Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom gathered these items during the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering exhibition, held May 7-9 in Long Beach, Calif.
Lewcott Corp. product to challenge Cytec
Lewcott Corp. of Millbury, Mass., is beginning to market a phenolic-resin-based ablative that aims to challenge Cytec Fiberite Inc. in the solid-propulsion rocket market for thermal and insulation materials.
The composite LR 1504 from Lewcott's advanced composites prepreg group is undergoing qualification procedures at a contractor, said John Beard, a Lewcott business consultant. ``We will follow with more programs as the material starts to succeed.''
Lewcott's advantages include basic strength in modifying native phenolics and the ability to make the product cheaper and faster than the entrenched competitor, Beard said. He estimated that Cytec Fiberite has 85 percent of the global market and a higher percentage in the United States. Beard was business unit manager for what was then Fiberite Inc. prior to leaving the firm in 1996.
Tempe, Ariz.-based Cytec Fiberite is a unit of Cytec Industries Inc.
Separately, during 2001's first quarter, the Lewcott group began distributing its EP255 film adhesive, initially for a medical application, and its PSR133 phenolic for carbon/carbon industrial applications.
The firm employs 70.
Zolteg Materials' new towpreg being tested
''We developed a different process [for] impregnating the fiber,'' said Patrick Walsh, director of sales and marketing. ``It is not hot melt.'' Usually, fiber is dipped in a bath of hot resin.
The towpreg program was launched in January. Currently, pre-impregnated materials of carbon fiber account for about 60 percent of sales, adhesives for 20 percent and reinforcement formats for 20 percent.
Parent firm Zoltek Cos. Inc. of St. Louis acquired the business in October 1999. The materials group employs 30-40, occupies 35,000 square feet and reports within the Zoltek Intermediates business unit.
N. Coast Tool & Mold debuts Driv molding
North Coast Tool & Mold Corp. of Cleveland exhibited its directed resin injection and venting technology at SAMPE 2001.
The trademarked Driv technology facilitates making large, intricate parts with high fabric content and high viscosity resins, according to Richard Petrovich, president and inventor. Injection ports are positioned on both sides of a part and at the ends.
Driv technology differs from traditional liquid molding and is suitable for use with various forms of resin transfer, injection recirculation and infusion molding processes.
Lockheed Martin Corp.'s aeronautics unit in Fort Worth, Texas, approved the technology last year using a North Coast tool with bismaleimide resin and graphite fabric in making the initial vertical tail of the X-35A Joint Strike Fighter. The leading edge measures 12 feet, and the part weights almost 200 pounds.
North Coast employs 31 and had 2000 sales of $4.1 million.
Composites Horizons rebounds financially
Composites Horizons Inc. of Covina, Calif., is bouncing back from losing a couple significant commercial aircraft programs.
''We should be up 30 percent this year,'' said President Thomas Hynes. ``Everything is up for us.''
CHI uses radiolucent materials to manufacture medical diagnostic imaging products and is making surgery tables now. ``Also, we are getting into the prosthesis business,'' he said. Meanwhile, CHI continues to work in its traditional market for satellite and aircraft components.
Last year, CHI invested about $200,000 to install a Visual-brand manufacturing operating system and $150,000 to obtain ISO 9001 certification. ``As the business was going down, we have time to do it,'' Hynes said.
CHI employs 80 and had 2000 sales of about $6 million.
Altin debuts speedy stitching technology
In a U.S. first, Altin Nahtechnik GmbH of Altenburg, Germany, demonstrated its technology for robot-supported, three-dimensional stitching of fabric preforms with design speeds up to 1,000 stitches per minute.
The stitching occurs in advance of resin transfer or infusion procedures and ``without exposing workers to fumes or vapors,'' said Juergen Wittig, managing director of marketing and sales. The technology is ``not as time and labor consuming as hand lay-up procedures.'' He sees commercial potential in the aerospace and marine markets.
The show model goes to Drexel University in Philadelphia for academic use and marketing demonstrations under the direction of Frank Ko, professor of materials engineering and director of the university's fibrous materials research center.
Alliant Techsystems Inc. of Minneapolis said April 23 it had completed its acquisition of Thiokol Propulsion Corp. from Alcoa Inc. of Pittsburgh for $685 million in cash. Thiokol's TCR Composites in Ogden, Utah, which makes towpreg and rovings for polymer-matrix-composite applications, exhibited at SAMPE. ... London-based BP plc continues to seek a buyer for its polyacrylonitrile- and pitch-based carbon-fiber business. The firm began the effort a year ago and has circulated a revised prospectus. The company makes the materials at plants in Greenville and Rock Hill, S.C.