Leading edge use of composites



Process – Fraunhofer ICT, Germany

Production process for lightweight structures based on sandwich structures and spraying of resins, typically fibre-reinforced polyurethane. In the context of an innovative project on lightweight construction, a diesel engine casing for a rail vehicle was manufactured for demonstration purposes. The demonstrator consisted of eight sandwich components manufactured using a fibre spraying process. In this project, structurally-loaded components were produced for the first time using this manufacturing process. The size of the individual components and the overall dimensions of the demonstrator were also unique. Benefits include weight savings > 45% compared to a reference structure – cost efficient manufacturing process for large sandwich components – development of design, characterisation and simulation principles for polyurethane sandwich structures. The polyurethane system meets the CEN/TS 45545 flame and fire protection standard.

Copyright: FRAUNHOFER ICT / JEC Innovation Awards (Fraunhofer)


Railway – TCI, France

Noise suppressor designed and used in the railway environment by the staff during train manufacturing. The main aim is the hearing protection during the brake tests. The device has a connector to the compressed air system of the brake circuit, a tap and a release pipe which reduces noise. Except the tap, the parts are carried out in composite materials: fibreglass, para- aramid synthetic fibre (Kevlar®), epoxy resin and a complex absorbing textile glass product. The basic appliance provides hearing protection. A second version is equipped with a pressure control that informs the user if the pressure is lower or equal to 7.5 bars, he doesn’t permit the train to leave. Key benefits include noise reduction – only 75 dB (80cm from the ear of the user) against 120 dB for conventional systems. It is lightweight – thanks to the use of composite materials, the tool weighs 800g against 1800g for previous devices.

Copyright: TCI/JEC Innovation Awards (Railway)


Aeronautics – EADS, France

New non-destructive testing system for the inspection of composite parts used in the aeronautic industry. The technology uses lasers to generate and detect ultrasonic waves in composite materials. The new system uses articulated robots to position an inspection head around the parts to be inspected. The articulated robots provide unmatched flexibility for the inspection of large and small composite parts of complex shapes. The fraction of composites and their complexity have massively increased in the aircraft of the most recent major programs such as the Lockheed Martin F-35, the Boeing 787, and the Airbus A400M and A350 XWB. As these programs ramp up production, the need for additional non-destructive testing machines will surge. The innovation reduces the total capital investment and labour costs, limits the number of skilled people required and improves delivery schedules.

Copyright: Airbus S.A.S. by S. Bonniol / JEC Innovation Awards (EADS)


Construction – Acciona Infraestructuras, Spain

The world’s longest stress ribbon bridge of its type using pre- tensioned CFRP cables as the main load- bearing members. A pedestrian bridge measuring 216 meters long, three meters wide and 0.25 meters deep. The bridge is made up of 16 rows of CFRP cables running parallel to each other through the entire length of the bridge; each row includes five CFRP cables, each 43.4 meters in length and 42 mm in diameter. In total, 80 CFRP cables 43.4 meters in length and 42 mm in diameter were used and each cable was pre-tensioned to 70 t. The CFRP cables were fixed to the abutment using specially designed and developed pin-and-socket fittings. The stainless steel fittings were fixed inside the concrete during the construction of the abutment. The CFRP cables were manufactured using a new process developed specifically for their production under controlled workshop conditions.

Copyright: Acciona Infraestructuras / JEC Innovation Awards


Marine – Astilleros Santa Pola S.L, Spain

New composite laminate with high anti-ballistic properties, especially to ensure the safety of maritime traffic. The laminate is made of a phenolic resin with layers of S-glass fibres and aramid fibres. It is produced using vacuum bag technology. The main innovation lies in the combination of a ceramic material with the composite laminate. Key benefits include the reduction of the overall weight of the armoured structure , the avoidance of metals in the armoured structure, easy repair after an attack. The laminate has excellent properties, such as corrosion, water and UV resistance. The major advantages associated to its lightweight

design are reduced fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, versatility and ease of manufacturing and transport. The main market is the navy industry, especially boats for which protection and safety are essential such as patrol craft and fishing boats in piracy areas. Another important market will be the military

sector, for the armour plating of submarines, tanks, special vehicles etc.

