Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Composite Materials

The composite industry as a whole is interested in the success of Boeing's new 787; it is one more step towards mass acceptance of composite materials. Despite all the problems and the current 28 month delay in production, in the end, the weight savings on the 787 will help contribute to a 20% fuel efficiency.

Here is a great post by MIT's Technology Review on the problems and the future of the Dreamliner. A worthwhile quick read for anyone following the 787 saga.

Photo Credit: Dave Sizer via flicker

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fire Laws and Composite Materials

In Kansas, they are trying to pass a law that requires the installation of fire sprinklers in small residential complexes. This would add additional and unwanted costs to builders. According to this article:
"Ron Ewing of the Firefighters Association said the trend is to require sprinklers in new construction because of increased use of lightweight and composite materials.

Older wood-built homes could burn for about 20 minutes before they began to collapse. With new homes, that "burn time" shortens to five minutes because of the different materials used, he said."
Now what he means by "composite materials" is probably different then what we commonly think of composite materials, i.e. FRP.

Photo Credit: dvs via flicker

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Acceptance of Composite Material

Not everyone is thrilled with composite materials. Watch the video above; a small town complains about a new composite poll installed. Apparently, they would rather have a tilted old wooden pole, treated with harsh heavy metals, and fixated with a steel guy wire; over a clean tapered composite pole that is self supporting and could last over 50 years.

Acceptance of composite materials is slow and steady process...

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Friday, February 19, 2010

New Composite Building System for Haiti

Below is a guest post by James Bancroft discussing a new building technology:

Rexwall/Aqua Homes (Germany) has developed and is producing a lightweight composite honeycomb-core panels used in both houseboats and land based homes. These are large insulated wall panels, glued into place.

I am not a fan of prefabricated panelized housing systems. Each house needs to be individually engineered, offering limited styles and require special assembly skills. Panelization might offer certain benefits for large housing tracts where the houses are all identical but have limited value for custom construction.

The concept for the lightweight composite building blocks allows for a variety, different sizes and architectural styles of structures without detailed architectural plans. Using only three or four standard, off-the-shelf blocks almost any type of structure can be built--local unskilled labor can easily visualize how they "fit together" and can adapt structures to the local topography.

Key to the success of any high tech building material is its adaptability to incorporate local building finishes--creating structures which fit into the historical context, customs and local design traditions--the use of materials which people have grown accustomed to--houses people want and feel comfortable living in.

Below and above are several illustrations demonstrating how this can be achieved using the composite blocks, rough exterior finishes allowing them to be stuccoed with local cementitious materials (Haiti-colorful Caribbean colors), roof panels reflecting local materials and natural flooring coverings.

For building green issues, the central insulating core could use recycled EPS, the buildings can be easily adapted to changing needs (unstacking and rebuilding) or be completely "disassembled" and recycled into new structures.

The next step in exploring and testing potential of the blocks would be to have a composite manufacture produce a number of prototype blocks, assemble them into a model small garden type house--take it apart and reassemble it several times to work out the details.

For more information contact Jim Bancroft at

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spider Web Composite Armor - Biomimicry

I love biomimicry, and in particular, natures' ability to manufacture superior composite materials. Spider silk, known to be one of the strongest materials per unit of weight has made news yet again. A start-up called EntoGenetics has recently received a grant to produce spider silk from a silkworm:
"EntoGenetics has developed a method for transferring a spider's silk production gene into the common silkworm, creating for the first time a commercially viable method of spider silk production. This fiber will provide soldiers with life-saving vests that are tougher, lighter and more comfortable to wear than current vests made of Kevlar and other similar fibers. It will also be used in promising medical, aerospace and composite applications."
More Info:  NC IDEA

Photo Credit: photofarmer via flicker

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Recycled Glass Bottle Composite Table

The annual ACMA Composites show was last week. All and all, it was a good show, and as always, some of the newest and best products go on display. This year, the "Best in Show" award went to Robal Glass – Monroe Industries, as seen above. They have a method of mixing resin with crushed post-consumer glass bottles. The coffee table on display was beautiful, and I could picture the material used in counter tops and bathrooms.

Being green was absolutely a theme at the show this year. The demand is originating from the end users of composite products, and this will likely only grow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Marine Industry and Composite Materials

Yesterday President Obama said it best in a speech given at a high school in New Hampshire: "You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage."

Once a primary use of composite materials, the marine industry has since been hit hard by the economic downturn. What the President describes, is exactly what boat builders are experiencing right now. Boats are no doubt a luxury good, and right now, people are not buying luxury goods.

With this being said, European luxury yacht builder Emocean just announced plans for a 200m super yacht as seen above. They still need someone to buy the $500-$900 million dollar yacht before they will start building. This thing is a serious haus. 100ft pool, room for two 98ft "day boats", helipad, nightclub, and casino. Yet it will still maintain 28 knots, which is pretty good for a boat that size.

Photo Credit: Emocean

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Green Composite Material Gets Funding

According to, New York based company e2e materials has raised $3 million in funding. The company, a spin-out from Cornell University, "is a clean technology company in Ithaca, New York that produces petroleum-free, biodegradable composites that are stronger, lighter and cheaper than composites filling landfills today." This is according to their website.

Now the claim of cheaper and lighter may have some merit, but saying their products are stronger then "composites filling landfills today" might be a stretch. Granted, there are many composite materials this product is stronger then, but the composites people think of most often, FRP composites, fiberglass and carbon fiber in particular, it is doubtful a bio-based composite has near the structural properties.

This being said, I am all for green composite materials and bio-based composites. The composite industry and the world needs to move in this direction as a whole. There are a myriad of applications natural fiber reinforcement is ideal for, however, we are still a long ways away from natural fiber replacing fiberglass, carbon, or aramid fibers. Hopefully e2e Materials and their new funding will help lead this charge.

Photo Source: e2e Materials

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