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Eleven New Laureates For The JEC Europe Innovation Awards Program In 2013

PARIS — February 13, 2013 — This year, 11 companies and their partners will receive an awards at JEC Europe - Composites Show and Conferences (March 12-14, 2013) for their composites innovations. The jury has selected the best composite breakthroughs, based on their technical interest, market potential, partnerships, financial & environmental impact and originality. The decision to give prominence to these projects was based on their atypical nature and various noteworthy aspects.

In 2013, the winners were selected from the following categories: Raw materials, Thermoplastics, Multifunctional materials, Machining & Tool, Building & Construction, Aeronautics, Automotive, Wind Energy, Sports & Leisure and a Special prize.

The JEC Innovation Awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday March 12 at 5:00 pm on the JEC Show (at the Agora) and will be open to all exhibitors and visitors.The ceremony is sponsored by CYTEC, JEC Composites Magazine, Aviation Week and Innovation & Industrie.

Category: Raw materials
Winner: BAC2 Limited (UK)
Name of Product or Process: A new family of latent acid catalysts to make pre-polymeric mixes easier to store, transport, handle and process.
Description:The development of the CSR family of latent acid catalysts was driven by the desire to make pre-polymeric mixes easier to store, transport, handle and process during product manufacturing. Without a latent catalyst to control polymerization, the storage life of pre-polymeric mixes may be anything from a few seconds to a few minutes. Other catalysts that extend storage life are available. However, they typically require temperatures above 200°C for activation, something that is both energy-hungry and impractical with many of the materials involved in manufacturing processes that utilise resins. Bac2 developed the CSR family of latent acid catalysts to address the above issues. The key innovation was to develop a family of products that activate between 50°C and 120°C, depending on the application and the speed of cure required, enabling them to be used with many materials and processes. Critically, the catalysts do not have a detrimental effect on the mould flow or other characteristics of the resins with which they are used. Originally developed for use with Bac2's electrically conductive ElectroPhen polymer resin, the CSR family of catalysts has since been expanded to include formulations that retard and control the curing of phenol-formaldehyde resoles, furan resins, urea and melamine formaldehyde resins.

Using CSR catalysts, the storage life of pre-polymeric mixes has been extended to over 3 months, simplifying storage, transportation and materials handling. Process efficiency improvements of 130% have been demonstrated in pultrusion. In SMC and BMC processes, room-temperature storage life is extended to several months. CSR catalysts also enable the manufacture of inherently flame-retardant mouldings by facilitating the production of stable phenolic and furan-based pre-polymeric mixes.

Bac2 estimates the potential global market for its latent acid catalysts to be at least £100 million. The company has identified 3 primary sectors where the innovation offers the greatest benefits:
1. During the manufacture of wood products such as MDF, particle board and plywood, high temperatures are used to cure the resin used for bonding the materials and to drive out moisture. Using CSR reduces the cure time, reducing the time during which the high temperatures need to be maintained. This in turn reduces the energy consumption and cost.
2. In abrasives manufacture, the overall temperature of the manufacturing process is reduced, saving energy and cost.
3. In the manufacture of sheet or bulk moulded composites, for which there are applications in everything from interior fittings in transportation to seating for stadiums, CSR can be used to produce inherently flame-retardant products at lower temperatures than previously possible.

Category: Thermoplastics
Winners: MVC Soluções em Plásticos (Brazil)
Partners: PPE (France), Arkema (France)
Name of Product or Process: The new technology for the construction of busses, trains wagons, vans, and automobiles bodies
Description: "Sofia Project - An innovative transportation concept": The project consists in developing a new technology for the construction of bus, train wagon, van and car bodies in an innovative and sustainable way. The final product will be an "assembly kit" that can be assembled in a few hours and without major tooling investments. Different kinds of technologies will be used, but the new RTM-T process will be the main technology used for the structural body components. This composite manufacturing process is based on traditional LRTM, but using a brand new PMMA-based thermoplastic resin formulation developed by Arkema. This is the reason for the name RTM-T (T from thermoplastic). The thermoplastic composite produced with this new resin will make it possible to produce a "recyclable" main body, with lower weight (PMMA has a lower density than the thermoset resins normally used for RTM), better mechanical properties, and at the end better surface quality (very important for this market segment). All the main body parts will be made of a sandwich structure with a low-density PU core, bonded together with structural adhesives. The "joint design" has also been extensively studied to improve the adhesion power of structural adhesives, making the assembly process as simple, quick, and intuitive as possible.

