Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Composites make inroads in metals domain through product innovations

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another post as we bid adieu to 2016 and usher in 2017 with considerable optimism and hope.

Whimper or bang

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The question remains whether we ended 2016 with a whimper or a bang? While the jury is still out on this one; the fact remains that from a stock market perspective, the year ended with a bang, what with the DOW reaching an all-time high in more than a decade. 2016 was probably like the proverbial curate’s egg – good in parts. While crude oil did not necessarily find its sweet spot on price, OPEC‘s decision to cut production was news to cheer about, though in the “sheikhs vs shale fight” [Yahoo Finance], round one went in favor of shale and the US continues to be a critical swing producer, thanks to technological advancements in fracking that has lowered the threshold price of oil for frackers to stay afloat and even remain profitable.

Ripple effect

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The change of guard in the US has resulted in a December 2016 revision of main macroeconomic forecasts for both the US and other major economies. The latest Euromonitor projection for global GDP growth is 3.2 % in 2017 and 3.3% in 2018 [Euromonitor]. Trade effects resulting from prospective US policy changes in combination with additional global factors such as general low confidence, volatile financial markets and decreasing international trade are likely to result in sluggish growth for the developed economies. The “charity begins at home” philosophy is likely to prevail globally with nations being more concerned about their individual GDP growth!

Container shipping companies have been experiencing the pain right through 2016. International trade is likely to take a backseat for some more time.

Upside of resin chemistry

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The composites industry is forecast to have sedate growth this year and there is no abatement when it comes to product and applications development. While fluoropolymers are known for their high temperature and chemical resistance, the development of glass fiber reinforced grades of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) provides higher stiffness and strength for applications that include pipes, fittings, valves, nozzles, clamps and fluid connectors. PVDF’s creep and abrasion resistance coupled with long-term UV stability provides an admirable foil to the mechanical strength improvements from glass fiber [Plastics Technology]. The PVDF composite reportedly can be molded to make plastic valves that can be turned on and off frequently without distortion, tower packings that do not sag over time and cable insulations that do not thin out and drip off the protected cable. PVDF resins with a high melt-flow rate (MFR) are used to keep processing temperatures lower – though the addition of glass fibers results in a viscosity increase, the composite can still be injection molded at temperatures below 210°C and extruded at or below 240°C. Flexibility in modifying the PVDF’s molecular structure through co-polymerization with a monomer such as hexafluoropropylene (HPF) results in a range of physical and mechanical properties (especially ductility) that allows variation in glass fiber content (%). Excellent results were achieved in flame burn-through resistance tests (using propane torch) with a glass fiber loading around 20%. The composite outperformed aluminum in burn-through results – 430 seconds versus 85 seconds for the metal.

Fiber reinforced unidirectional (UD) tapes are now being considered for truck trailer floor panels, side walls and bulkhead of commercial vehicles resulting in lower trailer weight and lower fuel costs. Using either glass or carbon fiber and a thermoplastic matrix, the UD tapes have short manufacturing cycle times and can be processed and deformed by the application of heat [Plastics Today]. Available production techniques include lamination, weaving, overmolding, tape laying and filament winding. The UD tapes have a high density of fibers, high-quality fiber impregnation in the thermoplastic resin, minimal void content and fewer broken fibers [SABIC].

Composites on a high

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In late December 2016, Boeing delivered its 500th 787 ( >50% composites) Dreamliner. While order volumes for the Dreamliner have declined in the past few years, there is still an order backlog of 700 that will spill over into the next decade based on current annual production of 144 planes [The Motley Fool]. Airbus was almost spot on in delivering almost 50 of its newest twin-aisle A350 XWB jet that uses more than 50% composites. While aircraft deliveries in general are expected to accelerate in 2017, the industry is preparing for a slowdown in orders as airlines adjust to rising oil prices and a deceleration of passenger traffic growth [Financial Times]. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is forecasting  traffic in 2017 to slow down to 5.1% (from 5.9% in 2016) while capacity is still showing signs of growing at 5.6% (from 6.2% expansion in 2016). The global airline industry is expected to make a net profit of $ 29.8 billion in 2017 and total revenues of $736 billion – representing a 4.1% net profit margin [Arabian Business Community].

Apparently there are no headwinds that affect the growth of composites in the aerospace sector in the near future considering the heavy backlog of orders for the 787 Dreamliner and  A350 XWB.

Offshore wind power – unstoppable

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The barriers to offshore wind power have been formidable. Europe has been the undisputed leader in harnessing offshore wind energy. Their success story over the years has resulted in costs dropping dramatically to even a record-low of $67/MWh for a 350MW farm in Denmark [Utility Dive]. Global wind energy experts anticipate significant future cost reductions for offshore wind power. In the median scenario, experts anticipate an average 30% reduction in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) by 2030 (relative to a median-expert baseline cost of $169/MWh in 2014) with costs falling by 41% by 2050. The cost of offshore wind power, now in early commercialization, is expected to be 25% lower by 2030 and 38% lower by 2050 relative to the same 2014 fixed-bottom baseline. Floating offshore wind power costs are expected to dip faster than fixed-bottom, with costs converging over time. The contributors to lower cost – turbine size, longer blades, taller towers and bigger generators. Currently, offshore projects use turbines in the 6-8MW range. 10MW turbines are poised to take off in the next few years and 11MW by 2030. Turbine size alone can contribute to around 18% reduction in LCOE by 2030 apart from positive impacts on upfront CAPEX cost and OPEX (operating expenditure).

Carbon fiber producers have their task cut out in making the fiber available through plant expansions. Does size matter when it comes to offshore wind turbines? You bet!

Upping the ante in defense

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Geopolitics is yet again in the forefront nowadays. It’s not just the new US administration which is bent on military build-up. From Europe all the way to China, the next decade will be marked by an increase in defense spending amid rising feuds and pockets of instability [Bloomberg]. Global defense expenditures rose to $1.57 trillion in 2016 from $1.55 trillion in 2015. China’s defense budget will almost double from $123 billion in 2010 to $233 billion in 2020. European Union (EU) members boosted their combined budget to $219 billion in 2016. The US is still the world leader in defense spending at $622 billion in 2016. It’s going to be a bonanza for composites globally in the defense sector.

High modulus glass fiber producers would probably be rubbing their hands in glee and looking at capacity expansions.

Substitution of die-cast metals with plastics and composites is a constant ongoing exercise in the automotive sector. The only polyphthalamide (PPA) with an aromatic content of  more than 50%  by weight from Royal DSM is targeting powertrain, transmission, chassis and thermal management applications along with industrial applications that includes reinforcing with carbon and glass fibers (as the case may be) up to 50% [Design News]. The new grade of PPA with a glass transition temperature >160°C is claimed to have outstanding mechanical, thermal and chemical properties.

Composites indispensable in lightweighting

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With rising crude oil prices, the “pain at the pump” is back with higher gasoline prices. Automakers are constantly working to improve their fleets’ fuel economy. The real growth however lies ahead when the need to reduce mass from today’s cars climbs to 15% and higher [Plastics News]. A new study conducted by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) found that in order to reach 15% weight reduction, a huge shift to use of composites, especially CFRP, was an absolute necessity. The components include pillars, cross beams and rails amongst others.This, in spite of the fact that the era of growth in US auto sales (cars and light trucks) apparently is over judging by the 17.6 million vehicles sold in 2016 – marginally higher than the 17.5 million sold in 2015. The auto industry is entering 2017 with analysts projecting the first significant decline in eight years [Automotive News]. The cumulative effect of rising gas prices and rising interest rates have been a dampener on household budgets. We should have more updates on automakers’ forecast for 2017 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in mid-January.

The concept of complete automated production lines for filament wound composite tanks for CNG and hydrogen-powered vehicles is gaining popularity [Plastics News]. Kautex is promoting the concept of tanks with a blow molded thermoplastic liner (polyethylene or nylon) subsequently filament wound with epoxy based CFRP. Extensive tests that include permeation, rupture, pressure and bonfire testing (to simulate car crash/fire) showed how the composite tank slowly melts and evenly releases the gas that burns up ultimately. On the contrary, steel tanks just explode. The key to performance and safety is the patented boss design (where hoses go into the tank).

SMART composites

Development of strengthening applications on ESSJAY COMPOSITES

Can car manufacturers overcome engine downsizing constraints such as increased temperatures and pressures through materials technology? Apparently so if one were to go by Solvay‘s new 35% glass fiber reinforced polyamide66 that integrates an unique smart molecule, self-reinforcement technology that can resist continuous heat stress of new generation engines [Plastics Today]. This new technology remains inactive during injection molding of car parts leaving the material behaving like a high-flow PA66. During the vehicle’s use, the elevated temperatures activate the smart technology leading to rapid cross-linking that boosts the mechanical properties far beyond the initial values. Ageing tests over 3000 hours at 220°C demonstrate very high retention property with tensile property gain >50% without degradation of elongation at break. The composite is intrinsically heat-friendly and eliminates the need for heat shields that may be required when using conventional materials.

