announced last week  the development of an anti-scratch additive for compounding with PC to compete with UV-light cured PC hard coatings [Plastics News]. This solution eliminates a hard coating (usually an acrylic monomer) and cuts the cost by 50% to obtain a hardened PC.  Product commercialization is anticipated in the latter half this year. Potential applications for the additive-enhanced PC include automotive components (knobs,dashboards and eyeglass optics) and electronic-device housings and touch screens.

RESIN PRICES – CAUSE FOR CHEER ?

And now a wrap-up on resin prices.. In thermoplastics, PP prices jumped marginally last week (February trends) due to limited availability and soaring feedstock costs. PE remained steady [Plastics Today]. On thermosets, leading resin producers have announced price increases for pigmented resins and gel coats + unsaturated polyesters/vinyl esters for the NA and  European markets due to rising costs of oil-based feedstock raw materials and titanium dioxide prices.

Northbound, ahoy….resin prices !

The corrosion behavior of aluminum alloys in ethanol fuels has thrown up some interesting findings. Immersion and polarization tests in ethanol-blended gasoline fuels at various ethanol & water contents and various temperatures revealed a pronounced acceleration of the corrosion process above the boiling point as evidenced by electrochemical and gravimetric measurements. While increasing the ethanol content and temperature leads to a higher corrosion sensitivity of the aluminum alloys, addition of water restrains corrosion. A chemically-deposited nickel layer in one of the alloys displays greater protection [Sciencia].

SHIFTING GLOBAL DOMINANCE

The aluminum industry in the GCC region is on the brink of becoming a leading global contributor with 13% of  the global production by 2013, according to Deloitte, Middle East …up from 7% in 2010. The affordability of power and labor in the GCC region  is conducive to investment, considering the aluminum industry is highly energy-intensive. While  smelter capacity in the # 1 user China will continue to rise rapidly in coming years; as time wears on, it will be less able to satisfy its vast domestic needs [Trade Arabia News].

Shifting geographic trends arising out of increasing cost of utilities & labor in developed nations ? That’s the need of the hour born out of sheer necessity.

WIND POWER – SUSTAINABILITY

The levelized cost of wind energy is headed towards an all-time low of $0.03/Kwh in the best wind resource sites per February 2012 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory[LBNL]. These numbers are however dependent on the continuation of current federal tax incentives, such as the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in the U.S.[North American Wind Power].

BANKS – MAKE OR BREAK  POWER

Some analysts have called banks the canary in the coalmine, saying they can predict on recovery of the economy. One analyst differed, stating that the banks in Europe are the grenade, not the canary, as they are the ones who can fix it earlier or make it worse [CNBC].

Right now, banks are doing the balancing act and it appears to be paying off ! What can be better news?

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Winds of Change – Blowing strong for Polymers & Composites

Hello again,

The stock market crests and troughs have left most of us bewildered and bemused as to what factors really drive the rollercoaster trends. Undoubtedly, the eurozone has been the focus in recent times. The G20 leaders ended their summit with a communique that spoke of plans to boost growth and rebalance the global economy. Political rhetoric ?

ECONOMY – GOING ROUND IN CIRCLES ?

GDP grew in most countries in Europe in H1 2011 in spite of marked differences in performance, with Germany being the most sprightly. But sluggish growth and the prospect of renewed recession means  joblessness could be rising again in Britain & Germany [The Economist].

The U.S. economy on the other hand continues to flummox economists with the common man swinging between despair and hope depending on the  tidings of the weekly stats. The latest weekly update indicates light at the end of the tunnel -however seemingly distant it may be. A faint glimmer of hope that manufacturing activity is witnessing a renaissance ? Let’s hope so !

COMPOSITE REBAR – CONCRETE FOUNDATION

At its October meeting, the American Concrete Institute Committee 440 (FRP) updated design examples for the design guidelines for FRP rebar reinforcement of concrete, test protocols for durability assessment of FRP products in concrete and a state-of-the practice document on use of stay-in-place structural formwork used for bridge decks [ACMA]. Such updates should be beneficial to the construction sector at large and provide a greater degree of confidence to designers and architects worldwide.