Category: Thermoplastics
Winners: Arkema (France)
Partners: Chomarat (France), PPE (France), 3B-the fiberglass company (Belgium)
Name of Product or Process: New (Meth)acrylic based chemical formulations for the production of thermoplastic composite parts
Description: Altuglas® composite resin solutions are innovative (meth) acrylic formulations developed within a research and development partnership between Arkema and PPE. These formulations can be used to produce (meth)acrylic thermoplastic composites reinforced with continuous glass, carbon or flax fibres with the same low-pressure processes and equipment as those currently used to produce thermoset composite parts. The resulting (meth) acrylic thermoplastic composite parts show mechanical properties similar to those of parts made of thermoset materials while presenting the major advantages of being post-thermoformable and recyclable and offering new possibilities for composite/composite or composite/metal assemblies.

Category: Multifunctional Materials
Winner: Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) of RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
Name of Product or Process: A thermally conductive fibre-reinforced composite material.
Description:The innovation combines pitch-based carbon fibres and a thermoset resin to increase the thermal conductivity of fibre-reinforced plastics from 0.4 W/mK to 26 W/mK, especially in the out-of-plane direction. The pitch-based carbon fibres are combined, protected against bending and integrated into a honeycomb structure. The innovation can be integrated in selected areas of the honeycomb, and not necessarily in all cells. Thus, money can be saved and local properties can be modified. The fibres in the cells can also be connected to the skins of the honeycomb sandwich to help avoid delamination. Moreover, the heat flow is guided from the in-plane direction through the honeycomb to the other face sheet where heat is dissipated.

Composites are used more and more in applications that generate heat. Both electronic components and the composite structure itself have to be protected and kept at lower temperatures. The innovation can conduct heat away from heat sources or components in the desired directions. So, metal components can be replaced by lighter fibre-reinforced plastics components. The service temperature of the matrix system can be increased because the continuous fibres guide the heat away from the heat source and avoid overheating.

A prototype has been built and the innovation was submitted to the German Patent Agency in Munich.There is a need for a thermally conductive fibre-reinforced composite in the out-of-plane direction in the air and space industry, as well as in automotive and industrial applications. The invention can be helpful everywhere heat dissipation is needed.

Category: Machining and Tools
Winner: Cruing Srl (Italy)
Name of Product or Process: A tooling solution to evacuate hot dust particles produced during cutting operations.
Description:
The Aerotech® System is a tooling solution that thoroughly evacuates hot dust particles produced during cutting operations. By effectively air cooling the material and cutter, it significantly reduces machining temperatures. This allows manufacturers of composite parts to consider dry cutting their components, providing a practical alternative to machining with coolants.

Heat produced while routing creates problems for the cutter and material. Coolants or 'wet cutting' methods help resolve this problem, but these fluids can have an impact on human health and water resources. Cruing identified the need for an air-cooled dry cutting solution as an alternative to wet cutting, and thus began developing the Aerotech System.

Anyone who wants to dry cut CFRP at high feed speed, without delamination and with a quality edge finish, can benefit from the Aerotech System.

Many chemicals used in the composition of cutting fluids, such as biocides, anticorrosive, antifoam and others substances, can have a negative effect on the environment. Moreover, cutting fluids and coolants have been associated with health problems such as skin rashes, dermatitis, esophagitis, lung disease and cancer that result from either toxicity or bacterial or fungal contamination.

The heat produced during cutting operations contributes to deteriorate tool life, with negative effects on the quality of the finished components. Some of the materials used in today's industries are particularly sensitive to heat and can delaminate due to overheating. If heat is allowed to persist, its conduction up through the CNC machine's electrospindle can alter the characteristics of the grease used to lubricate the electrospindle bearings. This can begin to occur at temperatures of ~73°C, and is detrimental to bearing efficiency. It can also damage the electrospindle. The Aerotech System air-cools the cutter and material effectively by removing dust particles that become super-heated while cutting. This ensures that the electrospindle does not overheat.

Category: Building and Construction
Winner: Owens Corning (France)
Partners: Ademe (France), Exel Composites (Belgium), CSTB (France), Goyer (France), Compositec (France), ENPC (France)
Name of Product or Process: High-energy-efficiency façade panels based on composite profiles.
Description: As new European thermal insulation regulations for building envelopes become increasingly stricter (RT 2005 - 2012), the best way to lower the energy needs of buildings is through thermal insulation of façade components. Current façade panels made of aluminium profiles with embedded polyamide thermal breaks will only meet the lowest limits of these regulations. Moreover, the use of conventional materials would result in thicker and thicker wall constructions. This has driven Owens Corning and its partners to study, design and plan the industrialization of an incremental solution targeting new and old buildings (fewer than ten floor levels) that could meet new thermal regulations.

The global panel solution, named COFAHE, is the result of a strong partnership among key industrial players and is composed of different parts and materials. The profile component uses composites to replace the PA thermal breaks and part of the aluminium.

The main advantages of this composite component are:
- an almost "ready-to-use" (panel) incremental solution with minimum changes in existing technology and machinery, and no change in the aesthetic aspect of the façade;
- lower thermal conductivity and better insulation while keeping good mechanical properties, thanks to the composite/aluminium combination;
- a solution that can evolve in the future to meet the expected tightening of thermal regulations, as opposed to current solutions, which have reached their limits. Together with Goyer, OC assessed the value that will be created by replacing all their PA thermal breaks with pultruded reinforced vinylester (reinforced with Xstrand® H glass in this case). The change is motivated by the improved mechanical properties and thermal insulation.

Moreover, building contractors will be able to sell larger living surfaces inside the buildings using composite profiles combined with extremely thin vacuum-insulated panels instead of traditional mineral wool. Europe-wide, the potential market for the COFAHE façade panel solution is 4-5 million square metres, consisting of new-build and renovation projects for buildings below 28 metres in height.

Category: Aeronautics
Winner: Fokker Aerostructures B.V. (The Netherlands)
Partners: AgustaWestland (Italy), TenCate Advanced Composites (The Netherlands), Ticona GmbH (Germany)
Name of Product or Process: The first thermoplastic composite tailplane developed and put into production for a helicopter.
Description:The innovation is a full thermoplastic horizontal tailplane with a co-consolidated, single-piece multi-spar torsion box for the AgustaWestland AW169 helicopter. This main load-carrying member is 3 metres long and spans tip-to-tip. It consists of four preforms that are melted together under pressure. Replaceable thermoplastic leading and trailing edges are attached to the torsion box. The leading edges are made of consolidated thermoplastic laminates, supported by a number of thin press-formed ribs. Thermoplastics were used for the leading edges because of their good impact properties. The trailing edges are made of thin thermofolded thermoplastic laminates supported by press-formed ribs. All the components are made of TenCate Cetex® carbon/PPS fabric-based materials. The strongly curved winglets are conventional laminated carbon/epoxy prepreg parts. The new design results in a 15% weight reduction for AgustaWestland vis-à-vis previous composite tailplane designs.

The value of the innovation lies primarily in weight and cost savings. The weight saving results in lower fuel consumption and NOx/CO2 emissions. The low-weight solution is made possible by the toughness of the thermoplastic material and by the strong, stiff multi-spar torsion box design. The design is made affordable by applying co-consolidation of simple preforms to create the main structural element of the single-piece torsion box.

AgustaWestland expects the new AW169 to be highly successful in the civil market, and that the company will easily exceed sales of 500 aircraft. The new concept could also be applied to more tailplanes. The co-consolidated multi-spar concept is also suitable for other products such as aircraft floor panels.

Category: Automotive
Winner: ECM (France)
Partners: Peugeot Citroën Automobiles (France), PPE (France), Cedrem (France)
Name of Product or Process: Self-supporting composite structure for a light urban electric vehicle.
Description:
The innovation is a complete, self-supporting composite structure for a light urban electric vehicle designed and manufactured using thermoset resin and glass fibre reinforcement. This structure replaces a "traditional" steel body-in-white, offering equivalent mechanical behaviour and significant weight savings.The prototype meets industrial feasibility criteria. At this stage, the use of glass fibre reinforcement results in 30 to 40% weight savings compared to an equivalent steel structure. According to calculations, further development using carbon fibre could bring additional weight savings.

Following a first "traditional" step using steel as the main material for the body-in-white, the goals of the second step of the development process were:
- to design and manufacture a self-supporting composite structure using glass fibre and the RTM process;
- to achieve a manufacturing process at the industrial stage that allows a daily production of 50 to 100 vehicles;
- to minimize investment, production and assembly costs by limiting the number of parts to be produced and integrating functional aspects in developed parts;
- to save weight while meeting the required static and dynamic performance level.

The key benefits of the innovation are: weight reduction at acceptable cost for the automotive industry, reduced vehicle emissions due to reduced car weight, design of vehicle parts with integrated functional aspects, significantly reduced number of parts to build a car, and savings on investment and assembly costs.

Category: Wind Energy
Winner: SchäferRolls GmbHH & Co. KG (Germany)
Partners: Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe GmbH (IVW), MWN Niefern Maschinenfabrik GmbH (Germany)
Name of Product or Process: A thick-walled filament-wound carbon fibre composite shaft more than 8.5 metres long and nearly 1 metre in diameter.
Description:The thick-walled (about 80 mm) filament-wound carbon fibre composite shaft is designed to carry extreme torque loads in a wind turbine drive train. It is manufactured in about 40 hours using a customized epoxy system with a long work life.

