1. Composites Conferences Booming:
2014 was a banner year for composite conferences around the world. The COMPOSITES EUROPE 2014 trade show in Düsseldorf in October attracted 10,186 visitors, an increase of 25% on the previous event held in 2012. 419 exhibitors took part, an increase of 7% on 2012. The same month, in the Orlando, Florida, CAMX (The Composites and Advanced Materials Expo) 2014 housed 7100 conference attendees and more than 550 exhibitors.
When asked about the sector’s medium-term economic development perspectives over the next 4 years, 64% of visitors at the European conference said they expected moderate to strong growth.
2. CFRP’s 3D Printing:
It was hard to look at a composites publication this year without seeing some reference to the 3D-printing of composites. The most exciting advances were those made in the printing of continuous fiber reinforced plastics. Freespace Composites utilizes a proprietary procedure in which thermoplastic made of high-capacity carbon fiber which is optimally placed. It keeps on producing fiber structures with the desired fiber orientation. The 3D printers possess several 6-axis robot arms that dispense the fiber.
On the other side, MarkForged has released Mark One which is now considered as the first 3D printer in the world which is based on carbon fiber. The Mark One is capable of printing nylon, poly lactic acid (PLA), consistent glass filament and continuous carbon as printing materials and fused filament fabrication (FFF) and composite filament fabrication (CFF) as printing techniques.
3. Lifecycle Assessment of Composite Planes:
The University College London (UCL) and the Universities of Sheffield, Cambridge have conducted a complete LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) of Airbus 350, Boeing Dreamliner 787 and other composite planes. According to this research, emissions during the manufacture of composite planes are over double those of aluminium planes. But because the lighter aircraft use significantly less fuel, these increased emissions are offset after just a few international flights.
The saving in fuel consumption and increased use of composites will drastically reduce the airline industries costs and carbon footprint. For around the next 25 years, composite planes will continue to be introduced to trigger the effect of CO2 emissions, while considering economic prosperity, population, oil prices and frequency in adopting new technology.
4. BMW i3 – The Making:
In late 2013, BMW released it’s composite-dominated, all electric vehicle, the I3. Originally known as MegaCity Vehicle, it is comprised largely of composites and is designed specifically for urban areas – covering around 160 km (100 miles) on one charge.
In the process of making these cars, BMW made huge strides in the design and manufacturing of composite parts. Their goal is to reduce the original cost per kilo to of carbon-fiber products by 90%. It has been rumored that their materials and techniques will be used in other BMW models like the high-end 7 series sedan.
5. No-Oven, No Autoclave Composites:
The technology of No-Oven, No Autoclave was the brainchild of CRG (Cornerstone Research Group) Ohio, in association with Glenn Research Center (Cleveland Ohio) and NASA. The motive behind launching it is more economical processing of giant composite tooling and structures without investing large capital on ovens, autoclaves and heated tools. This technology may become very advantageous for companies seeking reduced cycle times and the ability to make high performance tools from low-cost master models.
6. Recyclable Composites:
Connora Technologies is leading the way in commercializing its recyclable advanced composite technology. The Recyclamine epoxy thermoset recyclable technology from Connora is an eco-friendly platform which provides an efficient method for recycling composite products and materials. Unlike metal, around 20 – 40% of carbon fiber parts is wasted when the part is dispensed-of. In the aerospace and automotive industries, efficient recycling of composites will have a huge effect on cost and adoption.
7. Morphing Wing Test Flight:
Started in 2009, the project known as Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) made big strides this year as fuel efficiency and noise reduction have become larger industry concerns.
Lightweight and fuel efficient jet engines have gotten so quiet that now an aircraft’s landing gear, flaps and slats have taken over as primary noisemakers. The highly reliable, deformable structure changes shape during takeoff and landing to reduce drag and noise.
NASA calls it a game changer for future aircraft. Studies at NASA Dryden have shown that even a 1 percent reduction in drag for the U.S. fleet of wide-body transport aircraft could result in savings of approximately $140 million per year.
8. Composite Crash Muffins:
The Institute for Composite Materials (IVW) and automotive supplier Stadco have developed a crash absorber made from thermoplastic composite for use in automobiles.
The crash absorber, affectionately known as the 'crash muffin,' is initially intended for use in cars, but it could also be used in the aviation and packaging industries. The 3-D crash muffin is formed from a 2-D fibre reinforced thermoplastic sheet in a single stage forming process that is low cost and extremely fast.
Currently, the majority of automobiles still use metal crash absorbers. Composite components for use in crash protection are significantly lighter than their metal counterparts. The IVW technology now makes it possible to manufacture composite crash absorbers simply, cheaply and without the need for joining processes.
9. Asia Pacific Becomes Most Promising Carbon Fiber Market:
With the increased demand for the growth of about 14% at CAGR from the year 2014 to 2019, Asia Pacific has become the most hopeful market for carbon fiber. In 2013, around 40% of total international production of carbon fiber was occurred in Asia Pacific. Followed by South Korea and Taiwan, Japan and China were largest producers of carbon fiber. With an aim to fulfill the increasing demand from European CFRP industries, Asia Pacific is all set to enhance its production capacity in China.
10. Leap EngineC:
CFM International LEAP is a 50-50 joint venture company between GE Aviation and Snecma of France.
Fan-blades and fan casing are made of 3d woven advanced composites. The blades are manufactured via an RTM process and are designed to untwist as the fan's rotational speed increases
These technological advances are expected to result in 75% reduction in noise, 50% reduction in emissions, and 15% reduction in fuel consumption. That amount of fuel consumption accounts for 10% of an airlines entire operating expenses.
General Electric carried out the first test flight, of a LEAP-1C, on October 6, 2014 in Victorville, California.