Economic priorities redefined

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The global economic order with its hierarchy of economic priorities has been turned on its head following Brexit and the outcome of the recent US election. Achieving strong inclusive national-level growth to revive a declining middle class, kick-starting stagnant incomes and curtailing high youth unemployment is now taking precedence [World Economic Forum] through populist political measures. Multilateralism is likely to make way for bilateral and regional trade  and investment agreements. As stated in the earlier section of this post, with global trade at its nadir, it’s a state of “each nation unto its own” to create domestic demand, employment and achieve GDP growth.

Collaborate to succeed

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The bottom line? Irrespective of political upheavals in 2016 with more to follow this year, technological developments in the composites industry continue to abound. Here again, while the European Union and the US pursue their own objectives for the betterment and growth of the industry, the fact that raw material producers, processors and end users are successfully collaborating in an effective manner ensures that breakthroughs are always a given and we can expect more success stories of composites storming the metals bastion and creeping up to the double-digit mark, when it comes to material substitution.

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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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

 

Optimism is the watchword

Hello everyone,

March, the month that heralds the end of 1Q each year has been a mixed bag of sorts thus far – leaning more to the positive side and ushering in a greater sense of optimism. Crude oil, iron ore, copper and precious metals appeared to be staging a comeback with prices heading northward – baffling many economists, in the process.

High five time? 

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Is it a mirage? Apparently not, except for crude oil where the sudden spurt (as we speak) seems to be riding more on sentiment rather than stark supply-demand stats. That the world is awash with oil cannot be wished away. Goldman Sachs‘ views on oil prices backed by logical reasoning, says it all.

Hope!

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At the other end of the spectrum, the latest (March release) Markit-JP Morgan global manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 50 in February, hitting a fresh 39-month low in the process [Business Insider]. At the neutral level of 50, activity levels neither expanded nor contracted compared to a month earlier. Growth across developed markets reportedly slowed to a 33-month low. If global manufacturing is to avoid falling back into contraction, exports and international trade must witness an increase in the coming months.

Is this the bane of geopolitics? Which country is the last man standing in the oil price war? Any sane guesses?

The show must go on however…..

Endless possibilities

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The initiatives taken by Boeing for recycling carbon fiber are well known. It is now supporting research at the Washington Storm Water Center on the potential use of recycled carbon fiber composites to strengthen permeable pavement – a porous paving material that can mitigate pollution from stormwater runoff. Permeable pavement is currently used on parking lots and side roads. However, it is considered too soft for use on more heavily-traveled streets and highways.The proposed research project will examine if the recycled carbon fiber composite can effectively strengthen the permeable pavement. Early test results are reportedly promising. It appears that water coming through the porous asphalt with carbon fiber is not toxic to aquatic life (as the chemicals are captured by the carbon fiber), whereas absence of the reinforcement allows toxic chemicals to permeate through the asphalt.

Blowing strong as ever

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2015 was a watershed year for renewable energy in general and wind energy in particular. Records fell by the wayside. Per European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), 13GW of new wind capacity was added to the grid last year. Wind energy now provides a total of 142GW of capacity in Europe [Business Green]. The European wind industry accounted for 44% of all new power installations in 2015. Almost 50% of the new installed wind capacity in 2015 in Europe was in Germany (around 6GW). In the U.S., developers installed 16GW of clean energy in 2015. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has released information that around 8.6GW of new wind capacity was added in 2015 [SeeNews Renewables]. This represents a whopping 73% jump in investments in new U.S. projects last year.

Turbine blade manufacturers were probably laughing all the way to the bank – such was the intensity in 2015. In the process, glass and carbon fiber manufacturers also benefited immensely.

“Move gas, not steel”

CNG tank

The use of composites, chiefly CFRP  as a viable material of construction for CNG (compressed natural gas) cylinders/pressure vessels is in vogue. There is now a school of thought that CNG may be a  more viable option for powering locomotives than LNG (liquefied natural gas) including capex and ongoing costs of compression versus liquefaction. Reportedly, CNG costs 30 to 50 cents less per DGE (diesel gallon equivalent) than LNG [HHP Insight]. Further it takes 2.4 times more energy to liquify natural gas than it does to compress it, according to studies that have been conducted. That CNG facilities are easier to maintain than LNG is an added advantage. Railroads stand to save around 74% more through use of CNG instead of diesel than they would using LNG. In spite of LNG’s energy density allowing for greater range, CNG is equally competitive through increase in range (over diesel locomotives) by 50% or even two-fold. The “move gas, not steel” slogan is gaining credence through companies detailing designs for LNG tenders using all-composite lightweight CNG fuel cylinders developed for over-the-road tube trailers. The tenders are scalable for capacities up to 10,000DGEs (Hexagon).

A revolution in the making ? You could say that!

Time is the essence

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Curing of thermoset resins by cross-linking is well known. When cross-linked, thermoplastics are also turned into thermosets. Case in point is the cross-linking of polyethylene and polyamide in the pipe and automotive sectors respectively. The degree of cross-linking and curing is generally determined by wet chemical analysis – a method relying on chemical reactions between the material being analyzed and a reagent that is added (to the material). The main drawback to this method is the duration required – in excess of 8 hours before a quantitative result is obtained, not to mention the elaborate sample preparation involved [Plastics Today]. A German plastics research institute is exploring the use of single-sided nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that is significantly faster and also allows for inline process control. NMR is an advanced non-destructive testing (NDT) technique that generates info about the internal structure of a sample.The pros and cons of this NDT technique are being evaluated over a broad range of cross-linked and cured material systems.

Collaborate to succeed

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Innovative polycarbonate composites reinforced with glass wool could be a commercial reality in the near future for automotive, information technology and electronics applications. Covestro and Tokyo-based Nanodax have recently signed an agreement on joint development work in this area. The Nanodax technology that allows glass wool as a reinforcing filler for plastics, features lower diameter fibers that are more flexible compared to conventional glass fibers [Chemicals-Technology]. Advantages in surface appearance and material processing aside, the optimized injection molding process is also expected to result in cost reduction for customers.

Yet another pathbreaking development is in the works that has success written all over, considering the fact that both companies are leaders in their respective fields.

Composites – the ultimate beneficiary

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Battery-electric buses and CNG buses are rapidly gaining ascendancy globally-more so in the U.S. Both types of buses use composites to a great extent. In a new report published by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the battery-electric buses were found to be four times more fuel-efficient than comparable CNG buses. Results from on-road tests showed that the battery-electric buses demonstrated average efficiency of 2.15kWh/mile, which translates to about 17.48 per DGE. The CNG buses, in comparison, had an average fuel economy of just 4.51DGE [Busworld]. The battery-electric buses were also found to be more reliable than their CNG counterparts – logging 133,000 miles between road calls (MBRC), while the CNG buses had an MBRC of about 45,000.

Interesting and revealing stats for sure!

Market dynamics at play

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The phenomenal success of fracking in the U.S. has resulted in an abundance of natural gas availability. The resulting impact on market dynamics of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) has been discussed at length in several of my earlier blog posts way back in 2014. The use of lighter, less expensive feedstock (natural gas) in lieu of relatively more expensive naphtha is resulting in PE becoming more affordable and available and PP becoming scarcer and more expensive (as fewer pounds of propylene are produced from natural gas feeds). This is also reflected in recent price movements in PP [Plastics News]. Dehydrogenation of propane  to make propylene is the main recourse to ensure availability of PP at reasonable price. In view of significant use of PP composites in the automotive sector, processors may have to brace themselves for market volatility.

Reinventing chemistry…to succeed

Chemistry

In the quest for reduction of cycle time to enable greater use of CFRP for automotive lightweighting, the onus has squarely been on resin producers, for starters, to develop fast curing resins. Parts production with autoclave quality in less than a minute is now possible by combining a new 30-second cure epoxy resin with the novel Dynamic Fluid Compression Molding (DFCM) technique. Huntsman claims that one-minute cycle times for structural components can be achieved without further post-curing with its new resin system that exhibits very fast demolding, enabling drastic reduction in cure time. The high elongation at break of the resin is a perfect fit for impact resistant composite part production [Plastics Engineering]. The circle is complete with the DFCM process yielding parts with reduced void content and fiber volume content of up to 65%. Other advantages are reduced equipment investment as it is a low pressure process, reduced waste and simple processing of heavy tow industrial fabrics.

The inroads being made by CFRP in automotive lightweighting owe a lot to several leading resin producers who have risen admirably to the challenge of modifying resin chemistry to result in fast curing resins.

As we approach the end of 1Q2016, there is a possibility that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may further slash its January forecast of 3.4% global growth this year. Economic trends appear to be coming to full boil.

Are we in for an emotional roller coaster in the coming quarter? Fingers crossed on this.

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

 

 

 

 

Composites growth in tandem with global GDP – albeit a touch aided by lower energy costs

Hello everyone,

As we head into the final month of Q3 2015, the stock market is agog with frequent mention of the “September swoon”. Crude oil has been trending parabolically and the world is preparing for oil prices to be “lower for longer”.

