Plasan to launch new carbon-fiber process

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: December 21, 2012 6:00 am ET

Lownsdale

Related to this story

Topics Automotive

LIVONIA, MICH. (Dec. 21, 10:50 a.m. ET) — At the Plastics in Lightweight Vehicles conference, Plasan Carbon Composites Inc.’s chief technology officer, Gary Lownsdale, gave more details about a new rapid-curing molding process that he says is much faster than traditional autoclave technology for making auto parts.

Now Plasan is in the pre-production stage at an expanded factory in Walker, Mich., near Grand Rapids. In 2013, the company will begin making parts on seven presses from Globe Machine Co.

After investing $6 million over several years of research and development, Plasan engineers had their “eureka moment” in 2010, Lownsdale said. They had studied the manufacturing process and synthesized the variables of autoclaving into a computer.

Lownsdale said current autoclave molding techniques have a 90-minute cycle. That’s fine for low-volume vehicles or aerospace parts, but the process needs to be faster to get carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics into more mainstream cars. The new process takes just 17 minutes.

The Plasan team had to find, or build, new machinery to use the new process. They ended up working with Globe Machine, a 97-year-old company in Tacoma, Wash., that makes compression molding machines and handling equipment for the plywood, particle board, wooden I-beams and paper-handling industries.

“When they first looked at our graphs and charts, they understood exactly what we wanted to get done,” Lownsdale said. “Within 10 months, we had an operating piece of equipment.”

Plasan and Globe Machine entered into a long-term development project. Plasan calls the compression process a “pressure press.” Globe’s brand name is Rapid Cure.

“Our system is a replacement for an autoclave,” said Ron Jacobsen, Globe’s projects manager, who attended the conference, held Nov. 6-7 in Livonia.

Lownsdale declined to say what parts Plasan will make with the Pressure Press, or identify the carmaker. Plasan already makes carbon-fiber-reinforced hoods, roofs and trunk lids for Chrysler’s Dodge Viper. At the Society of Plastics Engineers Innovation Awards, Chrysler Group LLC won the Body Exterior Award for the hood of the 2013 SRT Viper, molded by Plasan.

SPE’s Automotive Division honored Lownsdale with an Innovation Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony, held Nov. 7, after Plastics in Lightweight Vehicles, which was organized by Plastics News.

The Viper is a high-end sports car. Now Lownsdale, an automotive composites veteran since the 1960s, said faster cycle times will help carbon fiber break through to a more base-level car in 2014.

Lownsdale said one bottleneck is layup of the fiber-reinforced parts. Plasan is working on robotic layup, which he said can happen within the next few years.


Comments

Plasan to launch new carbon-fiber process

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: December 21, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Cascade Engineering founder Keller to step down as CEO

September 16, 2014 8:33 pm ET

Cascade Engineering Inc. is undergoing a transition as President Mark Miller will also add the role of CEO, replacing founder Fred Keller, who has...    More

Image

Canadian, Mexican injection molders form auto supply joint venture

September 16, 2014 2:26 pm ET

A new automotive parts manufacturer will open in Querétaro, Mexico, through a joint venture between Canadian automotive supplier Papp Plastics and...    More

Image

Increased capacity in the US helps Zeon Chemical supply seals globally

September 16, 2014 9:46 am ET

The automotive industry continues to be one of the driving forces of Zeon Chemicals LP., which specializes in heat-resistant and oil-resistant...    More

Image

ZF finalizes deal to buy TRW, creating another global auto supply giant

September 15, 2014 1:09 pm ET

TRW Automotive Holdings, in a supply chain megadeal that has been in the works since mid-July, said Sept. 15 it has agreed to be acquired by German...    More

Image

Delphi CEO O'Neal stepping down

September 15, 2014 12:05 pm ET

Delphi Automotive plc announced that Rodney O'Neal will retire as CEO and president on March 1, 2015, ending his 43-year career at the global automoti...    More

Market Reports

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events