When CAMX 2016 kicked off its General Session on Tuesday, one tidbit of wisdom from Owens Corning’s Marcio Sandri stood out. “We must demystify composites.” He said that industry outsiders view composite materials as exotic and expensive, and the way to dispel those characterizations is for people to see composites in action and show them what composites are capable of. Inside this year’s exhibit hall, the composites industry answered this challenge by displaying innovations impacting a wide range of markets, including automotive, 3-D printing and recycling.
One of the biggest attractions on this year’s show floor was the uBox – an electric, urban utility concept vehicle at Teijin’s booth that was built by Clemson University graduate students. It was designed for urban environments so that it would appeal to Generation Z consumers while simultaneously meeting ambitious fuel economy standards.
Clemson used composites to reduce the weight, minimize part count and simplify the assembly of the uBox. Composites were used to make the vehicle’s doors, a lot of the internal body panels and the crash rail panels. However, according to Clemson graduate student Aditya Yerra, the vehicle’s roof rail, which Teijin helped make with high-strength, curved, composite pultrusions, has been the real showstopper.
“[People] have never imagined a curved pultrusion with such a complex cross-section,” Yerra told Composites Manufacturing on the show floor. “But there’s a lot of benefits to pultrusion, [such as] high fiber volume and low manufacturing cost.” He added that CAMX attendees have been particularly impressed that the car was built by students in just two years, and that the uBox is now a functional prototype that meets federal regulations.
Another eye-catching item was a surfboard on display at Connora Technologies’ booth that was made with recyclable carbon fiber/epoxy composites. In fact, there were many bikes, surfboards, skateboards and other sports and recreation applications on display throughout the show. Simon Kosinski, the director of process chemistry at Connora, attributes the abundance of such products to a combination of increased demand for composites in the sports and recreation market as well as how much easier it is to apply composites to sporting applications compared to other markets.
CAMX attendees were also enthralled by the wide range of 3-D printing applications on display. While Cincinnati Incorporated’s (CI) Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine is far too big to fit in a booth, the company drew plenty of interest in the technology that has produced everything from a 3-D printed Shelby Cobra to Local Motors’ self-driving 3-D printed bus, Olli.