Mark Raaphorst of SIC Maui traveled more than 3,500 miles to attend CAMX. Raaphorst, who designs FRP equipment for paddle sports such as surfing, is excited to learn from composites experts and peers. “I work in Hawaii, where there isn’t a lot of high-tech industry,” he says. “At CAMX, I am surrounded by people creating other high-tech applications with composites. So I hope to find answers for the few problems we face over and over again.”

Raaphorst began his search for answers at the pre-conference tutorials on Monday, where he attended the “Overview of Composites Manufacturing” session led by Andy George of Brigham Young University. It was one of 11 sessions providing an in-depth look at specific areas in the advanced materials industry, ranging from composites design and analysis to thermoplastic technology.

Here is a smattering of insight shared by experts during the pre-conference tutorials:

  • George stressed the need for speed within the industry. “At CAMX you’ll hear how we’re trying to lower cycle times, cure resins faster and improve consolidation,” he said. “World competitiveness depends on being able to make composites faster.
  • In a session on open molding, Larry Cox of Structurlite Composites Consultants unraveled the “alphabet soup” of glass fiber, which is used in 90 percent of composites produced. E-glass is the most common glass fiber. C-glass is a chemical glass with a very high alkaline content, making it well suited for corrosion-resistant applications. S-glass, which is stronger and stiffer than E-glass, is used for structural applications
  • Among the many topics covered by James Ainsworth of Collier Research Corporation in a session on composite design and analysis was buckling, a big concern in composite parts. He discussed both global and local buckling. Global buckling – also called panel buckling – is the flexural bifurcation of the entire panel, including stiffeners, due to in-plane compression loads. “This bifurcation is typically considered to be a total collapse,” said Ainsworth. Local buckling is defined as a mode where the intersecting edges of the cross-section don’t deform. “By default, local buckling is treated as a failure,” said Ainsworth. “However in many cases, post buckling of the skin is permitted at a certain fraction of ultimate load.
  • Presenter Jeff Sloan told attendees in a session on the energy market that wind turbines blades, the largest of which is now 83 meters long, will continue to get bigger as wind turbine use grows in the U.S. and abroad and bigger blades are designed to generate more electricity per turbine. That’s good news for composites, which are front and center in this growth industry. “Wind turbines simply wouldn’t be possible without composites,” says Sloan. Other emerging energy applications include pressure vessels for reduced weight automobiles, thermoplastic pipelines for oil and gas exploration, spar caps for fracking and continuous fiber transmission lines for electrical towers.

Overall, the pre-conference tutorials were a hit with attendees, even attracting some converts to composites. “I’m an old-school metals guy,” admits Sam Rende, a sales representative with D&O Engineering Co. Inc. The company is a manufacturer’s representative firm serving the aerospace industry. Rende recently began representing a composites company that sells to OEMs such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “This composites stuff is new to me, so I am here to learn!”