Agony and ecstasy

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Economic turmoil has roiled the world and the downturn in China has lent credence to the “if China sneezes, the world catches a cold” syndrome. The battle for oil supremacy continues – though there are no real winners when it comes to the double dip in oil prices as it hurts the economy of all oil producing nations alike, albeit in different degrees. The supply glut is expected to persist through 2016 if one were to go by the statements of industrialized nations and oil majors. Globally, the trend is veering towards a command-and-control economy.

Northward growth

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Per International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global economy is expected to expand by 3.3% this year compared to 3.4% in 2014. The U.S. is forecast to grow by 2.5%, up from 2.4% in 2014; the eurozone by 1.5%, up from 0.8% in 2014; China by 6.5%, down from 7.4% in 2014 [BBC News].

Live-and-let-live motto

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Oil price swings did not act as a deterrent to automobile sales in the first half of 2015. Car sales in Western Europe accelerated to an 8% y/y increase. Passenger vehicle sales in North America were almost on a tear and advanced by 5% y/y through July, with full-year volumes likely to surpass 20 million units for the first time on record [Scotia Bank]. Though gasoline prices have not proportionately followed that of crude oil, the focus on lightweighting continues to be a relentless pursuit for the automotive industry. Unsurprisingly, the steel and aluminum industry announced new stronger and lighter grades of the respective metals in August. Novelis says it has developed a new grade of weight-saving aluminum sheet designed to replace steel in bumpers, doors and other safety-critical areas of vehicle bodies and which is 2-3 times stronger than the grade currently in high-volume production [Automotive News]. Steel makers’ collaborating with automakers is at an all-time high. The latest ultra-high strength steel to develop lightweight vehicles is more formable and saves the cost of converting factories from spot welding to riveting and bonding. It is a live-and-let-live approach of using a judicious combination of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber by automakers. Case in point is the next version of the BMW 7-series sports sedan and the Audi R8 sports car that use a combination of all three materials.

Constant innovation

VW Volkswagen Lightweight car

The versatility of polyurethane (PU) foam cores in sandwich construction is well known and a proven concept. Mass production of the roof module of a car has been achieved using honeycomb sandwich structure with Class-A film. It features a paper honeycomb and two surrounding glass fiber mats which are sprayed in an impregnation process with a low density, thermally activated PU foam (from BASF) and pressed together with a solid-colored Class-A film [Plastics Today]. It was possible to produce a roof module that was 30% lighter than its predecessor, in a single operation, while retaining the same strength and flexural rigidity. The process displayed uniform wetting of the glass fiber mats without any drip, resulting in good adhesion. Once the semi-finished product was impregnated, it was pressed into shape in a heated mold along with the Class-A film. The PU system foams up slightly at the edge of the sandwich and creates a solid material composite between film, reinforcing glass fiber mats and the paper honeycomb core. There was flexibility in adjusting the PU reactivity to achieve longer spray time of 120 seconds coupled with short demolding times of 60 seconds. Unlike conventional composite parts where the individual layers are glued together in a multistage process, the current process involves a single manufacturing step.

This is yet another example of reduced cycle time in composites to gain greater favor in automotive production.

Aerodynamics & fuel economy

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Boeing has been successful in upping its monthly production of the 787 Dreamliner from 10 to 14 in August and predicts deliveries of 130-135 for the year. Airbus has commenced building the first wings for its new A350-1000 and currently holds the mantle of the largest CFRP composite wing at 105 feet for each wing [Puget]. This is likely to be rivaled and superseded by Boeing’s planned 777-9X wing which will be 106 feet long – extending to 117 feet with a unique folding wingtip. Both the Airbus and Boeing wings are relatively long and thin made possible by the structural strength of carbon fiber composites.

Fuel efficient aerial dream machines? You can call them that.

What waste?

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The quest for commercially viable technology breakthroughs in recycling carbon fibers and composites is perennial. At the forthcoming Fakuma International Trade Fair for Plastics Processing in Germany, Cannon will reportedly present its innovative EU-funded project CRESIM (Carbon Recycling by Epoxy Special Impregnation) aimed at the development of proper processing methods for the manufacture of CFRP parts using recycled carbon fiber through  closed loop manufacturing. The project addresses waste reuse by demonstrating a new innovative manufacturing process that potentially reuses up to 100% of the carbon fiber waste and scraps from different industrial sectors, thereby providing an opportunity for greening the production process and making efficiency gains [European Plastic Product Manufacturer].

Recall the Adidas slogan – impossible is nothing? The above just about sums it.

A glass fiber reinforced polyphthalamide (PPA) injection molding compound with high burst pressure and impact strength essential to withstand alternating stresses in dynamically stressed casing components in the automotive industry, has been introduced by Evonik. The molding compound also has good flow characteristics resulting in the molded parts having smooth defect-free surface [Plastics Today]. PPAs are semi-crystalline thermoplastics with high temperature stability and outstanding chemical resistance that can effectively replace metals in several applications.

Quick and efficient

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Additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) has taken the world by storm in drastically shortening the concept-to-commercialization cycle. If you think additive manufacturing and the aerospace sector make strange bedfellows, you may want to think again. SABIC‘s lightweight polyetherimide (PEI) flame-retardant resin coupled with Stratsys‘ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) has addressed one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturing for the aerospace sector – the ability to produce small volume parts quickly and effectively [European Plastic Product Manufacturer]. The additive manufactured PEI (SABIC’s ULTEM) affords greater design flexibility, lower cost production runs and accelerated cycle times compliant with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and OEM flame smoke toxicity (FST) regulations. SABIC’s PEI has been certified to Airbus material specifications and the resin has been used to additive manufacture more than 1,000 flight parts in the A350 XWB aircraft fleet. The 3D-printed parts replaced traditionally-manufactured parts to increase supply chain flexibility. This success story has shown that additive manufacturing technology is making metal replacement development easier for OEMs than trying to upgrade a metal component to a traditionally-manufactured plastic replacement. It makes the whole cycle faster and less expensive. SABIC has an extensive range of carbon fiber(CF) reinforced PEI – can we expect a slew of 3D-printed CF reinforced PEI aircraft components in the future?

A beginning has been made. The first step has been taken. Could this just be the tip of the iceberg for additive manufacturing to make a big splash in composites usage in the aerospace and automotive sectors?

Blowing strong

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According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), 1,994 megawatts (MW) wind turbines were installed in the U.S. in the first half of 2015 – which is more than double the installations in the same period last year. Looking forward, more than 100 wind projects are under construction in 24 states, representing more than 13,600MW of total wind capacity. There are now 67,870MW of installed onshore wind capacity in the U.S.[Renewable Energy World]. Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low according to a new report released by the Department of Energy (DOE). The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged under 2.5 cents/kWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2014 [Windpower Engineering & Development]. Wind projects built in 2014 had an average installed cost of $1,710/KW, down almost $600/KW from the peak in 2009 and 2010. In Europe, 584 offshore wind turbines were installed, adding 2.3GW capacity to the European electricity grid in H1 2015, per data released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). In total there is now 10GW of connected offshore wind [The Guardian]. The average turbine size increased from 3.5MW in 2014 to 4.2MW in the first half of 2015. Commercial orders for 8MW turbines are trickling in. In August, the U.K. authorized the Forward consortium of four European utilities to build the joint-largest offshore wind project in the world. The two 1.2GW wind farms total almost four times the capacity of the largest operational project [Bloomberg]. The U.K. is banking on offshore wind to help meet its renewable energy and carbon targets and had about 4.5GW of capacity out of a total of 8.8GW at the end of 2014.

The turbine blades, whether onshore or offshore continue to rely on composites. The trend in using a carbon fiber/glass fiber hybrid in offshore to reduce cost is gathering momentum.

Chemistry at work

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Extensive use of Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) composites in automotive applications has been prevalent since the 80s. Progressive developments in reduction of the specific gravity have evolved over the years through recipe changes involving chemistry. The successful use of chemically (silane) treated glass microspheres (from 3M) by CSP in lowering the specific gravity of SMC to 1.2 has paved the way to allow significant weight savings in composite body panels for the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette. A total of 21 composite body panels including doors, decklids, quarter panels and fenders have been developed for the Corvette. The low-density SMC is reportedly cost competitive with aluminum with considerable savings on the tooling cost vis-a-vis aluminum [Plastics News].

The trend in use of biotechnology for recycling of carbon fibers is embryonic. Around 3,000Tonnes of CFRP waste is generated in Europe alone. The Hohenstein Institute in Germany has reported success in using suitable microorganisms  to break down the epoxy resin matrix in CFRPs and returning it to the materials cycle as a metabolite. Simultaneously the carbon fibers are extracted without damage so that they can be reclaimed for use in new products [Innovation in Textiles]. This biotechnology route could supplement the existing multi-stage pyrolytic process for recycling carbon fibers.

