Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Composite Materials Being Used In Lightweight Composite Armor

My history teacher in 7th grade explained how one of the major reasons the British lost the revolutionary war, was their inability to adapt to fighting on foreign soil with unconventional conditions. The British were hard set on fighting and marching as they did in Europe and at home, in formation, wearing bright red coats of armor. However, with a different terrain, the revolutionary locals were able to use home field advantage, adapt, and ultimately win the war.

Fast forward 200+ years, to the US fighting in Afghanistan. Tactics and equipment that was designed for flat desert are no longer working in the rugged mountains. Vehicles are being armored with up to 14 inches of steel plate. This drastically reduces the mobility and agility of forces. Troops now carry an average of 80lbs a person. This includes weaponry, communication equipment, batteries, supplies, and body armor. Ironically, this is about the same weight addition medieval knights went into battle with (think chain mail armor).

The bottom line is that up armoring troops to the appropriate threat level is mandatory. However, it is slowly being discovered that mobility and quickness are extremely important as well. This is where composites, and in particular, composite armor comes into play.

Through precise combinations of various composite materials including ceramic, HDPE, aramid, fiberglass, and unique resins, composite armor can be manufactured that can pass all certification and be a fraction the weight of conventional steel armor.

In creating composite armor, much of the work is done on a trial and error basis. The interaction of various composite materials is difficult to predict, but in combination, researchers are constantly inventing lighter, stronger, and cheaper composite armor. By reaching the 3 driving goals of weight, ballistic rating, and cost, troops lives will be saved, and ultimately this war can be won.

Photo Credits: The National Guard

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pultrusion Industry Slightly Down in Europe

According to European pultruder Exel Composites quarterly reports, net sales were down 11.4% for the 1st quarter of 2009.

With operations in Finland, Austria, Germany, UK, China, and Australia, Exel Composites is a good bellwether company for pultrusion industry health in the European markets. Company president said,

“During the first quarter 2009, the impact of the financial crisis has continued to escalate, affecting also market demand in the pultrusion business negatively, especially in the building and construction and transportation segments,”

More Info:
Exel Composites
Pultrusion Information

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hybrid Composite Bridge

Here is an interesting company making what they call a "hybrid composite bridge". Basically, they use FRP composites for the shell, add the necessary reinforcements, then pump it full of concrete.

The company, HC Bridge Company, recently won an engineering award. I truly believe composites are a natural fit for bridges, and more of this will likely be seen in the future.

Friday, May 1, 2009

AWEA Show Comming Up

One of the fastest growing aspects of the composites industry is wind energy. The majority of wind blades, especally MW scale blades, are manufactured using the resin infusion process. This process is not new, in fact it is very similar to what is used in boat building. However, a wind blade is not a boat, it is a aerospace wing that receives a tremendous deal of stress.

Some composite blade manufacturers have already run into problems, but I believe there will be more issues in years to come. Aerospace manufacturing techniques will be mandatory for the necessary life spans of the blades.

At the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference coming up next week in Chicago, IL, I am sure there will be announcements of new manufacturing techniques.

Below is a video of the steps involved in the resin infusion process. Instead of the mold being a boat, picture a wind blade.