Friday, October 30, 2009

Make Your Costume From Composite Materials

I've talked before about composite robot costumes, but as Halloween is here, those with the materials and capabilities should construct their families costumes out of composites. It will be lightweight, strong, and will never corrode. (Nobody wants a rusted Storm-trooper costume...)

Here are some more examples of costumes using composite materials:

Halo 3
Star Wars
Hannibal Lecter

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Composite Material Industry Has a Voice in Congress

Every major material industry has representation in congress (aluminum, wood, steel, etc). Thanks to the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA), the composite material industry now has a voice as well.

The ACMA has put together a 25-member Congressional Composites Caucus co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (pictured above, and most famous for yelling "you lie"), a South Carolina Republican. The caucus held its first meeting in July.

The following is a list of current members of the Composite Caucus:

Joe Wilson (R-SC) – Caucus Chair
Rick Boucher (D-VA) Caucus Co-chair

Michael Arcuri – (D – NY)
Steve Austria (R-OH)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
Brian Bilbray (R-CA)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Chris Carney (D-PA)
Howard Coble (R-NC)
Vern Ehlers (R-MI)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
Michael H. Michaud (D-ME)
Bill Shuster (R-PA)
Mark Souder (R-IN)
Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Not listed is my local congressman, who I have already contacted and encouraged to join. (I suggest everyone reading this involved with composites do the same.)

Here is an interesting recent interview with Monty Felix, the current president of the ACMA. In the article, it states that the composites industry is a $42 billion industry with 3,000 makers of composites that employ more than 250,000.

In this letter attempting to rally support from other congressmen (which you can send to your congressman), dated June 22nd, 2009, and signed by Joe Wilson and Rick Boucher, it states the composites industry is a $70 billion dollar industry employing 550,000 nation wide.

So by calculations, either the congressmen puffed up their numbers or the composites industry has lost $28 billion in revenues and 300,000 employees since the end of June.

Photo Credit:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Boron Fiber - Superior to Carbon

There are those who think carbon fiber is the strongest reinforcing fiber available, but they are mistaken. Boron fiber, a far superior fiber to carbon, is underutilized due to being 6 times more expensive. Here is an interesting article discussing the manufacturing of Boron Fibers in the USA. The article states:

"Aerospace applications built this business. Boron fiber is used for structural reinforcement or repair of the F-15 fighter, B-1 bomber, Black Hawk helicopter, space shuttle and Predator.

The material also found its way into high-end golf clubs, skis, hockey sticks, fishing rods and Tour de France bike frames. Formula One, for competitive reasons, largely banned its use, says Treasure. Only the wealthiest teams could afford it."

Photo Credit: orphanjones via flicker

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Composite Material Biomimicry - Shellfish

I have talked before about biomimicry potential in composite materials, and about spider silk as a reinforcing fiber. While recently looking at the rocky shoreline in California, I saw a family of mussels taking a beating from the powerful surf. Day after day, these creatures take a non-stop pounding in a highly corrosive and wet environment... Truly amazing. Additionally, mussels grow on anything (in-organic or organic). It is not uncommon to find mussels growing on concrete, metal, and fiberglass. It gets one thinking that mussels would be an ideal candidate to investigate for improving adhesives, and perhaps reinforcing fiber.

If you have a chance to take a close look at a mussel in the wild, you will notice is is hanging on by many tiny threads, these are called byssal threads and are extremely strong with good elastic properties.

There is a plethora of information on byssal threads, it even seems the Romans used to weave byssal threads into a lightweight and warm cloth known as sea silk. Recent research had been conducted regarding the adhesive properties, this article discusses how a key amino acid discovered from mussels is now being used as a wood glue.

Please comment if you can think of other species in nature that could advance composite materials.

Photo Credit: jkirkhart35 via flicker

Friday, October 16, 2009

Russia Leader in Nano Composites?

President Dmitry Medvedev fo Russia said in a speech last week that Russia is on its way to becoming a leader in nanotechnology, citing a nanocomposites facility in Russia. News Europe quoted the president saying:
"Medvedev noted that the current volume of the products manufactured with the use of nanotechnologies is estimated at $250 billion. Citing expert estimates, Medvedev said the global nanotechnology market could reach a huge $2 trillion to $3 trillion by 2015."
I wonder if Medvedev is talking in dollars or rubles?

Photo Credit: quinn.anva via flicker

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Can I sell carbon fiber without an export license?