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A discerning global trend is the focus on a green environment and emphasis on recycling/conversion of all forms of waste to usable products. Typical examples are denim wear and sneakers from ocean plastic waste, ultra-clean fuel from unwashed waste plastics, to name a few. The fact that leading brand names such as Adidas and others are involved in such green projects underscores the relevance in today’s context. Believe it or not, the next great renewable energy source is tipped to be algae biofuel according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the newest and seemingly most viable form of clean energy, besting even solar. Algae, found throughout the oceans employ photosynthesis to create energy using sunlight. Some types of algae produce oils that they use to store energy – implying certain algae can be grown and harvested to produce biofuel, a net carbon-neutral process [Yahoo Finance].

When it comes to technology, we are living in a world where breakthroughs are imminent – be it graphene which is being touted as the material of the future (read next decade when it should be commercially viable) or biofuels where aviation tests have already shown promising results.

Millennials are bound to reap the benefits from such exciting technology breakthroughs that have the potential to fructify commercially in the coming decade.

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Cautious optimism is the watchword for 2015…..with US steering the global economy

Hello again,

At the outset, I wish all readers a Happy and Prosperous 2015 – an oft repeated start-of-the-year greeting, but one that merits mention nevertheless, for the sheer optimism and hope that it conveys.

Dollar Dominance ?

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2014 was another roller coaster year, though the last quarter showed signs of a near return to normalcy, crude oil price fluctuations notwithstanding and shades of justified hope on global growth in 2015.

The International Monetary Fund [IMF] predicts global growth of 3.8% this year compared to 3.3% in 2014 [BBC News] – the fastest growth since 2011. The steep drop in crude oil price implies consumers have more to spend (less pain at the pump) on cars, furniture, appliances, whilst also reducing business costs. Oil price aside, the main source of strength apparently is the buoyant US economy that is expected to register around 3.1% growth in 2015. The 5% growth in Q3, 2014 was the swiftest for any quarter since 2003 and the world’s biggest economy is on an extended win streak [Yahoo Finance]. China is slowing as it transitions from investment to consumption. It was driven by investment and export performance that couldn’t last forever. Goldman Sachs expects several years of declining growth rates for China.  Japan is sliding into a recession after a disastrous Q3, 2014. Russia appears headed for one, while Europe is barely growing and Greece in the news yet again. There are some rumbling sources of potential trouble on prospects of a really strong growth year, but there is a decent chance that 2015 will be another year of gradual post-crisis rehabilitation [BBC News].

Probably a touch of cautious optimism is called for ?

 Polyurethane: one-upmanship on epoxy

LEAF SPRING

Rapid strides continue to be made in new developments in the automotive sector in spite of low gas prices posing a threat to electric vehicles and, to a lesser extent, hybrids. Composite leaf springs are not a novelty – however, it is the combination of resin matrix, fiber reinforcement and processing technique that continuously undergoes technological advancements resulting in improved performance. The suspension of the new Volvo XC90 employs a transverse fiber-reinforced composite leaf spring instead of the usual array of coil springs. The compact design achieves a weight saving of 4.5 kg with additional functional benefits such as smoother ride, improved NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) and increased trunk volume as there are no suspension turrets [Plastics Today]. The RTM process for this composite spring uses Polyurethane (PU) resin from Henkel. Cycle time, that has been the bane of RTM in automotive applications, has been addressed through the use of low viscosity PU resulting in rapid mold-fill, fast fiber impregnation and short injection times. With a curing rate that is substantially faster than epoxy resins, cycle times are shorter, overall.

The quest in achieving shorter cycle times for more widespread use of composites in automotive applications, continues unabated. 

All-round innovation

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The Abarth 695 Biposto has been described by its manufacturer as the smallest supercar with the perfect synthesis between street performance and racetrack thrill. Extensive use of carbon fiber results in an overall weight of 997 kg of this two-seater that also uses Polycarbonate (PC) glazing for the front fixed window having built-in sliding panels. SABIC‘s Exatec coating technology reportedly meets European regulatory requirements for transparency, scratch and abrasion resistance for PC-based vehicle windows [Plastics Today]. CFRP composites are used for the front bumper, side skirts, part of the dashboard, under the rear bumper (diffuser), side mirrors and seats.

Tequila time?

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Driven by surging Mexican factories, full-year 2014 light vehicle output for North America totaled 17.24 million – up 7% from 2013, according to estimates from Automotive News Data Center. The forecast for 2015 is projected at around 17.4 million vehicles. Mexico’s free-trade agreement covering dozens of other countries have made it an attractive base for exports overseas and to South America [Automotive News]. While US output and Canada production were both up 5% in 2014, Mexico gained a whopping 12%.

Mexico is the new manufacturing destination for several global auto majors judging by the spate of massive investments in that nation in recent times.

 Holy Grail of Designers

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The aerospace sector has been in the news recently with the induction of the Airbus A350 and, apparently, orders rolling in for this aircraft rivaling the Boeing 787. As is well known, both planes use composites in excess of 50% by weight. Commercial aircraft use thousands of brackets from the cockpit to the tail of the plane. If made from metal, the total amount of brackets can add a significant amount of weight. Victrex has developed a new Polyaryletherketone (PAEK) -based polymer and an innovative hybrid molding technology that enable overmolding of a PAEK-based composite with fiber reinforced Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) injection molding grades. The hybrid molded composite bracket is able to deliver up to 60% weight savings compared to stainless steel and titanium, while offering equivalent or better mechanical properties such as strength, stiffness and fatigue [Plastics Today]. The hybrid process uses a pre-formed composite like an insert in the injection molding tool and allows the continuously reinforced thermoplastic composite to be pre-fabricated and used in the same way as a metallic insert in the injection molding process. The PAEK-based composite is thermoformed prior to insertion. The new PAEK-based polymer allows for 70% fiber loading and processing temperatures (enabling faster manufacturing cycle times) that are approximately 40°C less than traditional PEEK-based composites and creates a very strong bond between a continuously-reinforced thermoplastic composite and an injection-molding polymer. The PAEK bracket can be produced in minutes compared to the hours it would take for a metal or thermoset equivalent. Overall part cost is reduced through elimination of such steps as edge sealing and X-ray inspections. The PEEK polymers can be either carbon or glass fiber reinforced grades, typically with 30-40% fiber loading.

Just goes to show that even small components in an aircraft merit consideration when it comes to exploring weight reduction possibilities.

 OFFSHORE WIND – THE FUTURE

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Much has been spoken and written about wind energy becoming competitive with conventional electric generating technologies like natural gas and coal. In fact, a recent economic analysis by the leading investment banking firm Lazard using the “levelized cost of electricity”(LCOE) metric indicates that renewable generating technologies are not only competitive with fossil fuels, but are also cheaper than natural gas/coal in some markets [Forbes]. LCOE (referenced in one of my earlier posts), represents the per-kWh cost (in real dollars) of building and operating a power plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. LCOE for renewable generation is/can be lower in the near-term future than the “average” price of electricity provided by the electric power grid. In the most recent Annual Energy Outlook, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) began using the “levelized avoided cost of energy” (LACE) for assessing the economic competitiveness of different generating technologies. The LACE metric estimates what it would have cost the grid to generate the electricity otherwise displaced by a new generation project. IEA expects offshore wind costs to drop 45% by 2050, while land-based wind expenses will decline by a relatively smaller 25%. The Department of Energy predicts a 40% price cut by 2030, while the UK (undisputed leader in offshore wind generation) expects turbine prices to drop overall expenses a sizable 17% by 2020 [The Motley Fool]. General Electric and other corporations are pushing for bigger, stronger and more efficient turbines in the > 4.1 MW range. While carbon fiber has been the mainstay for offshore wind turbine blades, glass fiber producers are introducing high modulus fibers to combat the stranglehold of the former. The key is in lighter weight due to longer blades – carbon fiber does have an edge over glass fiber on this score.

Only time will tell.

TOUCH OF INGENUITY

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Stampable thermoplastics that received rave reviews in the 90s when they were introduced, continue to make progress in automotive applications. Faurecia has developed an integral structural floor comprising the front and rear passenger floor and trunk floor in glass fiber reinforced polyamide66 and made by the thermostamping technique. The thermoplastic composite also makes it possible to weld and overmold parts [Plastics Today]. The technology reportedly reduces part weight and costs compared to bonding, while producing a material able to withstand the very high temperatures created during painting that employs cataphoresis (cathodic electrodeposition). To muffle the noise, acoustic components were incorporated into the empty space between the upper and lower layers of the thermoplastic structure. The composite floor is 16.5 kg lighter than its steel counterpart (33% weight saving) and also reduces CO2 emissions by 1.65 gm/km.

CRYSTAL BALL GAZING

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When it comes to carbon fibers and CFRP composites, the Japanese have few peers. A 2014 report highlighting the Japanese perspective on automotive sector penetration predicts usage of CFRP parts will broaden from selected parts such as hoods and roofs in the 2013-2016 timeframe, to major structural components between 2017 and 2019 – especially in electric vehicles [Plastics Today]. Carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics are expected to make inroads in less demanding applications such as interior panels in 2019 and then extending to exterior panels. Between 2020-2025, lower material costs, shorter cycle times and improved yields will see greater adoption in structural components.

