Friday, April 30, 2010

Defense Armor Funding - 2011 Requests

2010 was a fantastic year for defense appropriations for composite companies, in particular, composite armor received substantial funding. Even though it is only April, Senators are beginning to announce their 2011 requests. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky announced some of his requests, and looks like 2011 will be another stellar year for composite armor funding. Below are Bunning's related requests:

Project: De-Weighting Military Vehicles through Advanced Composites Manufacturing Technology
Amount Requested: $3,200,000
Recipient: MAG Industrial Automation Systems
Location: Boone County, KY
Description:  This is a research and development project for manufacturing of a machine to produce lighter-weight parts for military vehicles.  The project is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because it advances technology that delivers light-weight materials that improve fuel efficiency, cost savings, and enhanced combat readiness.

Project: Enabling Optimization of Reactive Armor 
Amount Requested: $5,000,000
Recipient: Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Dynamics
Location: Muhlenberg County, KY
Description: These funds will be used to develop a replacement for current reactive armor used by the Army which will be reduced in weight, meet new threats, and increase overall safety. 

Project:  New Specialty Resins for Advanced Composite Armor
Amount Requested: $2,000,000
Recipient: Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc.
Location: Jefferson County, KY
Description: Funds will help develop a new range of matrix resins that address shortcomings in existing composite ballistic armor systems.  Achieving a better balance of properties will advance composite toughness, enhance fire, smoke, and toxicity performance to help our servicemen and women. 

Project: Tactical Mobility Consortium (TMC)
Amount Requested: $8,000,000
Recipient: University of Kentucky Research Foundation and M2 Technologies
Location: Fayette County, KY
Description:  The requested funding will advance years of aggressive research and development with the Marine Corps to deliver a critical force protection capability to the warfighter, allowing our military to provide the technical expertise required to assess the intended and unintended impacts of emerging technologies within the context of expeditionary warfare.  

Hopefully the military is actually requesting this research...

Source and Photo Credit: Senator Jim Bunning

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

JEC Composites 2010

Today is the last day of the JEC composites show in Paris. This is probably the largest composites show in the world, and has become the annual meeting place for composite material companies from all corners of the globe.

However, this years show may be lasting a little longer; volcanic ash from Iceland is about to shut down all the airports in Paris. The ash can damage airplane engines and could even cause failure. Hopefully this will clear soon, as the global composites industry will be on hold until it does...

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The clip above demonstrates why the new Joint Strike Fighter needs to be as lightweight as possible. Carbon fiber is undoubtedly playing a role in reducing the weight. I caught a fascinating NOVA episode on the competition between Lockheed and Boeing in designing the F-35. It goes into a surprising amount of detail of the composite construction and even discusses how Boeing attempted to use a thermoplastic matrix. If you have Netflix, you can watch it instantly for free, or you can get the episode from Amazon below:

I highly recommended anyone interested in aerospace composites or this military program to check it out.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Biomimicry Adhesives

Composites, which are often structurally bonded with adhesives, are always looking for a better product. So when adhesive researchers need inspiration, what better place to look then nature (Biomimicry). Some researchers have looked at shellfish, such as how mussels are able to adhere so well to wet rocks in a turbulent environment.

However, recent research is looking into the sandcastle worm. This little guy builds his home on the ocean floor by gluing grains of sand together. Not only is this adhesive extremely strong, but it is cured underwater, a feat humans are yet to accomplish. Most adhesives cure requiring a drying process, and if scientists can better understand how the sandcastle worm works, a whole new generation of sythetic adhesive products could be developed.

Beyond creating a better adhesive for composites, a structural adhesive able to cure underwater has numerous uses in marine applications and medical uses...

Photo Credit: Philippe Guilluime via flicker

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Composite Prosthetic Limbs

Here is an interesting article about a company called GENER8. They have developed a composite prosthetic leg out of what appears to be carbon fiber. Unlike similar composite prosthetic legs which can cost between $700 - $5,000 each, GENER8 is shooting to provide their design at a price below $500. Their current target market is developing countries where affordable options are not currently available.

Although, in countries like India, where the average income is 38,084 Rupee's a year, or $2.34 a day, even a non-subsidized composite limb at a couple hundred dollars is probably still unaffordable for the average person. But, it is a move in the right direct...

Photo Credit: GENER8

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wind Turbine Blade Failure

I once heard a leading wind turbine expert say, "The most important advancement in wind energy was advanced breaking, and in particular, the air-brake." Breaking allows a turbine to operate in higher wind speeds; it also makes a wind turbine safer.

Here is recent news of a wind blade breaking at Europe's largest onshore wind farm. I would be interested to see what the culprit was...

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aluminum Bats vs Composite Bats

Composite baseball bats are gaining popularity in softball and little leagues world wide. Using carbon fiber and epoxy, these composite bats are said to have such good performance, that they are now banned for use in NCAA play. Much like other composite products, the big draw to the bats is their lightweight yet powerful capabilities.

What is interesting though, is that while most composite products dread delamination and fiber-breakage, composite bats desire it. It is said that composite bats get better with use. The theory goes, as fiber breaks and delaminates in the bat barrel, the bat becomes more flexible producing more power when you hit the ball.

In 2008, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell put this to the test. Although their sample size was relatively small, they concluded:
"A set of six “high-performance” composite baseball bats and one aluminium baseball bat were tested to see how their respective batted-ball performances would evolve with use. None of the bats showed a significant change in the resulting batted-ball-speed performance using the NCAA BESR performance testing protocol. Three of the six baseball bats failed with less than 100 hits—implying that some of the composite bat designs are not durable."
A high-end composite bat, weighing less the 30oz, can retail for over $300... Not too shabby.

Photo Credit: ertemplin via flicker

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