If you work with composite materials, and you are asked to sell carbon fiber to someone abroad, be sure you have an export license. Three men found this out the hard way; WCCO reports that these men have received sentencing last week for their involvement in exporting high-modulus carbon fiber to the China Academy of Space Technology. The leader of the operation has received 3 years and 10 months of prison!

A great deal of composite material technology is protected by export licensing. If you are interested in exporting anything, first check with the US Department of Commerce. They are extremely helpful as for the most part, exporting goods is helpful to the domestic economy. Remember, you are responsible for the final destination of your product. (So make sure the carbon rocket cases being sold to a guy in Canada don't wind up in Iran...)

Photo Credit: antigone78 via flicker

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

University of Maine Composite Bridge

I have previously discussed University of Maine's composite bridge technology. Yesterday there was an article in section D-1 of the New York Times highlighting this composite technology.

Here is the online version of the article, it goes into detail on the design, but essentially, inflatable tubes made of glass and carbon are arched across the span. These tubes are then impregnated while in position, and filled with concrete. Composite panels (I assume pultruded) are affixed on top of the large tube structures, followed by gravel and pavement.

Composite bridges are not new, if fact Asia has been a believer in composite bridge technology for some time now (will try and find supporting information). The upfront costs are often higher with composite materials, however the speed of installation can often outweigh the price premium on busy roadways.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Composite Material Reseach Center Gains Funding

Here is an announcement that Southern University in Louisiana has received a $5 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create the “Next Generation Composites Crest Center,” or NextGenC3 for short. The Advocate reports:
"The center will focus on the development of cutting edge research on composite materials and educational activities that will provide traditionally underrepresented minority students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines with research experiences at a readily accessible advanced research facility."
I think this is fantastic, more exposure young engineers and designers can receive with composite materials will ultimately fuel the long-term prosperity and growth of the composite industry as a whole...

Photo Credit: Eric Charlton via flicker

Friday, October 9, 2009

Latest with Boeing and the 787

Many who follow composite materials like to keep an extremely close eye on Boeing, and in particular, the development of the new 787 Dreamliner. Randy Tinseth, the vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle has a great blog (Randy's Journal), which is a must read for staying up to date with all things Boeing.

Photo Credit: markjhandel via flicker

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Humvee Door Design

Here is an article from Defense News talking about new BAE Systems armor kits for the Humvee and how they reduce weight by 500 lbs. (Which actually doesn't seem like that much). What I found most interesting in the article, is that they redesigned the doors which:
"feature front and rear doors that swing open like cabinet doors, providing combat troops front- and rear-armor protection."
Most all military vehicle doors open like conventional automobiles, in parallel. However, it makes perfect sense to reverse this. The doors, up armored with composites, act as shields and protect from the front and rear.

I am willing to bet money this will save more then one life, and it is often the simple ideas which can have a great impact. Perhaps in other military and composite applications designers and engineers should take a step back, and question why.

Photo Credit: US Army Military Command via flicker

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

BPA in Composite Materials

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound that is widely used in plastics. The majority of BPA is used as a monomer in the manufacturing of polycarbonate (think 5-gallon water bottles), but there is a large amount being used as an additive in epoxy resins. Recently, BPA has been shown to act much like the hormone estrogen; causing concern for consumer products containing BPA. (In particular baby bottles and water bottles.)

Concerns over BPA in the structural composites industry are yet to come to light as the majority of epoxy based composite products do not allow for human ingestion. However, one use of epoxy does, and this is causing some concern.

Many epoxy dental sealants commonly use BPA, in a recent survey among dentists, 25% reported being "very worried" about the use of BPA in dental sealants. Here is the American Dental Association's take on BPA.

It will be interesting to see the future of BPA in consumer products, plastics, and epoxy...

Photo Credit: ^@^ina via flicker

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lamborghini Sponsers University of Washignton Composites Center

Italian car manufacturer Lamborghini has donated $1 million to the University of Washington's: Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory. (Not a bad sponsor...)

Here is the research labs mission statement:
"Our mission is to provide research and education solutions in the field of composite materials and structures that are of particular relevance to ensuring the safety of current and future air and ground vehicles.

The research conducted in the group includes foreign object damage resistance and tolerance, crash worthiness, lightning strike protection, and certification by analysis supported by test evidence. "

More info: Seattle Times

Photo Credit: OmniNate via flicker

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reducing Aviation Emissions

Interesting article by MITs Technology Review on how the aviation industry can reduce global warming emissions. Obviously, using lightweight composite materials is a start; further carbon reductions can come from improved logistics, improved wing/airplane design, and using bio-fuels.

Read the article here.

Photo Credit: Rob Shenk via flicker