Copyright: Astilleros Santa Pola, S.L./JEC Innovation Awards

Sports and Leisure

Sports and Leisure – Munich Composites Gmbh, Germany

Most carbon fibre bicycles are currently manufactured out of prepreg. This involves a huge amount of manual labour. The shapes are cut out of fabrics and cured in an autoclave to form parts that are then bonded, filled up, smoothed and finally coated. As a result, all carbon fibrebicycles, apart from small series, are currently produced in China. The bicycle frame was re-engineered

using the braiding technique – a preform technique with a very high productivity and potential for automation. The number of tubes was cut in half, limiting the number of parts and joints in the frame. One of the main advantages of the braiding technology is the ability to fully automate the placement of carbon fibres. This minimises manual work and hence optimises quality by eliminating potential sources of errors. The frame manufacturing process can be fully automated, which means that manufacturing in highwage countries is profitable.

Copyright: Munich Composites GmbH/JEC Innovation Awards (Sports and Leisure)


Industry – Airborne, Netherlands

Thermoplastic composite spoolable pipe system for the oil and gas industry. The pipe is produced in lengths of several kilometres as one piece and spooled on a drum for transport. It uses a fully consolidated, one-material pipe concept: the inner liner, structural composite layers and outer coating are all of the same thermoplastic polymer material, and all layers are melt-fused together to form a consolidated pipe wall. This creates a very lightweight, robust, strong and stiff pipe that is still easily spoolable due to the use of ductile, tough thermoplastic materials. This pipe concept is radically new in an industry that currently uses non-bonded flexible pipes, where all the steel reinforcing layers are separate to each other. The pipe can withstand high pressures (up to 2,000 bar), high tension, high external pressures if used in deep-sea applications (300 bar at a depth of 3,000 m) and high bending strains due to spooling. The thermoplastic material gives the pipe high chemical resistance and excellent impact resistance properties.

Copyright: Airbone / JEC Innovation Awards (Airborne)

This year, 13 companies will receive awards at the JEC Europe – Composites Show and Conferences from March 27-29. JEC is the largest composites industry organisation in the world with a network of 250,000 professionals. It represents, promotes and expands composites markets by providing globalor local networking and information services. The awards programme was created in 1998 with the goal of promoting innovation in the use of composites.

In 2010-2011, 52 percent of all composite patents in Europe focused on process innovations. This is the highest rate in the world – USA follows with 23 percent and Japan with 16 percent.

The rapid development in the use of carbon fibre has lead to two other advances – the need to develop processes for repairing carbon parts and to recycle these fibres rather than land filling or burning them.

In the awards two companies are rewarded for their use of carbon in the automotive sector, providing weight reduction, anti corrosion features, affordable bespoke design for new vehicle architecture and low tooling costs.

Another trend is simulation to enhance prediction in terms of performance and cost of the final product.

“Composites research budgets, either academic or industrial are expanding at rates substantially higher than before” says Frédérique Mutel, president and chief executive.

Software is more and more commonly used towards the overall productivity of an entire process rather than just a specific phase. Moreover, they happen to be crucial in the simulation of the strength of parts using new and faster calculation methods.

The use of simulation is well demonstrated in the aeronautics sector where lasers are exploited to generate and detect ultrasonic waves in composite materials.

This innovation has the potential to lower inspection costs by up to a factor of 10 and is beneficial in a technical and production point of view.

TruPLAN’s advanced material kinematics kernel models a given material’s ability to simultaneously comply with design criteria and manufacturing constraints.

The pursued interests for biocomposites led JEC to create a specific category for this type of material. Protecting the environment is one of tomorrow’s challenges for the industry.

Kompetenzzentrum Holz Gmbh, Wood K Plus has created a new composites material 100 percent based on renewable resources.

An award will be handed to the recycling process of waste carbon fibre from various processing technologies to develop yarns, tapes and fabrics.

Transportation advances are at the heart of the growth in the use of composites. Among the many advantages of using composites materials, we can highlight corrosion and acoustic isolation or thermic and electric isolation, but the critical benefit will be weight reduction that will reduce significantly CO2 emissions.

Almost one third of the Innovation Awards will be handed to companies working in the transportation sectors.

Biocomposites – Kompetenzzentrum

Holz Gmbh, Wood K Plus, Austria Biocomposites 3D is a new composites material 100 percent based on renewable resources (fibres and matrix), which can be shaped with limited technical effort to complex 3Dgeometry.

Various natural fibres have been used, (focusing on European available ones like flax, hemp, wood or cattail fibres), which were processed on textile machines to a non-woven needled felt. On the other hand thermosetting resins have been synthesised, which are able to impregnate those mats and allow a curing of the impregnated mat on a typical carpenter press at reasonable production parameters (pressure, temperature, time).

Materials – Sigmatex Ltd, UK

Recycling process of waste carbon fibre from various processing technologies to develop yarns, tapes and fabrics.

