N.Y. center to help aerospace firms transition to composites

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A new technology center is opening its doors to help Long Island aerospace and defense suppliers replace metal parts with plastic composites.

Long Island Forum for Technology represents a $15 million investment in machinery and facilities to educate companies and engineers in composites. LIFT’s Composite Prototyping Center has just begun negotiations with companies for its services, said CPC project manager Philip Coniglio in a telephone interview.

“On Long Island there are 400 to 500 companies supporting the aerospace industry,” Coniglio explained. “Most of them cut metal but a lot will transition to composite parts.”

The 25,000-square-foot CPC in Plainview, N.Y., has a range of composites processing equipment already installed and is adding more. In February CPC is installing an automated fiber placement robot system and a Class 100,000 clean room which includes a machine shop, test and inspection cells and storage area. Also being installed in February is a Stratasys 3D printer capable of making protoype parts 16 inches square by 13 inches deep. Components made by the polymer printer can be bonded together to create large parts.

Other equipment such as cutting systems, autoclaves, presses and ovens are ready to run to promote composites based on carbon fiber, fiberglass, aramid fiber and similar reinforcements.

Coniglio said CPC services won’t be restricted to Long Island companies but the focus is to foster employment in the state of New York.

“Although the [OEMs] have left the Long Island area, the supply chain is still here,” Coniglio said in an interview from CPC’s office. Large companies can afford to invest in composites equipment as they go through a learning curve to replace metal, but small companies lack the resources to make the leap to composites, according to Coniglio.

To educate a composites workforce, LIFT is working with Stony Brook University of New York and Farmingdale State College to develop curricula for certificate and degree programs. CPC itself has a dedicated training room with CAD/CAM composite software to help engineers design composite parts and production technologies.

One major local composites company supplying the aerospace and military markets sees big opportunities ahead for advanced materials.

“What LIFT has done in developing this dedicated composites resource is give our region’s manufacturers both the incentives and seamless entry to capture those opportunities,” stated Alexander Bozza, president of Russell Plastics Technology Co. Inc. of Lindenhurst, N.Y., in a news release.

LIFT, based in Bethpage, N.Y., is a non-profit economic development agency working with the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership.