Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom gathered these items from the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering's international symposium and exhibition, held May 21-25 in Long Beach, Calif. Inco invests millions in Wales operation
Inco Ltd. of Toronto is boosting nickel foam capacity at a Clydach, Wales, plant.
The firm is investing $14 million for the expansion using Inco's gas decomposition technology. A 3.2-foot-wide line became operational in January, and a second line should begin running during the summer.
Inco operates a 1.2-foot-wide nickel foam line in Sudbury, Ontario.
The operations report within a special products business unit that Inco formed Jan. 1. Products including powders, foams, flakes, oxides, nickel-coated graphite and carbon fibers generated 1999 sales of $200 million. The unit is aiming for $400 million by 2004, according to Malcolm Rosenow, Inco's business manager for fiber products.
Inco is marketing nickel-coated carbon fiber in eight thermoplastic resin systems, including acrylic, polycarbonate/ABS, PVC and polyethylene.
"We have a product that is a thermoplastic part rather than old technology in some form of binders," Rosenow said. A compounder can use the material in dry blending, he said.
Nickel-coated carbon fiber accounts for 60 percent of each compound's weight.
"We are adding enough resin onto the pellet so when it gets injection molded directly it will melt easily and blend into the final part," he said. "We tend to use a high-flow resin system to help it melt into the base resin system almost like an additive."
Lewcott pushing phenolic resin sales
Lewcott Corp. of Millbury, Mass., is finding market success with a new advanced phenolic prepreg system and is pushing sales of phenolic systems once reserved for internal use.
Seven companies began evaluating the LC194 system in April 1999, and Lewcott made the product generally available in February. LC194 self-adheres to aramid honeycomb and meets flammability requirements for aftermarket refurbishing of aircraft interiors. Other potential applications include panels for lightweight subway and railroad cars.
"We are a primary manufacturer of phenolic resins so we have an edge over people who are buying phenolics in the market," President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ronay said. The knowledge "enabled us to develop a racehorse," he said of LC194.
Lewcott uses its phenolics to coat glass substrates or fabrics. The product has "tremendous peel strength and adhesion," he said.
Last year, Ronay, who also is majority owner of the company, hired several phenolic chemists and a business unit manager.
"We are aggressively selling phenolic resins outside rather than only using them inside for our own products," he said. "We are calling on some customers we have always sold phenolic resins to."
Lewcott employs about 75 and expects sales of about $15 million this year. In addition to structural composites, the firm uses prepreg for abrasion and filtration products.
Hexcel producing Boeing jet winglets
Hexcel Corp.'s structures and interiors unit in Kent, Wash., is building 14-foot-high winglets for Boeing Co.'s business-jet program.
Under a quick turnkey arrangement, Boeing supplier Aviation Partners Inc. of Seattle, Wash., awarded a contract to Hexcel for 120 ship sets in July, and Hexcel delivered the first set in February, Terry Tatro, the unit's tooling services manager, said at SAMPE 2000.
Hexcel is responsible for tool design and fabrication, procurement and part fabrication and assembly. The winglets enhance Boeing's latest version of its 737 business jets.
The Kent unit employs more than 1,000 and makes polymer composite structural and interior components.
Stamford, Conn.-based Hexcel has sought a strategic alternative for the structures unit, including possible sale, since December. Hexcel acquired the business, then known as Heath Tecna, as part of the 1996 acquisition of Ciba-Geigy Ltd.'s worldwide composites business.
Hexcel sold the Bellingham, Wash., aftermarket side of the business to Britax International plc of Warwick, England, for $116.9 million on April 26.
Ciba clear urethane is ultraviolet-stable
Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp. has produced an optically clear ultraviolet-stable urethane adhesive for bonding thermoplastics.
First orders for Uralane 6100 A/B were scheduled for shipment in late May, said Richard Matthews, national sales manager for Ciba's performance polymers division in Los Angeles.
The company developed the product during the past year in an effort to compete with a product that is not UV-stable.
"Initially, we went after signs and domed bonding" applications, and aircraft original equipment manufacturers are next, Matthews said. "Customers want to see writing through the adhesive. It's so clear you can do repair work and not see it."
The adhesive can bond polycarbonate, acrylic and ABS as well as fiberglass, glass and metals.
Texas Composite moves to new plant
Texas Composite Inc. will move about five miles within Boerne, Texas, in mid-July to a new 32,000-square-foot facility. The old plant was 15,000 square feet.
A new 10-foot-by-40-foot Devine autoclave will operate at the new location, said Robert Sanderson, director of product development.
The firm employs 90, builds primary and secondary aerostructures and turbine-engine components and assemblies and had 1999 sales of about $7 million.
200 pay to take part in pool-cue program
More than 200 people built their own pool cues at the SAMPE show through an on-site program run by Century Design Inc. of San Diego.
The company has ran the program for four years. All proceeds from the $20 fee go to local SAMPE chapters.
"We are intermixing unidirectional carbon fiber and glass fabric," said Mike Cagle, Century executive vice president. "The carbon gives us a good finish and flexible strength whereas the glass fabric gives up great tortional strength and weight so it is not too light."
Zoltek Co.'s SP Systems facility in San Diego supplied the material. Lynco Grinding Co. Inc. of Bell Gardens, Calif., provided tapered mandrels, and Century supplied the machines.
"It costs us upwards of $25,000 for labor to get it here and to make this happen," Cagle said.
The processes included hand lay-up, table rolling, shrink wrapping, oven curing, mandrel extraction and grip and tip application.
The program made golf putters in 1997 and 1998, and pool cues for the past two years.
"We'll come out with some [different] item next year," Cagle said.
Smart Fibres systems hits North America
Smart Fibres Ltd. of Hamble, England, near Southampton, has begun marketing its $65,000 optical-fiber-strain sensing system in North America.
The system contains 50-100 sensors and can replace gauges in measuring strain within a carbon-fiber laminate or filament-wound product, said Heddwyn Davis, managing director.
In Europe, dozens of firms have undertaken test programs, and a few are using the system, he said.
Composite protects agains fire, tear gas
National Nonwovens Inc. of Easthampton, Mass., demonstrated a composite of polyester and a super-absorbent acrylic-based fiber that can neutralize fire and tear gas.
Once charged with water, the needling technology in SafeSorb cloth acts as a protective barrier, said A.J. Centofanti, chief executive officer and president.
A related technology, AeroSorb, can control residual moisture and water vapor in confined spaces such as aircraft cabins. The firm had 1999 sales of about $25 million.
BP Amoco plastic thermally conductive
BP Amoco Polymers Inc. is pressing forward with its thermally conductive plastics as a substitute for metal.
"We are selling thousands of pounds for these applications," said D.J. DeLong, business manager of carbon fibers with the Alpharetta, Ga., unit. "We have a small base, but it is doubling every year for this end use."
BP Amoco has worked with compounders and designers to commercialize material to control heat in high-density electronic devices.
"Metal drilling, forming and shaping all add cost," he said. A thermally conductive plastic costs more than metal, "but the finished part is one-third to one-fifth the cost of an intricate metal part."
The firm's Thornel oxidized pitch-based continuous fibers and ThermalGraph rigid panels, fabrics and discontinuous fibers are manufactured in Greenville, S.C. The material was used initially in commercial space applications in the early 1990s.
London-based parent BP Amoco plc said April 27 that it is seeking buyers for the high-performance engineering polymers and carbon fiber businesses.