There was no shortage of innovation on display the first day of CAMX 2017. Shortly after the CAMX Live! general session, the two winners of the annual CAMX Award, sponsored by Ashland, were announced. The winner of this year’s Combined Strength Award is Composite Advantage LLC, which teamed up with West Virginia University and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to produce a new GFRP product to replace standard wicket gates made of white oak. The composite wicket gate costs 40 percent less on a first-cost basis, provides an eco-friendly alternative to old-growth hardwood and increases a gate’s lifespan from 15 years to 50 years.

The winner of this year’s Unsurpassed Innovation Award is Structural Composites for its next-generation CoCure hybrid metal/composite technology featured in Wabash National’s first trailer made with molded structural composites. By incorporating molded structural composites instead of aluminum, Wabash improved the trailer’s overall thermal performance by up to 25 percent. The trailer’s floor is also up to 20 percent lighter than it would be with steel.

Later in the day, ACMA presented its annual Awards for Composites Excellence (ACE), sponsored by Composites One. ACE recognizes companies that stand at the forefront of innovation in composites technology, manufacturing and product development.

For the first time since the show began in 2014, CAMX named a winner for the Innovation in Green Composites Design Award. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was recognized for 3-D printing a large portion of the world’s largest green printed pavilion structure with 100 percent bio-based and biodegradable composites.

Another showstopper this year was a prototype of one of the most widely discussed automotive applications today: Ford and Magna International’s composite subframe. Ashland won the Infinite Possibility for Market Growth Award this year for its role in the development of the frame. According to Ashland, Ford and Magna’s prototype carbon fiber composite subframe reduces mass by 34 percent compared to a stamped steel equivalent. The part is manufactured with Ashland’s epoxy vinyl ester resin and carbon fiber SMC technology.

“This is a revolutionary product because this is a chassis part with load-carrying capacity that joins suspension parts with steel bolts,” says Xiaoming Chen, a technical expert at Ford who played a critical role in the project coming to fruition. “This will help us overcome a lot of technical challenges and show that [composite] materials can be used to build a chassis.”

Other ACE Award winners included:

    • Material and Process Innovation Award – Gifu University (Gifu, Japan) for its novel process related to carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic light molding.
    • Equipment and Tooling Innovation Award – Autodesk for its comprehensive platform that provides an end-to-end solution for composite manufacturers.
    • Most Creative Application Award – The Aerospace Corporation for development of a method to manufacture replicated composite mirrors with high optical quality and dimensional stability.