Considering the catalytic role played by Japanese companies (carbon fiber producers and automobile manufacturers) in expanding the market base for CFRP composites, obviously they have done their homework right on this prediction!

COMPETE TO CO-EXIST

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CFRP composites are extending beyond rebar application in the construction industry. A lighthouse in Spain features a CFRP-GFRP combination. Several CFRP tubular profiles support a set of GFRP floor slabs and their bracings which surround the central tube that leads the stairs to the upper part in the lantern room [European Plastics News]. The structure consists of eight CFRP (epoxy matrix) tubular profiles, 31 meters high. The columns (circular section of 250mm diameter) are positioned in the vertex of an octagon inside a circumference of 4.5 meters diameter in the lighthouse base and 4 meters at its top. Four horizontal octagonal rings in GFRP with a diameter of 190mm are placed at different levels of the lighthouse every 6 meters. Five GFRP composite decks are distributed along the whole height of the lighthouse.

That GFRP and CFRP can co-exist in the design of a single structure – need further evidence?

SHALE GAS SUCCESS

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The impact of the shale gas revolution on ethylene and propylene market dynamics has been dwelt with at length in several of my earlier posts. Less expensive ethane derived from shale gas makes ethylene production highly attractive and is behind large-scale US capacity additions. Companies such as Dow Chemical, Chevron Philips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are betting on increased competitiveness in the US and are constructing crackers to produce ethylene [Plastics Today]. Global ethylene capacity is poised to increase from 167 million Tons/year in 2014 to 208.5 million Tons by 2017. The shift away from naphtha definitely puts propylene availability and price at a risk – but alternate routes are expected to materialize commercially in 2016 to restore parity, to some extent.

Crude oil price is expected to hover in the $60-70/barrel range through 2015 if one were to go by the budget projections of OPEC nations and others. From a consumer perspective, the drop in gas price at the pump was the silver lining in Q4, 2014. Will it continue through 2015?

A surging US dollar has battered most major currencies, with the euro currently trading at almost its lowest since 2006.

Fingers crossed as we wait to see what unfolds this year.

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

 

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

Do Regulatory requirements Foster fast-track innovation, Forge synergistic alliances and Spur rapid growth ?

Hello everyone,

At the outset, I wish all readers in the 100+ countries (that this blog’s readership covers) a Happy and Prosperous 2014!

Most of you would be back after the holidays rejuvenated and determined to tackle another challenging year ahead, albeit with less pain and greater optimism than in 2013.

OPTIMISM – THIS IS FOR REAL

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Taking stock of 2013, the results have started trickling in……

Global manufacturing ended 2013 on a strong note as major exporters like the U.S., Japan and Germany all saw demand pick up; although China’s performance remained modest with diminished exports in December 2013 and a marginal drop in Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). Years of loose monetary policy along with soaring stock markets appear to be bolstering economic confidence – this bodes well for a global economy that has struggled to shake off the effects of financial crisis and recession [Reuters]. By not showing signs of contraction, Europe appears to have turned the corner, while the emerging markets are reportedly faring better. The U.S. economy seems to be on a roll with December’s PMI of 55.0 and the housing market on the road to recovery.

CLEAN, GREEN ENERGY

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The relentless pursuit of clean green energy remains unabated. Official figures confirm December 2013 was a record breaking month for wind power in the UK with more electricity generated from wind than any other month. A total of 2,841,080 MWh of electricity were generated by wind power for the National Grid – enough to power more than 5.7 million British homes. Overall, wind power supplied 10% of Britain’s total electricity demand for homes, businesses and factories [Clickgreen]. Globally, this market segment continues to be the principal growth driver for glass and carbon fiber composites. The abundance of natural gas in the U.S. is resulting in the retirement of more coal-fired plants in favor of (less expensive) natural gas-fired plants for electricity generation. Per U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal-fired generating capacity is expected to fall from 312 GW in 2012 to 262 GW in 2040. Increased generation with renewable energy is expected to account for 28% of overall growth in electricity generation between 2012 and 2040. Recall the commitment by leading nations at the commencement of this decade of harnessing 20% renewable energy by 2020.

The winds of change are definitely blowing in the right direction.

The cyclical recovery in global auto sales that began in mid-2009 has resulted in broad-based gains in 2013 in every region except Europe. Volumes in Western Europe began stabilizing in the latter half of 2013 and forecast to increase this year for the first time since 2009. Record global car sales is projected for 2014 with a 5% increase (over 2013) triggered by the first synchronized expansion in global purchases since 2005 as a result of rising consumer confidence, low short-term interest rates and strengthening employment growth [Scotia Bank].

AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR IN TOP GEAR

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Achieving weight reduction and the resulting fuel economy is a perennial challenge. Volvo has unveiled an innovative potential solution to the problem associated with bulky and heavy battery packs by replacing steel body panels with carbon fiber composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors. The conductive material used around the vehicle to charge and store energy can be recharged via the vehicle’s regenerative braking system or via the grid. When the system and motor requires a charge, the energized panels behave like any traditional battery pack and discharge accordingly. Volvo claims the composite trunk lid, which is stronger than steel, could not only power the vehicle’s 12volt system, but the weight savings alone could increase an EV’s overall range and performance as a result. The switch to CFRP composite of the plenum cross-member under the hood resulted in 50% weight saving and torsionally stronger structure compared to steel. The bottom line….an interesting solution that could not only reduce overall weight, but increase charge capacity relative to a vehicle’s surface area [Gizmag]. Per Volvo, weight savings of 15% or more could be achieved by replacing a vehicle’s traditional body and relevant electrical components with nano-infused carbon fiber panels. When it comes to weight saving the battery pack in Tesla Model S not only adds significant cost  but also weight (around 453 kilograms). With Volvo’s concept, that huge chunk of weight would not only be lighter but spread out evenly over the vehicle’s body. As a result, vehicle handling and performance characteristics would improve as a result of this revised displacement concept.

With fertile imagination….such revolutionary concepts and consequent successful outcomes are a given.

RESIN BREAKTHROUGHS

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The cure kinetics of a novel heat-resistant epoxy resin based on naphthyl pyromellitic diamide with diamino diphenyl methyl sulfone on carbon fiber reinforced composites has provided interesting insights. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) was used under non-isothermal and isothermal conditions. The former results in highly crosslinked network later in the curing stage. The CFRP composites were found to exhibit a high glass transition temperature, low moisture absorption, adequate flame retardance and especially very low tensile strength loss at high temperatures [Sciencia].

Polyurethanes (PU) continue to make inroads as matrix materials for composites in view of their proven versatility. The effect of soft segment molecular weight and chemical structure on the morphology and final properties of segment thermoplastic PU containing various hard segment contents has been investigated. Vegetable oil based polyesters and corn sugar based chain extenders have been used as renewable resources. Chemical structure and molecular weight of polyols strongly affect the properties of the synthesized TPU. An increase in soft segment molecular weight increases the degree of soft segment crystallinity and microphase separation, thus imparting enhanced mechanical properties and higher thermal stability [Sciencia].

LIGHTWEIGHTING – NO LETUP

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Technological developments abound in meeting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and EU regulations laid out by the U.S. and European Union respectively on fuel economy (read, miles per gallon) of all vehicles. Gurit‘s Car Body Sheet (CBS) is a unique composite structure for car body panels. The combination of two layers of carbon fiber reinforcement, one above and one below a syntactic resin core, results in stiffness properties similar to those of an I-beam. While CBS panels match the stiffness of typical steel or aluminum body panels, they minimize the required layers of carbon fiber reinforcement, reducing both mass and cost of the component. The final layer of CBS is an in-mold primer layer which enables CBS to far exceed the surface quality of standard composite materials neutralizing fiber print-through and providing an excellent surface for paint. The combined cure ply thickness is 1.8mm and the panels are 80% lighter than steel of the same thickness [Plastics Today]. Nickel tooling, built-in vacuum circuit and thermal fluid circulation enables programmed cure cycle temperature ramps that result in 80-minute cure cycles to produce fully cured dimensionally controlled surface panels.

Which reminds us of the adage “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Can there be a better example than achieving fuel economy through intelligent identification of potential vehicle components, judicious choice of materials and tweaking of processing parameters/techniques, all contributing to weight reduction?

CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGIES

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The requirement of fire retardance for mass transit applications needs no overemphasis. Public safety is of paramount importance.  A new halogen-free high performance thermoset resin system is well suited for thermoset composites in mass transit. Sans conventional fire retardant additives such as antimony trioxide or alumina trihydrate, the one-part system features a proprietary intumescent mechanism and provides excellent wet-out, spray characteristics and crack resistance. The resin has lower specific gravity and leads to lighter weight and stronger parts that are easy to fabricate. It is designed for contact molding and spray-up GFRP processes [Plastics News].

