Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom reported these items from the Composites Manufacturing and Tooling '99 conference, sponsored by the Composites Manufacturing Association of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Feb. 8-10 in Anaheim, Calif.
American GFM sees growth in cutters
American GFM Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., anticipates significant growth for its six-axis ultrasonic cutters in the aerospace and automotive markets.
The high-frequency-oscillating cutters ``all but eliminate dust'' in machining honeycomb and are much faster than computer numerically controlled routers or less sophisticated systems, said Frank Elliott, western region sales manager with an office in Bedford, Texas.
A cutter of standard 4-by-8-foot sheets of core may cost $600,000 ``and could be several million'' dollars, Elliott said.
He sees potential in the military's advanced fighter program, which includes the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter.
``Because of volume of honeycomb in these programs, we expect our sales to explode,'' Elliott said.
Lockheed Martin Corp. operates a cutter in Fort Worth, Texas, and Boeing Co. has four units in Wichita, Kansas, and single units in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Mesa, Ariz. American GFM is filling other orders.
Separately, American GFM uses an ultrasonic cutter to trim RTM preforms combining dash and window surrounds on the Dodge Viper. The three-dimensional manufacturing process eliminates routing after the part comes out of a resin transfer mold, Elliott said.
Raytheon jets to use fiber placement units
Raytheon Co.'s aircraft subsidiary in Wichita, Kan., has ordered two additional Viper 3000 fiber placement systems for about $5 million each from the Cincinnati Machine division of Unova Industrial Automations Systems Inc.
The new computerized units' 90-foot length will be ``able to accommodate larger tools'' for manufacturing composite fuselages for Raytheon's new Premier 1 and Horizon business jets, said Kevin Retz, a Raytheon engineer. Raytheon's existing Viper is 60 feet long.
The system places one-eighth-inch-wide tows of carbon fiber and epoxy over mandrels to form the interior wall. Technicians overlay Nomex honeycomb on the interior wall, and then the machine wraps the exterior-skin tows.
Premier flew initially Dec. 22 and is being tested for certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Raytheon has sold 140 Premiers and anticipates delivering the first production aircraft in early 2000. Premier costs about $4.1 million and can carry six passengers.
Certification of Premier's fiber placement and material technology will speed Raytheon development of the Horizon, which carries 8-13 passengers. The Horizon will ``probably fly by the end of 2000 or in 2001'' and is projected to cost $12 million to $14 million, Retz said.
Cincinnati Machine, the former machine tools unit of Cincinnati Milacron Inc., has placed seven Viper systems and has orders for three 3000 models and a 1200 model, said Robert Harper, a Cincinnati Machine specialist. The machine-making unit is based in Cincinnati, and Unova has headquarters in Hollywood, Calif.
Jet-engine firm looks at composite parts
United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney unit in Hartford, Conn., is evaluating the feasibility of using an isogrid composite instead of aluminum for the fan containment case on commercial aircraft engines.
Alliant Techsystems Inc. developed the structure over three years, said Vernon Benson , composite structures engineering manager at Alliant's Magna, Utah, facility.
``They are looking at existing engine applications where this technology might fit,'' Benson said.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the development through its affordable composites for propulsion program, which is being closed out.
New method promises faster tooling times
Tool Chemical Co. Inc. of Madison Heights, Mich., has a filled-urethane tooling plank that cuts three steps from making a master model for nickel-shell tools.
Computer-aided-design data is used to cut a mandrel from the high-density model plank for use in forming the nickel shell.
``You can use the tool for high-volume reaction injection molding, composite-part fabrication, prepregging or other types of composite tooling,'' said Scott Martyniak, vice president of sales.
It is not necessary to take a mold off the model, take a reverse of that model or put the reverse in a tank for processing, he said. Both labor and material costs are reduced.
Tool Chemical was formed in 1952 and employs 43.
Firm offers new line of vacuum-bag films
Airtech Advanced Materials Group of Huntington Beach, Calif., is offering an improved line of high-elongation, flexible vacuum-bagging films.
Airtech makes the films of modified nylons and polyurethanes with pricing comparable to conventional vacuum-bagging films, said Guy Schindler, director of technical support.
The Stretchlon-brand films are ``unaffected by humidity,'' remain soft and pliable and withstand composite processing temperatures of 250§-400§ F. The film comes in widths up to 10 feet and lengths of 1,000 feet.
Airtech employs 150 and has manufacturing facilities in Huntington Beach and Differdange, Luxembourg, and a stocking site in Littleborough, England.