SAMPE Benelux Fall meeting at Airtech

The complete program can be downloaded here.

On the 4th of December 2012, Airtech Europe hosted the SAMPE Benelux Fall 2012 seminar in the nearby Gulliver hotel, welcoming a total of 44 participants. After the welcome coffee and a SAMPE Benelux introduction, the following presentations were made:

  • The general manager of Airtech Europe, mr Wolfgang Stratmann, gave us a detailed overview on the activities of this well-known supplier of materials for composite processing. Whereas originally it were foremost the vacuum bagging materials that made Airtech famous, now also the vacuum infusion materials make up a large part of Airtech’s offering. The aerospace industry stays a major client for Airtech Europe (65%), but also the automotive, wind, marine, recreational and PCB industries are served by Airtech.
  • Subsequently, the technical manager mr Oliver Bottler gave a thorough overview of the large range of composite tooling materials that Airtech has developed for hand laminated, infused or prepreg tooling. 
  • Mr Thibault de Lumley presented the latest composite developments and challenges of SONACA, a Belgian aerostructures supplier specialized in leading edge structures and fuselage panels. SONACA sees 3 main drivers for its composite development: production rate, manufacturing cost and structural performance. Numerous examples illustrated these challenges: how automated fibre placement (AFP) reduces material scrap and lay-up time but needs higher cost materials and suffers from performance knockdowns, how to choose between stiffener cobonding/cocuring and inside/outside mould line tooling, how to make out-of-autoclave prepregs work for sandwich panel production,…
  • Totally different was the story on the development of a composite tipper, brought by Didier Polling of Composite Technology Centre and Martin Brinkers of Norma. A key challenge in this project was to obtain the right loadcase information to dimension the composite structures for transport of sand, gravel, dirt or asphalt. Nevertheless, in only 6 months, a 6 m long and 2.5 m wide prototype was driving around with glass fibre/epoxy skins on a PU/PET core! This development has won amongst others the JEC 2011 Innovation Price but the story isn’t finished: the team is working now to lower the tipper weight further, to lower the production cost and to automate the production process. 
  • Airborne Composites (mr Anders Brodsjo) showed how they were able to redesign the engine thrust frame cone for the Ariane 5 rocket into a more cost-efficient composite structure. By dividing the cone in 8 sections, Airborne Composites was able to make panels by automated tape laying (ATL) and not by automated fibre placement (AFP), lowering material cost and increasing productivity. The ATL machine to do this was built by Airborne Composites themselves, using an industrial robot to move the self-built head around. 
  • Last but not least, Arjen Koorevaar of Polyworx showed us how infusion can be done with ‘no limits, no worries’ if one does his homework correctly. Polyworx has developed software to simulate the infusion process realistically and to help determine the best infusion strategy. The manufacture of the Oyster yacht hull was shown whereby a 6300 kg resin injection was carried out in one shot! 

After a networking lunch, the program continued with a visit to the Airtech Europe facility. The Airtech team showed us all production facilities like the blow moulding tower for extrusion of the vacuum bagging films, the pin holing machines for the release films, welding equipment for the bagging films,… To wrap up the facility tour, Airtech Europe showed a live demonstration on the use of their infusion materials for production of composites and for tooling manufacture.

To close the day, the SAMPE Benelux member meeting was followed by a last technical presentation on the custom products offer of Airtech Europe. Mr Jonathan Chalon explained amongst others how Airtech is able to custom cut its materials to the exact dimensions required by their customers and to assemble all of this in a ready-to-mould preassembled kits that lead to enormous time savings at their customers.

SAMPE Benelux wants to thank all the speakers and the Airtech Europe hosts, especially ms Sophie Davreux, for making this seminar such a success.