Thermoplastic composites are making rapid strides in a range of industries requiring lightweight, high-strength material options along with low cost, automation and short cycle times attainable with injection molding. An all-plastic organic hybrid composite technology involves heating a continuous fiber reinforced sheet blank impregnated with polyamide 6 and then placing it in an injection mold where it is formed into a 3D shape and overmolded with more polyamide 6 (unfilled or glass fiber reinforced). In some cases, the sheet blank is thermoformed separately before being placed in the injection mold. The initial development focus has been on automotive interiors including seating area components, door side impact beams, cross-car beams and front ends [Plastics Technology]. A seat back consisting of woven glass fiber/polyamide sheet overmolded with a specially developed 35% glass fiber reinforced polyamide 6 combines stiffness ,ductility and Class A type finish. The part weighed 20% less than standard seat backs. Other potential thermoplastic candidates include PP, PBT, PES, PEEK and polyamide 66.

A new Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) process simplifies production and painting of CFRP automotive parts. Production of a 2mm thick CFRP roof panel with a paintable surface that can go into the paint line with other exterior car parts was recently demonstrated in Europe for a sports car body. A compact mold carrier design has a special seal system in the mold that makes it possible to inject Polyurethane  with vacuum assistance when the mold is slightly opened. Integrated sensors monitor and regulate optimal filling [Plastics News].

NAPHTHA vs. ETHANE 

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The success of fracking and abundance of U.S. shale gas is shaking up the global petrochemicals industry. Using natural gas to make ethylene has meant a switch away from naphtha from which oil-based feedstocks such as propylene, butadiene and benzene are derived. Styrene, in turn is derived from benzene. Will this have a negative impact on vinylester and unsaturated polyester resin prices in the long run? The probability remains high. Continued shift to ethane will lead to an ongoing shortage of higher carbon chemicals such as propylene and butadiene. This environment is also likely to be supportive of renewable chemistry economics. An indirect beneficiary could be the global bioplastics market that could grow at a staggering 40% per year through 2020 according to Morgan Stanley researchers [Plastics Today].

STRATEGIC ACQUISITIONS

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With markets perking, the timing is right for Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) to gain momentum. Companies are flush with cash. Organic growth could well take a backseat in businesses which require heavy capital outlay. The M&A route could be the preferred option in enhancing market share and expanding customer base in a shorter time frame. Toray‘s acquisition of Zoltek (carbon fiber) and Karl Mayer‘s acquisition of Liba (warp knitting & technical textiles machinery) are just the tip of the iceberg.

We are in the cusp of a technological revolution arising out of the shale gas success saga. Being forewarned enables us to be forearmed in seeking alternatives, so that the development cycle pertaining to innovations reaching the marketplace remains unaffected.

Does the industry have the wherewithal to effectively combat the disruptions arising from technological advancements that affect market dynamics caused by a shift away from oil?

The answer is an emphatic YES!

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com

Aerospace & Automotive Sectors….. the show goes on

Hello again,

Its back to business………..

Apart from being a vacation month for many, August was eventful in more ways than one.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

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It was mayhem of sorts for the stock markets and geopolitical tensions did precious little to allay fears of an exacerbation of the economy blues. The timing could not have more inopportune; especially when the “feel good” factor was just playing upon us with the eurozone reportedly coming out of an 18-month recession, the U.S. beating forecasts to register a 2.5%  growth in GDP in Q2 and Chinese manufacturing besting expectations with a 51.0 Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in August – the highest level since April 2012.

Signs of prosperity in the face of adversity –  a classic example of diversity ?

SOARING IN CONFIDENCE

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The aerospace  (and composites) sector had a lot to cheer about in the last week of August. Boeing announced newer versions of the 787 Dreamliner in the offing. Ethiopian airlines [ABC News] that reported a record profit for the 12-month period ending June 2013, attributed it partly to savings in fuel costs arising out of the fuel-efficient 787 design…composites no doubt playing a significant role towards this cause.

Composites replacing aluminum has been a key feature of the new generation Airbus 350 (and the 787 Dreamliner). The latest innovation has been the development of the complete inner core door frame in CFRP using RTM technique, for the Airbus 350. The process enables the highly stressable CFRP composite to be produced with a comparatively high fiber volume content with good impact properties, while reducing weight at the same time. Manufacturing is via an injection process using the proven modular system found in Wickert downward presses. The hydraulic press system was designed to be absolutely oil-tight by completely enclosing the press area and the entire press technology peripheral system, including the hydraulic and electrical systems, since the carbon parts could not be risked to exposure to even a hint of oil mist. The control and process visualization integrates the injector, heating/cooling system and press shuttle. The cycle time for fabrication is six hours per airplane door – which is faster than fabricating with aluminum. The product will be on display at Composites Europe 2013.

Proof of the pudding ?  Aerospace grade carbon fiber producers and CFRP processors will probably be laughing all the way to the bank for the next few years with the projected (increased) roll out by both Airbus and Boeing of the A350 and 787 versions respectively.

REVVING UP

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Currently, the North American auto sector is on a roll with a surge in vehicle production – in fact, the industry is being termed as being at “hyper-utilization ” [Plastics News]. Forecasters predict production levels to bounce back to between 15.5 million and 16 million vehicles this year, which is expected to climb above 16 million in the next few years. Global car sales advanced 4% in H1 2013 and is well poised to post further gains this year, aided to some extent by reduced headwinds emanating from Western Europe [Scotia Bank].

The UK is the strongest auto market in Europe with first-half 2013 sales posting a double digit increase. Per latest data from PwC Autofacts, New York, the developing Asia-Pacific region will account for 62% of overall growth in global automobile production through 2017. North America comes a distant second at 13.4%, with the European Union accounting for 11.7%, South America 6.7% and Eastern Europe 6.3% [Plastics Today].

Thermoplastic composites continue to play a major role when it comes to lightweighting in the automotive sector. BASF‘s new innovative approach involves use of laminates based on woven glass fabrics and unidirectional  (UD) tapes that are fully impregnated with polyamide (PA) or polyethylene terephthalate (PBT) [Plastics Today]. Overmolding materials also based on PA and PBT have been specifically developed for use with the laminates. The tape-laminate combination enables injection molding of complex parts that have very high mechanical reinforcement by use of continuous fibers at precisely defined locations, whilst simultaneously incorporating specific functions as the result of overmolding. For parts with very high stiffness, the overmolding compound can be loaded with up to 60% glass fiber reinforcement. For crash loaded applications requiring high impact strength and optimized for high energy absorption, specific tape-laminate configurations are available.

THE SUSTAINABILITY WATCHWORD

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Innovation drives change. The BMW i3 electric car launched last month has its passenger compartment constructed of CFRP over an aluminum chassis. Interestingly, around 25% of the plastic used in the interior comes from recycled material and renewable sources. In the course of its development, the company claims to have developed the first recycling concept of its kind worldwide for CFRP components. Little wonder that the car has been described as a “revolutionary step towards sustainable mobility” [European Plastics].

Can there be a better advertisement for commitment to sustainability whilst simultaneously delivering performance ?

Chemical recycling of GFRP composites could soon be a commercial reality. A hydrolysis process has been applied to degrade an unsaturated polyester resin based on dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) cross-linked with styrene monomer in the matrix of a composite material reinforced with long glass fibers. Sub-critical conditions of water (200C <temperature <374C and pressure <221 bar) were chosen based on relevant chemistry for simple esters. A washing of the fibers is necessary and an important step in the process. Experiments measured the effect of process parameters on the efficiency of hydrolysis, on the quality of recovered fibers and on the nature of the recovered organic products. Identification of the recovered organic products indicate monomers of the resin are obtained and that secondary reactions also occur during the hydrolysis process [Sciencia].

A new dimension to GFRP recycling that is different from the conventional pyrolysis technique ?

 FIBERGLASS LINEALS – RESURGENCE ?

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Pultruded fiberglass profiles as the supporting material for window and door assemblies have been around awhile. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) has long been an advocacy agency for the fenestration industry. The major advantages of fiberglass as a fenestration material are strength and stability – essentially strength means window frames can be slimmer, letting in more daylight. The slim look also mimics originally designed windows [Plastics News]. Stability is important as the more a material expands and contracts, the more the sealants will crack and leak. Pultruded fiberglass windows and doors combine the desirable properties of both vinyl and aluminum. The structural strength approaches aluminum and it can take dark colors like metal. The thermal properties are close to vinyl and co-efficient of expansion is equal to that of glass which is a boon to structural integrity. According to a recent study by AAMA, fiberglass windows in the U.S. have gained traction – garnering a 3.2% market share, up from 2% earlier.

Moral of the story ? Persevere relentlessly even in established applications to successfully increase market share.

 CHEMISTRY→PRODUCTIVITY 

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Further updates on the novel Epoxy Structural Reaction Injection Molding (ESTRIM) technology that I had briefly touched upon in my April post earlier this year…… Cannon‘s ESTRIM technology is a fast-cycle molding system for composite parts made using carbon fiber reinforced epoxy resin that reduces demolding time of a finished composite part from 20-30 minutes of a standard RTM process to just 3 minutes ! This impacts productivity significantly in a positive way, drastically shortening the Return on Investment (ROI) in machinery. The quality of the molded piece is reportedly on par with the traditional process, while the high-pressure technology used to meter and inject the liquid reactive formulation allows for complete elimination of cleaning solvents from the production cycle [Plastics Today]. This provides significant benefits to workers’ health, working place atmosphere and process economies.