The shaft is flexible in bending to minimize the loads arising from manufacturing tolerances and designed to carry a very high torque load, hence its name "FlexShaft". This was made possible by an innovative design with a clever use of the composite material's anisotropy. The innovative lightweight FlexShaft torque shaft can transfer a torque load of several thousand kNm within a restricted geometrical design space. Handling the exothermic reaction of several hundred kilograms of epoxy resin, lasting several hours, during the manufacturing process is a task that few specialized companies can manage. A new method was developed to allow in-situ placement of the necessary connecting elements between the CFRP shaft and steel flanges during the manufacturing process, allowing fabrication without additional rework and improving the overall fabrication quality and load transfer.

After a 2-year development phase, a first full-scale prototype has been operating since September 2012 in Envision's new 3.6 MW two-bladed direct drive offshore wind turbine in Denmark.

The market potential is about 100 million euros.

Category: Sports and Leisure
Winner: Zodiac Recreational (France)
Partners: Dehondt - Flax Technic (France), FiMaLin (France)
Name of Product or Process: New generations of ecodesigned semi-rigid boats.
Description:These new semi-rigid boats consist of an assembly between a rigid composite hull and an inflatable float. The two boats presented were designed along the same ecodesign guidelines.

The project's main objective was to reduce the environmental impact of the Bombard AirEthic semi-rigid boat and the Zodiac Z-Concept dinghy. The AirEthic is a series-produced boat, and the Z-Concept is a concept boat that incorporates all aspects of eco-impact reduction, including recyclable thermoplastic materials, bio-sourced materials, clean processes and electric motor.

To reduce the composite hull's environmental footprint, the project managers chose to produce it using the RTM process with flax-fibre reinforcement. The AirEthic's underwater hull and deck are both RTM moulded with flax-fibre reinforcement. The Z-Concept's entire hull is one-step moulded, with the flax reinforcement on the deck side.

Zodiac has been using composite materials for this type of boat for a long time. Composites give these boats the desired strength and low weight, along with the possibility to create complex shapes at moderate investment and production costs. Because flax is a bio-sourced plant fibre, using it lowers the composite's environmental impact. It is possible to replace part of the glass fibre reinforcement with flax.

These boats are Zodiac's first ecodesigned models. The AirEthic project was launched in April 2012, and the boat was presented at the December 2012 International Boat Show in Paris. The Z-Concept project got off to a start in July 2012, and the boat concept was also presented at the Paris Boat Show.

Over the long term, consumers' growing concerns about environmental impacts when they choose a product and the gradual toughening of regulations on production conditions will make traditional polyester materials and techniques obsolete, relegating them to bottom-of-the-line product offers.The new process and these materials could eventually be applied to all Zodiac boats, since the experience with both models shows that this is feasible for this type of boat. The principle could also apply to most composite parts.

Category: Special Prize
Winner: BMW Group (Germany)
Name of Product or Process: LifeDrive concept: the world's first body architecture that is purpose designed and built for the series production of electric vehicles.
Description:
Though carmakers all over the world are rushing out electric models, BMW i's LifeDrive architecture is the first to be custom-built for electric vehicles. In the early 1930s, progress in metal cutting and a desire for lighter, more powerful automobiles gave birth to an innovation that would dominate motor vehicle manufacturing for many decades: the integral monocoque body. Three quarters of a century later, at the dawn of the electric vehicle era, the BMW i team was again facing the challenge of how to reduce a vehicle's weight - this time to accommodate the battery for an electric motor. The result of their deliberations was the world's first body architecture specifically designed and purpose-built for the series production of electric vehicles: the LifeDrive concept. In contrast to vehicles with a monocoque body, the LifeDrive architecture is made up of two separate functional units. The upper Life module consists mainly of a high-strength and extremely lightweight passenger cell made of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP). This innovative concept not only compensates for the extra weight of the battery unit, but it also lowers the vehicle's centre of gravity to make it a more dynamic vehicle to drive. A lightweight design is not the only benefit LifeDrive brings. The carbon-fibre passenger cell is exceptionally rigid and strong. Moreover, in the case of the BMW i3 there is no space-consuming tunnel running through the middle of the vehicle, since all the power components are housed in the drive module. As a result, passengers can enjoy streamlined seating and a lounge-like sense of space.

Up to 2020, BMW anticipates a worldwide market share of 4 to 8% for electric vehicles (BEV and plug-in hybrid). Furthermore, together with the German Government, BMW adheres to the target of one million electric vehicles on German roads by 2020. Although the LifeDrive concept with its CFRP passenger cell is a stand-alone vehicle architecture that is purpose-built for the BMW i3 and BMW i8, other model series may also stand to benefit in the long term from the CFRP expertise that BMW has developed.

Posted on February 26, 2013

Source: JEC Group




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