“One of the challenges faced by companies further up the value chain is translating the unique features of your product to attributes that resonate with the end customer,” says Miloagă. “Putting those attributes into the context of a finished part completely changes the conversation and was a key driver for this initiative”
Miloagă adds that as a material supplier, Johns Mansville was excited to have a design engineering firm on its side. “The more aspects of a solution you have in a collaboration – materials, design and manufacturing – the more credibly you are able to present the value proposition and the greater the chances that solution will be considered [by an OEM] and make its way into a commercial application,” she says.
A Good Material Match
Perhaps the most common collaborations within the composites industry are among suppliers who work together to ensure that specific combinations of materials yield the right results. While it may not seem novel for suppliers of resins, reinforcements, additives and fillers, core materials and surface finishes to team up, it’s incredibly important – and might not happen as often as you think or to the degree required.
One example of a true partnership is the collaboration between 3A Composites Core Materials and Vectorply Corporation, both of whom distribute their products through Composites One. The two material suppliers have worked on projects together for more than a dozen years, but began taking their relationship to the next level in 2017.
“Glass and core are natural collaborative ingredients to a laminate,” says Richard Knipe, sales director for 3A Composites. “Over the last three years, we’ve developed proprietary combination products.” Many of the products are designed for infusion processing.
“When customers switch from open mold to infusion, they often experience challenges in achieving the cosmetic surface they were used to with open mold laminates,” says Knipe. “To assist, we collaborate with Vectorply, who stitch their glass fiber to our core. By doing so, we create a far better cosmetic condition and eliminate a step for the customer in laying out the glass and the core separately.”
The companies currently have nearly 100 combinations of glass and core for the marine and industrial markets, and they are moving into aerospace. “Vectorply and 3A are continuously working on closed mold applications where our joint goal is to bring consistent thickness, flow and cosmetics with a single fabric solution while reducing overall cost,” says Tamir Levy, vice president of sales for Vectorply.