The partnership has already yielded results. In September, Dane Jackson won gold in the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships in Bryson City, N.C., riding a kayak constructed from Aerialite X fabrics with Innegra H yarn. Liles hopes success in watersports eventually leads to other markets. “The easiest place to start is in recreational markets, where you can get materials into a water craft in two to five months,” he says. “If it works in a structural laminate there, it can grow into aerospace and automotive, where qualification periods take two to five years and more.”
The industry is heading toward thinner and lighter plies. Textile company Chomorat developed a new product called C-PLY™. It is a carbon multiaxial product – or non-crimp fabric (NCF) – comprised of unidirectional layers that are mechanically sewn together. It can have plies with a tow spreading process resulting in thickness as low as 75 gsm (gram per square meter) per ply.
John Leatham, director of sales and marketing for Chomorat North America in Anderson, S.C., says C-PLY is different than other non-crimp fabrics because it can incorporate different fiber angles in the multiaxial. Traditional fiber might be ± 45 degrees. “Depending on the application, we are able to make shallower angles (± 20 to 30 degrees) to tailor the fabric’s properties to meet the customer’s requirements,” says Leatham.
The biggest commercial success for C-PLY to date is in the Audi RS3 Sportback, sold in Europe. Its front fenders were made with a biaxial C-PLY carbon fiber material ± 45 degrees. “Shallower angles were not going to provide a benefit in this application,” says Leatham. “Carbon was used for the weight savings, and C-PLY was selected because it could provide a Class A automotive finish.”
Chomorat is excited at the potential for C-PLY, especially in the automotive market with its trend toward light weighting and improved fuel efficiency. “Because this product is so new and it takes three to four years to get spec’d into a car that’s still on the drawing board, we are working with OEMs and Tier 1 companies,” says Leatham. “I fully expect we are going to be in multiple programs with this product by 2017.”
Reinforcement suppliers respond to market demand for longer wind blades, fuel-efficient cars, thinner circuit boards and more by creating special-purpose fibers. A new advancement at PPG Fiber Glass is its INNOFIBER® glass fiber compositions. INNOFIBER CR is a boron-free modified e-glass engineered to enhance the performance of composites in corrosive environments. INNOFIBER XM is an alkaline earth aluminosilicate glass designed to provide up to 15 percent higher modulus performance, making it well suited for wind blades and auto parts.