OFFSHORE WIND – UNSTOPPABLE ?

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In July, the London Array wind power project in the United Kingdom became the world’s largest offshore wind farm with a fleet of 175 wind turbines and a nameplate capacity of 630MW – enough energy to power nearly half a million homes and reduce harmful CO2 emissions by more than 900,000 tonnes annually. The UK currently boasts of more than 3.6GW of offshore wind power capacity which is forecast to more than quintuple in size by 2020 [Forbes]. With over 5GW of global installed capacity representing about 2% of total installed wind power capacity [GWEC], and with a whopping 80GW to be installed by 2020, the offshore wind market is picking up speed [Renewable Energy World]. With longer blades and carbon fiber being the preferred material of choice, producers have their task cut out for the next 3-5 years. Wind energy accounted for 43% of new electric additions last year adding more than 13GW of new wind power capacity to the U.S. grid in 2012. Wind energy now has the capacity to power all homes in the states of California and Washington. GWEC‘s latest report predicts a 11% drop in 2013 to just under 40GW followed by a sharp recovery in 2014 to slightly exceed 2012 market and average just over 11% annual market growth from 2014-2017.

Composites should enjoy a good run in this sector for the next few years barring unforeseen roadblocks.

A new grade of polyetheretherketone (PEEK) advanced engineering plastic has secured qualification from Airbus. The high-flow, easy-processing high modulus material can deliver an equivalent strength and stiffness at up to 70% lighter weight compared to traditional aerospace metals such as stainless steel, titanium and aluminum. The high modulus polymer provides up to 100 times longer fatigue life and up to 20% higher specific strength and stiffness when compared to aluminum under identical conditions [Plastics Today]. Considering the fact that removing 100lbs (45kg) can result in almost $10,000 in annual fuel cost savings per long-range plane, the potential to improving fuel efficiency is tremendous [Victrex].

A decade ago, plastics contributing to fuel efficiency in airplanes would probably have been scoffed at….not anymore though.

“INTELLIGENT” COMPOSITES

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It is now technologically possible to embed radio frequencey identification (RFID) tags with ultra-thin antennas inside components made of CFRP composites such as aircraft wings – a technique that can also be adaptable to composite structural health monitoring [Design News]. CFRP composites can be conductive, and embedding RFID or other wireless chips can damp signals at commonly used frequencies such as LF, HF, UHF. Further, composite manufacturing is generally carried out at temperatures and pressures that might crush the chips, though the transponders are resistant to mechanical stress. The three frequencies work well with glass fibers – but carbon fibers interfere with the chips’ signal transmission, especially at UHF higher than 868MHz. The problem was circumvented by designing transponders that can withstand typical manufacturing pressures of 10 bar and temperatures as high as 180C and thus incorporating into aircraft components. The transponders measure only a few square millimeters and the antenna is thin enough to be embedded in composites while being protected by a thin layer of fibers [Fraunhofer].

 Is this the path to making intelligent CFRP composites ?

SHIFTING THE BALANCE ?

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The U.S. is set to become a net energy exporter in the next few years thanks to the success in fracking (shooting steam and chemicals into shale rock formations to unlock natural gas) that is re-wiring geopolitics and the world of energy [ALJAZEERA]. The U.S. is now 100% independent in natural gas and, with increase in production of 15-20% per year, North America will be independent in oil. Per EIA‘s latest report, US crude oil production hit 7.5million barrels per day in July, the highest level in more than 20 years – by October,  monthly crude oil production will exceed  crude oil imports. Predictions are that the U.S. is set to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’ biggest oil producer by 2017. In my July post, I had mentioned the reservoir of “untapped energy” of approximately 37 trillion cubic feet of shale gas beneath 11 counties in the UK – the fact that the country is embarking upon fracking augurs well for lowering energy costs [Plastics & Rubber Weekly].

There is no doubt that the PE/PP market dynamics is about to witness a sea change in the near future. Ditto its impact on automotive applications, which is bound to be for the better.

UNTHINKABLE REALITY

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Imagine a future where Americans can drive coast-to-coast on a fuel made in America. The fuel, natural gas, is clean, affordable and fueling an economic competitive advantage that’s the envy of the whole world [The Motley Fool]. Clean Energy Fuels expects to have 150 natural gas fueling stations by the year end as part of its plan to build America’s Natural Gas Highway. These stations would refuel a truck in the same amount of time as conventional gasoline. The fact that more bus fleets will be powered by natural gas (due to its sheer abundance at competitive price) has resulted in a spurt in demand for CNG cylinders made of CFRP/GFRP in North America.

 A quantum leap of faith ?

TEQUILA TIME !

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Mexico is beginning to beat China as a manufacturing base for many companies despite its higher crime rate, per new report from the Boston Consulting Group. Mexico’s gain is a plus for the U.S. as Mexican factories use four times as many American-made components as Chinese factories [Bloomberg Businessweek]. The other key advantages are: manufacturing wages, after factoring Mexico’s superior worker productivity are expected to be 30% lower than that of China by 2015; Mexico has more free-trade agreements (44 countries) than any other country; significant advantages in energy costs with natural gas prices being tied with those of the U.S. (China pays more than 50-170% for industrial natural gas); industry clusters, especially in auto and appliances which are growing (89 of the world’s top 100 auto parts makers have production in the country).

Re-writing the rules for manufacturing hubs ?

Scientists and engineers keep plugging away towards technological advances in spite of geopolitical tensions. It is as if they are insulated from external events. The well known cliche that technology brooks no barriers cannot be validated more vividly than the current global environment. Advancements in troubled times pave the way for rapid marketing of technologies when normalcy returns, thereby reducing the concept-to-commercialization timeframes.

It is during such times that we speak and think of  “what goes down must come up” and “hitting the bottom of the U”  philosophical concepts.

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

Paradigm shifts – flexible approach in adaption is the key

Hello all,

At the first G20 Finance Ministers & Central Banks Governors’ meeting in Moscow in mid-February, delegates “agreed” that tail risks to the global economy have receded, coupled with improvement in financial market conditions. The caveat was the recognition that important risks remain and global growth was still too weak – a statement that is all too obvious and a stark reality !

UK’s WOES

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Fears of a currency war were stoked at the G20 summit and the currency market was thrown into turmoil that same week with the G7 members issuing a joint statement warning against using domestic policy to target currencies. Following Moody’s Investor Services stripping of UK’s Triple-A rating in late February, the pound was in for further trouble in the beginning of March as it tumbled and fell below a key level of the U.S. dollar following a weak Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) for the manufacturing sector, leading to speculation of the likelihood of further Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Bank of England [CNBC].

An open-ended QE in the footsteps of the U.S. and Japan ? With the euro on an eight-month high against the  greenback, has the race to the bottom begun ?

CO-EXISTENCE – BENEFICIAL

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GFRP composite profiles are evolving as energy-efficient facade panels for buildings. Existing facade panels, made of aluminum profiles with embedded polyamide thermal breaks have thick wall constructions and meet only the lowest limits of building regulations. The new GFRP pultruded composite panels with vinyl ester resin replace the polyamide thermal breaks and part of the aluminum. It has the requisite aesthetics, displays lower thermal conductivity and better insulation, whilst simultaneously maintaining mechanical properties in view of the aluminum/composite combination [Pipe and Profile Extrusion].

Competing materials can be complementary.. that’s the name of the technology game.

Manufacturing of thermoplastic composites based on textile preforms made from hybrid yarns is well suited for the production of FRP in medium and large scale production runs. The consolidation of thermoplastic FRP is currently complicated by the high viscosity of molten material. Woven multilayered and Z – reinforced non-crimped fiber preforms can facilitate FRP withstand three-dimensional loading and impact stress [Sciencia]. Such preforms with Z-directional reinforcement improve the FRP delamination behavior and out-of-plane characteristics. This concept holds immense potential in a wide range of composite applications.

Z may be the last alphabet……but allow the designers’ imagination to run riot on its geometry and possibilities are endless for improvement in mechanical properties of composites. Last, but not the least (effective) ?

NOVEL SANDWICH CONCEPT

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A new polyurethane based glass fiber sandwich material has been developed for an enclosure that houses a diesel train’s engine, thereby saving weight and cost over its steel and aluminum counterpart. The enclosure, normally located underneath the passenger compartment must withstand high mechanical loads to support all that weight as well as protect the engine from impact apart from also providing chemical resistance to prevent oil leaks and conformance to strict European fire protection requirements [Design News]. Parts are made with a honeycomb core and manufactured  directly in their final complex three-dimensional shape using a much faster combined spray and press process. The new material’s honeycomb core is covered on its top and bottom with glass fiber mats, then sprayed with polyurethane containing a flame retardant and (optionally) chopped glass fibers. The component is then placed in a compression mold while still moist and pressed at  a temperature of 130°C. The polyurethane foams and binds the components together. The parts can be removed from the mold after two minutes and deburred [Bayer Material Science]. Other potential applications for the material are roof segments, side flaps and wind deflectors for automobiles and commercial applications.