MOLECULES – RAISING THE  BENCHMARK

With global demand for carbon fiber on an upward trajectory; developments on PAN precursor continue unabated.Latest studies indicate positive results in coating modification of PAN fibers with boric acid to enhance the controllability of the oxidation stabilization process. Microscopic analyses showed that the coating was effective to avoid skin – core heterogeneity on the cross section apart from boric acid tending to act as a cross-linking agent leading to formation of uniform oxidized structures favorable for enhanced tensile properties of carbon fiber [Sciencia].

Do such positive results ring a bell for composites veterans….similar to what the glass fiber industry witnessed for decades on  progressive enhancement of mechanicals through sustained  development work ? Therein lies the challenge for researchers in the field of composites.

Metals, in general and stainless steel, in particular  are not about to give in to composites that easily! Recent studies indicate that implantation of Titanium ion avoids intergranular corrosion and mitigates pitting on 316SS as the outer surface becomes completely amorphized, thereby avoiding localized corrosion [Sciencia]. This should be great news for designers as they now have more options in the choice of materials…no wonder Material Sciences is attracting so much attention and drawing students in droves.

Hitherto, the use of fragrance in plastics has been limited, as traditional technologies using EVA particles find it difficult to withstand temperatures of 200C plus. Not so anymore… spherical particle technology offers more robust ways to add complex fragrances to thermoplastics at 280C processing temperatures without issues [Compounding World]. Better still, this innovative technology controls the release of fragrance from the finished polymer for in excess of 18 months.The spherical particles are reportedly a co-polymer produced by polycondensation of methyl pyrrole and squaric acid.

Will plastics with a ( sweet smelling) fragrance be a commercial reality ? Let’s hope so…the script has been written !

RESINS MARKET – THE BALANCING ACT ?

Though financial turmoil weighs on the global economy, chemical makers are more cautious than earlier this year, but there are no signs of a major downturn [Chemical Week]. Some of the demand slowdown reflects inventory adjustments as lower energy and feedstock costs and uncertainty push buyers and consumers to more defensive positions. Though inventories are being squeezed, producers say underlying demand and orders are holding, albeit at a more subdued pace than early 2011. An analysis of PP, PE, styrene, PC, thermoset resin price trends reflect the aforesaid market sentiments.

The potential opportunities that polymers & composites offer the automotive industry are widely recognized. The thumb rule is that a 10% reduction in vehicle weight increase fuel efficiency ( and reduces reduces emissions) by 6-8%. The increased interest in multifunctional components  is calling for new material solutions that can accommodate actions such as thermal/vibration energy harvesting (an efficient energy harvesting system is estimated to have the potential to generate 10% fuel saving), active NVH control or conductive surfaces to remove physical wiring. These new materials are either polymeric in structure or need to be embedded in a polymer matrix to be  turned into cost-effective and usable components in automotive parlance [Injection World]. Future structural applications could witness a glass fiber-reinforced polyolefin with a steel tubing structure or developing TPO combined with SMC for car doors and liftgates [Plastics News].

AUTOMOTIVE – GLOSS & GLAZE !

The automotive glazing market is poised to witness a major shift to Polycarbonate (PC) from traditional glass resulting in a weight saving of around 20%. A new hard coat system that will further improve the scratch resistance and UV protection of PC is a major reason for the successful switch in many European & Japanese cars from 2012[Teijin]. The glazing concept is likely to extend to high gloss or transparent body components in vehicles in the next five years. PC’s growing popularity received another shot in the arm with Shell announcing its low cost, greener process for making Diphenyl carbonate (DPC) – a key intermediate for producing PC [Chemical Week].

COMPOSITES  –   SAFE INVESTMENT !

For the wind energy sector, the winds of change appear to be blowing stronger than ever ( pun intended). According to a recent study, the market for advanced composites is set to grow @16% per annum through 2020… the difference being, that, while aerospace has been the biggest consumer of new structural materials; wind turbines will replace the industry as the leading advanced composites market, owing to the growth of global offshore installations. By 2020, wind is expected to account for $15.4 billion in advanced composites compared to just $6.3 billion for aerospace [Aviation & Aerospace News].

