And the winners of the JEC Innovation Awards are . . .

Awards recognize top global innovations in composites technology
  • JEC Innovation Awards: Omni Tanker

    Composites industry organization JEC Group has announced the winners of its 2016 JEC Americas Innovation Awards. The companies represent a broad cross section of expertise in the design, testing and materials categories as well as in the automotive, aerospace and sports and leisure end markets. The awards will be presented during the fifth annual JEC Americas Composites Show and Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 3 to 5, 2016. In advance of the event, the winners are featured in this slide show. The descriptions of the innovations are their own.


    JEC Innovation Award for transportation: Omni Tanker Pty Ltd. (Randwick, Australia)

    The Omni Tanker A and AB tanks are composite tanks that combine lightweight qualities with high chemical resistance at an attractive price point. The tanks are particularly light and strong, with a mass of approximately half that of a steel tanker with equivalent volume. The benefits of a lightweight tank include fuel savings and reduced emissions, and more importantly, an increased payload that can be shipped in a single transport run.

    Compared to tanks with standard liners, Omni Tanker A and AB tanks are more durable (longer service life) with lower maintenance costs, and ensure higher chemical purity. The tanks can be effectively washed out, meaning that they can be back loaded with different chemicals, and that the chemical being transported can be changed based on seasonal demand. The composite tanks have captured the Class 8 corrosive dangerous goods transport market in Australia, and reportedly are in high demand from transport operators in the European market.

  • FlexSys

    JEC Innovation Award for design: FlexSys Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI)

    A single-piece wiper arm and blade assembly that costs less and both outlasts and outperforms traditional metal assemblies is made from a composite thermoplastic of 30%-glass-filled PBT, which was determined to have the required properties and would meet the necessary strength/stiffness ratio. The single-piece molded design eliminates 11 parts, and weighs half and costs only one-third of the legacy design.

    Unlike the traditional hinged blade, this wiper provides constant spring pressure to the blade through each of its arms. However, the difficulty in development was that current 3D-modeling programs were not up to the task, as they design using rigid members and linkages. In compliant design, the elasticity of materials must be embraced and used to create motion. To surmount this obstacle, FlexSys developed FlexWorks software, with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The software allows the input of desired motions and magnitudes, and will run through thousands of iterations to find the one that most closely matches the criteria. It considers the maximum stress/strain capability of the material in each iteration, and the output provides the required thickness variation throughout each bending member. The software will have its first public viewing and alpha release at the JEC Atlanta demo zone.

  • Cetim

    JEC Innovation Award for testing: Cetim (Nantes, France)

    Continuous peel test equipment developed by Cetim and partner LF Technologies is designed to optimize the tape winding process of thermoplastic composite structures. The development of a tape-winding technology involves the full value chain, according to Cetim: Raw materials manufacturers, winding machine builders, process developers and composite structures manufacturers. In tape winding or tape placement, time constants are so short that it is almost impossible to measure precisely the physical values involved (pressure, temperature and heat transfer). Consequently, a vast number of trials must be performed to define the acceptable level of tape quality (surface roughness, variation of impregnation), process parameters and performance of the final structure. Given the range of input data and parameters, conventional optimization methods would be very expensive in mechanical tests and material controls. CETIM has developed a cost-effective method based on a continuous peel-test machine during the optimization phase. The samples used in a continuous peel test are rings directly processed on the winding machine, without specific preparations. The rings are then mounted on the peel test equipment, which continuously measures the peel energy of the bonding. A variation of peel energy can be detected and correlated with a variation of tape quality or a variation of process parameters.

    The testing equipment is able to efficiently evaluate the peel energy of thermoplastic composites. Because the equipment can be installed in the production workshop, a test ring can be produced and tested in five minutes compared with several days if the test is performed at an off-site laboratory.