Sigmatex developed a method that consisted in taking the manufacturing output waste from the weaving and NCF processes and separating them into a higher value waste suitable for the next process of conversion to sliver and yarn.

Two separate streams of materials were created containing thermoset and thermoplastic fibres. The resultant materials and fabrics could then be manufactured into panels at both Net Composites (carbon fibre/thermoplastic route) and Umeco (carbon fibre/thermoset route).

Carbon fibre/thermoset materials were also manufactured by Umeco using the same fabrics but combined with thermoset fibres.

Sector applications included tooling, automotive: body panels, stampings, interiors, semi-structural parts, hidden parts, etc, sports: bike frames, rackets, skis, ski poles, fixtures, shoe inserts, etc, wind energy: blades, ribs/stringers, etc and aerospace: interior/hidden parts, seats, secondary structures and ribs/stringers.

Software – Magestic System Inc, USA

TruPLAN advanced material kinematics kernel.

The objective of an engineering analysis – the numerical modelling and simulation of a manufacturing process – is not to determine the behaviour of a single manufacturing process event and its impact on the resulting product.

The real objective – especially with advanced composite materials – is to predict how critical design and manufacturing parameters (such as material, surface topology, lay-up strategy and ply stacking) impact the behaviour of the final product in terms of performance and cost.

Designers currently face the challenge of optimising the design of composite parts with enough reliable data to justify the necessity of certain design, engineering or manufacturing changes. The TruPLAN advanced material kinematics kernel is a multidisciplinary manufacturing analysis tool that provides designers with the capability to fully model material behaviour during the computation of manufacturing strategies for advanced and automated material deposition methods such as automated tape layer, automated fibre placement and robotics.

Automotive – Axon, UK

The Axon car weighs 500 kg with an all carbon structure designed for scalable production and suitable for new fuel vehicles and prestige vehicles. The material innovation consists in using a braid over a foam preform, thus effectively creating a 3D woven structure from multiple preforms that are machine-laid and infusion-moulded into beams. These beams have an internal structure that can resist buckling and deformation.

Low-density, closed-cell polyethylene foam forms the core of the preform, which is placed into a closed tool with multiple cells and formed by VARTM. The foam core expands during the process and takes the shape of the tool.

The special feature of Axontex™ lays in the shear webs internal to the beam, whic give the beam its high strength and stiffness while retaining a low weight and allowing high levels of shape and curvature within the components. Load introduction for safety belts, engine mounts, seats and crash structures completes this BiB system.

Key benefits include a very light vehicle compared with standard designs, affordable bespoke design for new vehicle architectures, low tooling costs allowing for profitable scalable production, adding tooling to match demand (up to 50 percent over conventional ‘body in white’ vehicles), ultra-lightweight vehicles allowing electric power trains, lower fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, rapid model replacement, for shorter model cycles and improved competitiveness and modular design allowing low-cost tooling changes across platforms.

Wind Energy – Gamesa, Spain

G128, the largest wind turbine blade in the world. The G128 is the first modular composite blade in the market. It is more than 40 percent lighter than the average tendency for current multi-megawatt blades.

The G10x blades include several subsystems that bring new capabilities to the wind turbine: strain sensors embedded in the laminates (reduce the loads transferred to the wind turbine), preload sensors in the bolts of the intermediate joint (ensure that all blades are properly assembled), a high-efficiency lightning protection system adapted to size and modularity requirements and an optional light beacon system at the tip of the blade.

The design of the G10x blades reduces the cost of the energy produced by the G10x-4.5MW wind turbine and allows installing the wind turbine in onshore complex terrain. The same assembly equipment and transport methods as for a 2 MW are used.

The maximum power of current onshore wind turbine generators is 2-3 MW. Larger wind turbines cannot be installed inland due to the transport limitations associated to blades longer than 50 m.

Gamesa has overcome this limitation with the G10x-4.5MW.

Special Prize – LG Hausys, Korea

All-carbon composite structure for an electric vehicle battery pack module (BPM) without steel reinforcement.

It allows a highly cost-effective manufacturing process for mass production in the automotive industry (extrusion compounding and compression moulding).

Excellent material recyclability meets the End of Life Vehicle (ELV) regulations. The number of parts is significantly reduced (91 percent) compared to steel.

Key benefits include weight reduction (from 35 kg to 24 kg), function integration and part number reduction (from 35 to 3 per vehicle), no need for anti-corrosion painting, higher driving distance per single charge of the electric vehicle and enhanced driving performance due to the weight reduction.

Various structural automotive composite parts (spare wheel well, seat structure, bumper beam, engine mount, front-end module carrier and oil pan) are concerned with this innovation.