Little wonder that the CF market is headed for a golden decade and flying sky high (Boeing 787 and Airbus 350) whilst simultaneously funneling winds of change in the ocean through massive turbines.

Are composites in general and CFRP in particular having the best of both worlds ? Apparently so, if one were to go by number crunching stats on commercial demand ! Raw material producers (fibers, resins) and processors should be laughing all the way to the bank from 2012-13.

Amidst the prevailing economic uncertainty, are we composites professionals not (justifiably ) entitled to bask on the bright prospects in the coming years?

The seeds of growth have been sown….it’s time to think of reaping a rich harvest !

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram
EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com
Twitter@essjaycomposite
Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Bio-based Polymers & Composites: Dawn of a New Era?

Hello all,

As European leaders are engaged in discussions on how to prevent the Greek crisis contagion from spreading, the world looks for progress in Washington towards a vote to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit by the August 2 deadline. No one would have ever imagined the current economic imbroglio at the start of the millennium year.

The heat is on in more ways than one.

With oil testing the $100 mark and continuing its roller coaster ride, leading multinationals have already begun charting a course that would make the world less dependent on the black gold. The current buzzwords are bio-polymers, bio-resins and, of course, bio-composites. Of special interest is the Dow-Mitsui partnership announced recently in becoming equal partners in Dow‘s sugarcane operation in Brazil; the JV will produce sugar cane-based ethanol which will then be used to make bio-polymers.

BIO-POLYMERS: PLANES, BICYCLES AND AUTOMOBILES

Image courtesy of Paramount Studios

Automakers (Ford, Toyota) are continuing their push into greater use of bio-resins for car parts. Plastics News reports that nylon, polypropylene, polyester and other resins made from natural resources such as sugar cane hold out the promise of a less expensive and stable source of raw material for plastics. Soy and castor-bean foam blends along with polylactic based plastics are used for interior parts in the Prius and other hybrids. The Prius also uses DuPont‘s Sorona bioresin (20-37% resin sourced from renewable plant sugar) for parts on the instrument panel air conditioning outlet.

In early July, KLM became the first airline in the world to operate a commercial flight on “biokerosene” which included renewable jet fuel. A 50/50 blend of conventional and  renewable jet fuel was used in both engines of a Boeing 737-800 aircraft that carried passengers from Amsterdam to Paris. On July 1, ASTM International that sets worldwide technical standards for the airline and other industries gave approval for carriers to mix fuel made from organic waste and non-food plants with kerosene, which is conveniently used to power planes. Airbus estimates, per Bloomberg, that by 2030, plant-derived formulas could make up as much as 30% of the market for aviation fuel.

With composites being used extensively in airplanes coupled with bio-fuels, travelers could be in for a unique flying experience in the near future.

Have you heard of the world’s lightest production two-wheeled electric vehicle? If not, please refer to Plastics & Rubber Weekly. It is an electrically assisted bicycle developed by a British company which used a 60% long glass-fiber reinforced nylon rear suspension unit with the main frame in magnesium. The surface finish was excellent in spite of the high glass content. More developments in LFT (long-fiber reinforced thermoplastics)….. European Plastics News reports a Dutch company having developed polypropylene based LFT (30 % glass content) solar photovoltaic modules to replace standard aluminum frames. Rapid assembly and disassembly, lower installation times and weight reduction are all the advantages that the composite offers for this application.

Ingenuity in design plus a yen for commercially viable applications is what makes composites such a fascinating proposition for numerous applications in a wide spectrum of market sectors.

OTHER INDUSTRY STARS: CARBON FIBER AND PLASTICS


More exciting news on carbon fiber composites awaits you! A revolutionary carbon-fiber aircraft (Solar Impulse HB-SIA) concluded its European tour in early July, marking a new era in terms of energy saving. The 12 1/2 hour flight was powered by solar energy alone! ” Another classic case of reduced dependence on fossil fuel”, was the statement issued by the European Commission. Thus far, three international flights have been completed in the European campaign. Around-the-world flights are scheduled in 2014.