A new form of sandwich construction that breaks away from traditional glass fiber reinforced epoxy/polyester resin facings and rigid foam cores – technological breakthrough at its best.

MORE ECONOMICAL THAN FOSSIL FUEL

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Is wind power competitive with fossil fuels ? This has been a raging topic awhile and technological advances resulting in bigger, smarter wind turbines are taking the wind out of naysayers’ sails. Lending credence, aside other factors was the latest research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (in February) that electricity could now be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at AUS$ 80/Mwh compared to $143 for a new coal plant or $ 116 from a new baseload natural gas plant [Think Progress]. Both EWEA and GWEC concur that onshore wind power is competitive once all costs that affect traditional energy sources – such as fuel and CO2 costs, effects on environment and health are considered. Factoring CO2 costs alone, if a cost of € 30 per tonne of CO2 emitted was applied to power produced, onshore wind energy would be the cheapest source of new power generation in Europe [Renewable Energy World]. The approach is to increase the swept area by 23-37% (by increasing rotor diameter) with a view to increasing energy yields by up to 31%. Increasing the size of wind turbine blades  and making the tower taller, allow a turbine to capture more wind, especially at low speeds.

Longer blades translate into more glass/carbon fiber….the whoosh sound transforms to music to fiber producers as they sharpen their pencils to draft new plans to augment capacity in due course !

STRENGTH IN THE SEAM

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Technical textiles (fabrics) are gaining in importance globally and their uses are becoming even more diverse. Sewing threads are hence challenged not only to sew material together, but to produce a seam that will not breakdown in the extreme environments that fabrics encounter in service. For sewing situations requiring heat resistance between 555°C  to 815°C, glass fiber threads are ideal. For higher temperatures, these may be twisted with stainless steel [Innovation in Textiles]. For lubrication, they can be coated with PTFE. For high temperature applications, aramid/steel sewing threads with a steel core is recommended. For certain high performance thermal engineering, sports surfaces and filtration, a 100% stainless steel sewing thread is available. Carbon fiber is also used for specific end uses. Sewing threads made from 70% alumina and 30% silica have a melting point of 1880°C and are useable up to 1300-1400°C. Very fine continuous filament pure fused silica is used to produce one of the strongest and most temperature and chemically resistant threads. A PTFE encapsulation enhances the thread resistance to build-up of contaminants and repeals attack by most acids and alkalis, whilst improving handling characteristics and abrasion resistance. The thread will not support combustion and will resist temperatures up to 1093°C.

A case of “horses for courses” in choice of appropriate sewing threads for (textile) fabrics/applications ?

AN ENGLISH HI-TECH INNOVATION

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We receive news from newspapers, the web, TV, phones. Welcome to receiving news on Wi-Fi ready GFRP trash bins that have been introduced in the city of London under a 21-year contract with the authority ! The newspaper recycling bin which doubles as an open-air information system is made of glass fiber with toughened glass at either end and designed to withstand extreme pressures. The plastic surround is made from recycled materials and has an LCD screen on which news, weather and sports reports can be shown [Forced Green]. The pods can receive feeds within 3 minutes of being advised of a breaking news event. Its not just a place for trash – there are separated areas for paper and cans. Nearly 100 of the “hi-tech” bins have been installed in London, with a similar number planned in Wall Street (New York) where one has already been installed. Hong Kong and Singapore are next in the list of proposed installations.

The English obviously have a flair for innovation… this one should be as famous as their pubs, breakfast and tea !

Breaking news…. GE has snatched the wind installation crown from Vestas as it installed more wind turbine MW capacity by a significant margin. Vestas had been the numero uno since 2000 [Financial Times]. GE breezed past Vestas, riding on the >8GW installed in Q4, 2012 in the U.S. of the ultimate 13GW. Recall how Toyota recently regained the # 1 spot from GM in the automotive sector.

Just goes to show that the top spot in any sector is always up for grabs in a competitive world. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown ?

POLYPROPYLENE – A LIFELINE ?

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Polypropylene (PP) prices jumped another 6 cents/lb in February in North America – a 22% increase since the New Year [Plastics News]. Propylene availability continued to be the main reason for the steep hike in PP price. The increasing use of natural gas based ethane as feedstock (in lieu of conventional naphtha) has diminished propylene supply. This trend is likely to continue at least till 2015 when the propane dehydrogenation route for propylene becomes a commercial reality through two plants proposed to be constructed. North American PP is expected to lose 12% of its demand to HDPE and polystyrene.

What does this portend for LFRT that uses PP in automotive applications ?

The European Union’s end-of-life vehicle (ELV) requirements is pushing European automakers to adopt revolutionary materials. SABIC has developed a post-industrial recycled (PIR) grade of a blend of polyamide (PA) and  modified polyphenyl ether(PPE) polymers for the bumpers of Renault’s 2013 Clio IV model that can withstand the temperatures used in automotive paint lines whilst also demonstrating strong chemical and impact resistance. The new PIR grade which is sourced from body panels, meets the required automotive quality and performance standards & reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 47% over the life cycle of the fender, compared to steel.

The principal reasons for success in increasing use of polymers and composites in automotive applications stems from a single-minded approach in adhering to regional regulations in recycling, environmental norms whilst conforming to safety and mechanical properties of various components.

HANDS ON, HASSLE FREE

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If you are an iPhone buff + a tea/coffee addict (and there are several in this category!), brace yourself for a novel invention. A Netherlands firm has designed and conceptualized the UpperCup (aka, a coffee holder) – a device that enables users to text/sms confidently with both hands without having to worry about the hot beverage picked up from Starbucks! The user just slips the hot beverage in the holder which is housed along with the iPhone case and does not have to scramble to search for a place to keep the cup down, before texting [Khaleej Times]. The product is expected to be a runaway success. Caution has to be exercised when taking incoming calls – the hot coffee can spill on the phone or in your ear!

Steve Jobs must be having the last laugh at this invention that his iPhone has created. Is Samsung listening ?

ALUMINUM – MIDDLE EAST SHIFT

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World aluminum demand is strong and increasing at 6% per annum. Currently at 40 million tonnes, the demand is poised to touch 70 million tonnes by 2020. Four of the top ten aluminum producers in the world are from West Asia (Gulf region) and will account for 15 % of the world’s production by 2014. Gulf production is expected to increase to five million tonnes by 2014 [Khaleej Times]. North American and European regions are  curtailing aluminum smelter capacity due to increasing cost of operations, driven by higher energy cost.

Following the footsteps of gold, copper the red metal treaded an eight-week low in late February and is at risk of testing the October 2011 lows [CNBC]. With about 40 lbs of copper used in every car, global auto sales trends could be important in gauging where copper prices are headed. The world is watching China and the U.S. closely for trends.

CARBON FIBER – ZOOMING AHEAD

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Tokyo University, in collaboration with a group of leading Japanese corporations, has developed two types of low cost, high performance CFRTP prepregs for the mass production of ultra-lightweight cars that can be manufactured with fast molding cycles and are recyclable. The first product is a  discontinuous CF reinforced isotropic prepreg suitable for complex parts and the second, a continuous CF reinforced prepreg for primary structure parts such as frames. The matrix resin is primarily polypropylene (PP), though polyamide (PA) can also be used. The specially surface treated CF and modified resins provide high strength, energy absorption, formability and recyclability. Molding cycle time is under a minute. The CFRTP prepregs reportedly reduce vehicle weight by 40-70%. Their most notable feature is the ductile fracture behavior without significant delamination [Plastics Today]. It is estimated that 100kgs of CFRTP parts will equip 10 million passenger cars by 2030, thereby resulting in a potential CF demand of 1 million tonnes.

Current and potential carbon fiber wannabe manufacturers would be salivating at the prospects, though it is still a decade + away.

GARBAGE-FREE WORLD

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In my February post, I wrote about the new generation bio-polymers that would result in landfills not being an option. A world without landfills ? Not an Utopian concept, as San Francisco could possibly lead the way in becoming the first zero-waste city in the U.S. A waste-management company is working to ensure that all discarded items will be successfully recycled, reused or composted thereby rendering obsolete the need for landfills [CNBC]. The plan…soda cans to be crushed into huge blocks and sold to make more soda cans, used construction materials to be reworked and sent to new job sites and previous night’s dinner to be composted and turned into a soil nutrient that can be sold to farmers to enhance crop growth in vineyards and elsewhere.

It’s smarter to put waste back into commerce – that is the company’s motto. The future of garbage is …… no garbage, making the world a cleaner, better living place in the long run.

Tailpiece…. is Coca-Cola developing a beauty drink with a French drugmaker, that reportedly can strengthen hair, improve skin and help with weight loss [The Daily Meal] ? Per the Wall Street Journal, the drink will be a blend of mineral water, fruit juice and nutrition additives.

Readers may want to research this topic further ?

Till the next post,

Cheers,

S. Sundaram

EmailSS@essjaycomposites.com

Twitter@essjaycomposite

Website: www.essjaycomposites.com