  • ThermoPlastic Composites Research Center

    JEC Innovation Award for aeronautics: ThermoPlastic Composites Research Center (Enschede, Netherlands)

    The innovation is a green PPS leading edge cover made from recycled thermoplastic composite materials. The project encompasses the recycling of scrap material generated during the manufacture of thermoplastic composite parts. For example, scrap is produced when manufacturing a rudder, elevator or wing part using thermoplastic prepregs and an autoclave process. The scrap can be re-used by cutting the material to flakes of +/- 10 x 10 mm and subsequently applying a compression molding process to form a complex structural part. In a closed recycling process, this part can be used in the same structure for which the scrap was generated.

    The demonstrator was built using experimentally validated design rules, taking into account the complicated flow behavior of the flake material and the stochastic nature of the mechanical properties.

    The use of thermoplastic composites reduces manufacturing costs and part weight. The recycling potential of thermoplastic composites is clearly demonstrated with this innovation, which is an important step in the cost optimization of composite design and manufacture.

    The ThermoPlastic Composites Research Center and its partners, Fokker Aerostructures B.V. and TenCate Advanced Composites B.V., anticipate significant market potential for this innovation where thermoplastic composites are already used. As demonstrated, the prepreg scrap generated during the production of large thermoplastic composite structures can be used for small, complicated parts attached to that structure. Moreover, the use of thermoplastic flakes (molding compound) was demonstrated in other projects as a promising material for geometrically complex structures such as aircraft window frames. This innovation provides theoretical tools in the form of processing and design guidelines to further enhance the application of thermoplastic molding compounds.

  • Polycon

    JEC Innovation Award for automotive: Polycon Industries (Guelph, ON, Canada), a division of Magna Exteriors Corp.

    Magna Exteriors Corp. has developed a molding process based on two-sided steel compression. A proprietary, fast-cure, high-Tg carbon-fibre prepreg using industrial-grade fibres was thus developed, making the parts are suitable for Class A applications.

    The high-Tg formulations allow the material to withstand heat from harsh environments and permits processing at 125°C temperatures typically seen in North American paint shops.

    Primary tooling was supplied by Century Tool & Gage Co. of Fenton, MI. A modified tool design, based loosely on conventional shear edge compression tools, was also used. Modifications based on Fibersim analyses were incorporated. Prepreg sheets are cut to a 2D shape and then preformed, using a proprietary end-of-arm tool concept to achieve approximately 80% of the final 3D shape.

    With a cycle time measured in minutes vs. conventional autoclave technology where cycle time is in hours or days, the process allows for higher volume serial production, a factor to be considered in the automotive sector.

  • Fraunhofer IPT

    JEC Innovation Award for process: Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT; Aachen, Germany)

    Fully consolidated thermoplastic composite blanks are often used for high-volume composite applications in consumer goods and automotive parts but also for semi-structural applications in aerospace. They offer high weight-saving potential in combination with processability. Furthermore, they can be manufactured continuously and have an infinite shelf life, so they offer some major economic advantages, as well. However, these blanks are standard products, so they are not tailored for a specific application. This means that the blanks come in a uniform thickness and that the fiber orientation is constant. The composite innovation, consisting of a technology for the manufacturing and processing of tailored thermoplastic composite blanks, overcomes these issues.

    Reinforced unidirectional thermoplastic tapes, which offer high performance in the fiber direction, can be used to produce thermoplastic composite blanks that are optimized for the application. This also greatly reduces waste during production. With the support of Bond Laminates, Fraunhofer IPT has developed a production system that combines the advantages of continuous double belt presses and flexible tape placement systems: High-volume production and tailored plybooks at competitive production costs. In contrast to existing solutions, this system allows the direct consolidation of thermoplastic composites during lay-up (so called “in-situ consolidation”), thereby avoiding the usually required post-consolidation step and dramatically increasing energy efficiency. HBW Gubesch has developed both the simulation tools and the forming processes to enable easy processing of these advanced tailored composite blanks.

    The key benefit of the innovation is the net shape and load-optimized production of tailored thermoplastic composite blanks. The resulting materials are optimized lightweight structures in which the fiber orientation and thickness perfectly match the application. Material use and cost are reduced, as the material is only applied where needed.

  • Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology

    JEC Innovation Award for e-mobility: Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology, TU Dresden (Germany)

    As part of the Thermobility research project, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), project partners Rehau, Storck Bicycle and the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK), TU Dresden, developed an innovative design for thermoplastic support frame structures. The frames can be manufactured in a highly automated, integrative injection-compression molding process integrating local carbon-fiber reinforcements.

    Function-integrative thermoplastic hollow structures offer potential in various applications. Novel manufacturing processes for hollow structures made of two functionalized half shells were tested on a minibike demonstrator structure. The aim of the project was to investigate and create a continuous process chain beginning with the production of function-integrated shell structures up to the joined and painted hollow structure. To keep production costs low while maintaining consistently high quality, a high degree of automation and production-compatible manufacturing processes were factored into the concept.

    The load-adjusted use of textile reinforcements in this combined injection-compression molding process offers considerable potential in many fields. The project involved developing and characterizing compatible textile thermoplastic sheets. Using the same thermoplastic matrix for both the sheets and granulate made it possible to reach the desired quality standards. The processing technology used in the project offers a wide range of forms, thereby constituting a method to build functionalized, highly integrative structures. The concept of a shell structure consisting of two highly functionalized parts generates particularly significant benefits in comparison to similar structures. These structures can be used in multiple vehicle classes for electric mobility with various load requirements.

  • Cross Composite AG

    JEC Innovation Award for sports and leisure: Cross Composite AG and C8 Sports (both in Steckborn, Switzerland)

    Cross Composite developed a new material along with a suitable automated manufacturing technique to produce complex, precise load introduction elements that are fully recyclable for use in outdoor sport applications. Unlike most advanced composite parts, which are derived from a layered structure and, therefore, are limited in geometry, the products from Cross Composite are based on highly complex load-bearing components. Their production is fully automated and the parts require no post-processing such as machining, since all the products are net-shape molded. For the first time ever, carbon-composite bicycle components are fully recyclable. After five years of R&D, the epoxy resin commonly used to bind carbon fibers together was replaced by an aerospace-certified thermoplastic resin. These products are best-in-class in terms of weight and are tested according to the safety requirements and test methods of European standards. For recycling purposes, the classic shredding technique was replaced by electrical fragmentation to avoid machinery wear and the production of unwanted carbon powder. Furthermore, by collecting the products, Cross Composite can certify a full cradle-to-cradle recycling loop.

    To date, Cross Composite has developed a 69-g saddle, a 105-g crank and a 90-g stem, all of which are made of 100% thermoplastic composite (including the threads). No metallic inserts are needed, thus enhancing the recyclability of the products and fully respecting eco-design guidelines; the products are compliant with the new European Waste Framework Directives expected in 2020, which will impose eco-taxes on products without sufficiently proven recyclability.

  • Genome Prairie

    JEC Innovation Award for biocomposites: Genome Prairie (Winnipeg, MB, Canada)

    A project under way in Western Canada will soon deliver fully renewable biocomposite materials to the Canadian industry. The materials are based on fiber from flax germplasm with genetically optimized traits for use in advanced composite materials. Carried out with partners from the University of British Columbia and Genome Prairie, the project uses semi-structural components of a prototype bio-vehicle (developed with two industrial partners in Manitoba) as proof-of-concept of the approach. Current practices for manufacturing biocomposite materials depend on mixing percentages of natural fiber with fiberglass in appropriate laminate structures and using petroleum-based resins as a binding matrix. However, fiber feedstocks from flax and other crops have not been phenotypically screened and catalogued for their use in specific biocomposite applications. Issues of industrial relevance include a lack of fiber uniformity leading to inconsistent product performance; poor adhesion of fibers to petroleum-based resins (binding matrix) leading to poor material strength and the absence of natural resins that provide the required optimum binding capacity, thermostability and biodegradability.

    Elite germplasm of flax varieties with traits suited for use in advanced biocomposite products have been created to address these problems.

Composites industry organization JEC Group has announced the winners of its 2016 JEC Americas Innovation Awards. The awards will be presented during the fifth annual JEC Americas Composites Show and Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 3 to 5, 2016. In advance of the event, the winners are featured in this slide show. The descriptions of the innovations are their own.

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