High-Performance Composites

NOV 2014

High-Performance Composites is read by qualified composites industry professionals in the fields of continuous carbon fiber and other high-performance composites as well as the associated end-markets of aerospace, military, and automotive.

Issue link: https://hpc.epubxp.com/i/405736

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Page 8 of 67

N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 4 | 7 COMPOSITES: PERSPECTIVES & PROVOCATIONS COMPOSITES: PERSPECTIVES & PROVOCATIONS In recent years, the major dividing line has been "aerospace" vs. "industrial" when determining the ft for the two magazines. For me, as I am looking at ideas for this column, I need to decide where the topic fts best and whether it is appropriate for HPC . With the recent an- nouncement that both magazines are go- ing to be combined into a single monthly publication called CompositesWorld, it ob- viates the need for such decisions. I'm glad to see that happen. A few days back, I was looking at a re- cently constructed table of comparative properties for carbon fbers used in aero- space applications, and it struck me that they all looked as familiar to me today as they did 20 years ago! I combed my memory banks (which are usually pretty good) for when was the last time a ma- jor carbon fber was introduced for use in aerospace — meaning, one that actually got qualifed and saw serious commer- cial sales? For reference, I pulled out an extensive guide to available fbers that we used at Fiberite back in 1993, and sure enough, all the familiar fbers, like Toray T800 and M60J, Hexcel IM-7, Toho Tenax HTS and IMS and Cytec T650 are listed. T800 is the predominant structural fber on the Boeing 787, IM-7 the major fber on the F-35, and IMS and IM7 the princi- pal fbers used on the Airbus A350 XWB. Yes, there have been slight "tweaks" to some of these fbers, and the ownership of the manufacturing sites has shifted a bit since 1993, but unless I have over- looked something, it appears the aero- space carbon fber market stagnated two decades ago when it came to pursuing new fbers and remains closed to all but the "big four" suppliers. Is this because the current product portfolios offered meet all the needs? Or is it because qualifying a fber for a new Dale Brosius is the head of his own consulting company, which serves clients in the composites industry worldwide. Services include strategic planning, market analysis, assistance in merg- ers and acquisitons activities and technical support. His career has included a num- ber of positions at Dow Chemical, Fiberite, Cytec and Quickstep, and for three years he served as the general chair of the Society of Plastics Engineers' annual Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition (ACCE). Brosius has a BS in chemical engineering from Texas A&M Uni- versity and an MBA. Since 2000, he has been a regular contributing writer for Com- posites Technology and High-Performance Composites. B THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF CARBON FIBER ack in the summer of 2002, when I was writing feature articles for HPC and sister magazine Composites Tech- nology ( CT ), I attended the annual edito- rial meeting, where the staff gathered to brainstorm ideas for themes and stories for the following year's issues of both magazines. I proposed a feature story on the increased use of carbon f- ber in automobiles, which then meant high-end sports cars, and a debate ensued as to which magazine should carry the feature. I pushed that the story should be in CT , because that is where we generally covered automotive stories. Some of the staff thought it should run in HPC , because CT was focused primarily on fberglass-based applications and tech- nologies — "boats and bathtubs" — and anything featuring carbon fber should be in HPC . Ultimately, I prevailed in the de- bate, and the August 2003 feature turned out to be one of the most popular stories to ever run in CT. Since then, a number of such "crossover" application stories have made their way into that publication. application is prohibitively expensive? Today's tensile strengths are only a frac- tion of what is theoretically possible, but the main design drivers in aerospace de- sign are not tensile strength and stiffness, but compression and shear strength, where the major advancements need to be made. I presume if someone comes up with a fber/resin combination that doubles compression strength, it would draw a lot of attention, but this is not an easy problem to solve. There has been a lot of development in prepreg resins, mainly for vacuum-bag-only processing, yet in almost every case, prepregs devel- oped for out-of-autoclave cure use the same group of fbers employed in auto- clave prepregs, presumably to make the direct comparison of properties easier and reduce qualifcation time and cost. In the industrial carbon fber market, by contrast, the last past two decades have seen the entry of new fber produc- ers and the introduction of new fbers by established suppliers. The new fbers have been targeted to automotive, wind energy, pressure vessel and electrical/ electronics applications. Many of the new players are located in previously unlikely places: China, South Korea, Turkey and, soon, Saudi Arabia. These suppliers have no aspiration to chase the aero- space market, and it's easy to see why: Barriers to entry are much lower in the industrial markets. Industrial demand already exceeds that in the aerospace sector, and all signs point to continued rapid expansion in consumption. There's a "land rush" going on and the battle will be won by suppli- ers with the lowest costs and greatest ca- pacities. As industrial markets seek lower carbon fber prices, aerospace compa- nies seek higher-rate, lower-cost manu- facturing techniques. Although "aero - space" and "industrial" will retain some distinctions that separate them, due to inherent differences in structural dynam- ics, it is clear that a composite part no longer has to fy skyward to be called "high-performance." The battle for carbon fber's industrial market will be won by suppliers with the lowest costs and greatest capacities.

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