Soaring business leads to growth for Composites Horizons

By Roger Renstrom
Correspondent

Published: August 19, 2014 1:56 pm ET
Updated: August 19, 2014 2:04 pm ET

Image By: Composites Horizons LLC Composites Horizons LLC takes delivery of its new ASC autoclave in Covina, Calif.

Related to this story

Topics United States, Aerospace, Composites

Composites Horizons LLC is investing $12 million in new equipment and processes, in part for ceramic matrix composite production in its fourth building in Covina, Calif.

Historically, the firm made high-temperature polyimide and carbon-fiber-reinforced bismaleimide aerospace components for difficult-to-manufacture performance-critical applications.

The business started to pursue the ceramic matrix composites business in mid-2011.

“We were aware of the need for higher temperature jet engine parts,” said Jeffrey Hynes, president and CEO. “Being strongly based on high-temperature polymer composites, ceramics were a natural fit.”

Composites Horizons invested in some equipment and began its initial work with oxide-oxide ceramic materials.

“We produced a number of panels, then simple shapes and then a complex part that was a scale version of an actual jet engine part,” Hynes said.

In mid-2013, “we presented this part with our proposal for a very large contract, and, in November, we were awarded the long-term contract,” he said. “It has been stated that in 20 years most jet engines will be 50 percent composite by weight. A significant portion of this will be ceramic, and we want to play a part.”

The Evendale, Ohio-based GE Aviation business segment of General Electric Co. awarded the contract. Composites Horizons will process ceramic matrix composites for components on an exhaust system for a key business aircraft engine program.

“This segment will grow significantly for us over the next 10 years,” Hynes said.

Making room

Physical changes were needed.

Composites Horizons acquired an adjacent 35,000-square-foot building exclusively for the manufacturing of ceramic matrix composites. The space adjoins three leased buildings bringing the complex to a total of 126,000 square feet. The capital investment covers changes and improvements in all four buildings.

Hynes employs 170 now but anticipates hiring as the firm works through its backlog of long-term orders worth more than $330 million.

Image By: Composites Horizons LLC The new 12-foot-by-25-foot ASC autoclave is installed next to a 10-foot-by-20-foot autoclave at Composites Horizons LLC.

Composites Horizons purchased a 12-foot-by-25-foot autoclave from ASC Process Systems Inc. of Valencia, Calif., and installed the new unit in July adjacent to an existing ASC 10-foot-by20-foot autoclave. The firm operates other autoclaves from Tarrico Corp. and Thermal Equipment Corp.

In April, Keith Co. of Pico Rivera, Calif., supplied a large sintering oven with capacity of 500 cubic feet and temperature capability of 2,500° F. Another Keith oven is slated for installation in 2015.

Fooke GmbH of Borken, Germany, provided a large five-axis computer numerically controlled milling machine, and CMS SpA of Zogno, Italy, supplied a CNC router. “We already had one CMS” router, Hynes noted. “This new one is identical.”

Coordinate-measuring-machine laser inspection systems came from Faro Technologies Inc. of Lake Mary, Fla., and Nikon Metrology NV of Leuven, Belgium.

In April, Composites Horizons began operating a 4,000-square-foot Class 8 clean room that the firm designed and built as its sixth clean room.

Company origins

“Composites Horizons has been known as the industry expert in high-temperature polyimides for jet engines,” Hynes said. “Today roughly 80 percent of our revenue is in this market with gas turbine jet engine and nacelle companies including GE, Pratt & Whitney, Snecma, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and Middle River Aircraft.”

Thomas G. Hynes acquired Composites Horizons in 1981 in a spin out from rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer Aerojet. He moved the operation to Covina in 1982. His son, Jeff, began working there in 1982 while a student and joined full time in 1986.

Since 1987, the firm has doubled in size every four years.

Hampson Industries plc of Brierley Hill, England, acquired the business from Tom and Jeff Hynes in January 2007 and operated Composites Horizons as a subsidiary within Hampson’s aerospace business segment. At that time, Tom Hynes transitioned to chairman of Composites Horizons and retired from full-time duties.

In November 2012, middle-market private equity firm American Industrial Partners of New York acquired five of Hampson’s U.S. aerospace-focused manufacturing and tooling companies including Composites Horizons and formed AIP Aerospace LLC of Santa Ana, Calif. Composites Horizons was reincorporated as a limited liability company.

Now, AIPA in the U.S. employs more than 1,300 at nine companies occupying more than 670,000 square feet for manufacturing functions. AIPA withholds sales figures.

Since 2012, AIPA has opened three new operations including the Covina project and two others in the AIPA tooling group. Also, AIPA made two add-on acquisitions.

Commercial on the rise

While the Composites Horizons’ current engine and nacelle workload split is about 70 percent military and 30 percent commercial, Jeff Hynes envisions change. “This ratio will flip to commercial by 2020 when the latest large contracts are in full production.”

Composites Horizons-made parts exist on the military’s F-35 joint strike fighter, F-18 strike fighter, F-16 fighter/attack aircraft, C-17 transport aircraft and Predator C Avenger unmanned aircraft system and commercial wide-body airplanes such as Boeing Co.’s B787 and B777 models and Airbus SAS’s A350 and A380 aircraft.

Looking ahead, parts from Composites Horizons are slated for next-generation uses on the Airbus A320neo and Boeing B737MAX narrow-body aircraft; GE’s GP7200 engine on Bombardier Inc.’s Global 7000/8000 corporate aircraft; GE’s Passport 20 turbofan engine; and Rolls-Royce Deutschland’s BR700NG regional and corporate jet engine.

Another GE business segment, GE Capital, provided financing for many of the Composites Horizons improvements and touted how GE’s acumen helped the firm.

GE Capital placed 60-second television advertisements, posted the same message on YouTube and published full-page advertisements in 10 major newspapers including The USA Today, New York Post and Los Angeles Times.

The GE Capital message says, in part: “See how we helped our customer Composites Horizons grow by bringing in specialized expertise from across GE.”

A team of GE Lean Process engineers helped Composites Horizons double its speed of manufacturing composite components for aircraft engines.

GE Capital featured Composites Horizons LLC is an advertisement that began airing earlier this year.


Comments

Soaring business leads to growth for Composites Horizons

By Roger Renstrom
Correspondent

Published: August 19, 2014 1:56 pm ET
Updated: August 19, 2014 2:04 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

New medical firm buys Clairson Plastics

September 19, 2014 4:33 pm ET

Custom injection molder Clairson Plastics is being sold to a new start-up that plans to dive into the medical market with a new dialyzer, a key...    More

Image

Dunkin' Donuts looking at PP to replace foam cups

September 19, 2014 3:22 pm ET

Dunkin' Donuts is testing a new polypropylene coffee cup that the company believes could help boost recycling.    More

Image

Plasan investing in capacity, jobs to supply auto market with carbon fiber

September 19, 2014 3:05 pm ET

Growth in the emerging automotive market for carbon-fiber composites has spurred a $29 million investment in a Walker, Mich., factory    More

Image

Hong Kong's TK eyes expansion, may buy Nypro Tool operation

September 19, 2014 2:49 pm ET

Hong Kong-based mold maker and plastics processor TK Group (Holdings) Ltd. said it's reached a tentative agreement to buy a tooling factory in...    More

Exo-s buys injection and blow molder in Mexico, expands footprint

September 19, 2014 2:15 pm ET

Custom molder Exo-s Inc. has bought an injection and blow molding operation in San Juan del Rio, Querétaro, Mexico.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

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

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

More Events