An extraordinary example of what one can do with stored energy. And, of course, carbon fiber!

With natural gas in the news in a big way, the American government and industry plan to have a strategy for converting fleets to natural gas, including public transit and government fleets, heavy-duty freight fleets that currently rely on diesel, and light-vehicle fleets like taxis that can refuel at a single station. If passed, the NAT GAS Act would provide credits for companies to buy and manufacture natural gas vehicles and build refueling stations. Honda plans to sell its Civic Natural Gas in all 50 states in the U.S. this Fall.

Carbon fiber producers to a greater extent and glass fiber producers to a relatively lesser extent could reap significant benefits due to an increase in natural gas-powered vehicles through a big demand for cylinders for storing the gas.

Is fossil fuel exit more imminent and closer than we predicted? Not so fast…! This may just be the beginning (of the end)?

Engineering plastics demand in Europe grew by 30% in 2010 and poised for double-digit growth this year according to BASF. Excellent prospects have also been forecast for the U.K automotive industry according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) which states that the global shortage of some components caused by the tsunami in Japan has failed to dent the performance of the U.K. automotive sector.

Finally, light at the end of the tunnel ? Apparently so, judging by views of market pundits. Touch wood!

AND NOW FOR WIND POWER NEWS!


A new EWEA report shows that by 2020, most EU countries would have tripled their wind power capacity reaching a total installed capacity of 230GW, providing 15.7% of EU electricity, depending on demand. 190GW of this would be onshore and 40GW offshore, mainly driven by a strong EU regulatory framework to 2020. China plans to expand its offshore wind power to 5 GW by 2015 and 30 GW by 2020 according to the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA).

The winds of change are blowing pretty strongly, particularly offshore wind power; and,that too, across all continents. A global revolution in green energy in the making in a planned , structured manner.

TIME: “INNOVATION IS AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE”


Aging infrastructure is a perennial problem in many countries, especially the U.S. Following observations made by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) a couple of years ago, a collaborative effort made between universities in Europe and the U.S. has resulted in a novel method for the electronic continual monitoring of structures using a sensing skin made of stretchable thermoplastic elastomer mixed with titanium dioxide that is highly sensitive to cracks, with painted patches of black carbon that measure the change in electrical charge of the skin[R&D]. The sensing skin has the advantage of knowing the damage location at a pre-defined level of precision apart from sensing a change in the general performance of the structure.

Essentially, it is extremely heartening news for ascertaining conditions of bridges, dams , schools world over and a shot in the arm for the safety of civil infrastructure as it entails real-time information on structural “health”.

The debate on the American economy can be endless. ”Innovation is as American as apple pie”, as described by Time. There can be no two opinions of the fact that America’s future growth will have to come from industries that create new products and processes. In short, encouraging American innovation and restoring it to its past glory. Two recent reports from the Boston Consulting Group and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found that, on the basis of innovation capacity (government funding for basic research, education and corporate-tax policies), the U.S. came last out of 40 countries analyzed.

Evidence that is neither startling nor surprising. Such has been the fall in America’s innovative capabilities – it’s forte until 2007.

A THIRD, AND ADDITIONAL MOVIE REFERENCE AS A CLOSING NOTE

Being vacation time at the ESSJAY offices, the next post will be published on September 5. Feel free to leave comments on the blog in the meantime, or send over an email or a tweet (contact details below).

We’d love to hear from our readers, and we’d like to thank  readers for our climbing readership numbers across 19 countries: we have DOUBLED over far less than a year’s time.

After Steve Martin’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the last decade’s teen hit American Pie, I’ll now remind you of yet another classic. To quote the famous Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) punchline: I’ll be back !

Cheers,

S. Sundaram
Email: SS@essjaycomposites.com
Twitter: @essjaycomposite
Website: www.essjaycomposites.com