Over 100 composites experts assembled in Cologne last week for a very successful 2 day conference, preceded by an exclusive site visit to ITA at Aachen University, which was attended by nearly 50 conference delegates.
The programme took a different slant this year, with more focus on investment, and new opportunities in carbon fibre, whilst also considering the pertinent issues in aerospace and automotive sectors. Day 1 took a look at the big picture, industry dynamics and what the key opportunities are right now.
The quality of presentations was very high as ever and it feels unfair to pick out particular presentations, but for me particular highlights were Antony Dodworth of Dodworth Design reporting on the latest use of recycled fibres in automotive applications, Jens Hinrichsen gave an interesting and potent presentation sharing his experiences with automation in part production at Airbus. Alex Aucken of Cytec distilled a complex supply chain into some fundamental relationships, highlighting the importance of openness and collaboration and we heard from the engaging Jan Verdenhalven with his perspective on the mix of big and small fish in the carbon composites pond!
We were honoured to host a Chinese delegation who gave different perspectives: the association; the end user; the equipment supplier; the carbon fibre producer to give a rounded view of the status of CF production in China. Thanks to Dan Pichler and Lisa Tan for facilitating the translated session and speakers Mr Zhao Xiang Dong of China Chemical Fibers Association, Zhang Zhong Jun of Sea-Rock Composite Co, Liu Yong Hua of Xi'an Fu Ruida Technology Co, Zhuang Hai Lin of Jilin Tangu Carbon Fiber Co.
Chuck Miller, President of Harper International illustrated the role of processing technology in meeting the future end user requirements, and Simon Waite of EASA illustrated some of the history and current thinking in composites certification for aerospace applications. Andrew Mafeld of Connectra and Bill Regan of Zoltek explored two opportunity applications for CF.
The Eisenmann-sponsored drinks reception was a lively affair, with discussion going on for over 2 hours and many new business connections made. Food and drink throughout the conference was excellent, including the coffee breaks sponsored by Anguil.
In order to capitalise on future opportunities, we need carbon composites that are environmentally friendly, cheaper to buy, easier and quicker to process, and have a viable end of life solution. Day 2 was dedicated to this theme - how can we think outside the box to deliver next generation composites solutions.
The esteemed Prof Andrew Walker from Airbus/The University of Manchester talked about higher diameter 12 micon fibres and how these could open up new opportunities; Wilhelm Steinmann of ITA Aachen gave an overview of the extensive carbon fibre research going on that their facility and how this could open new doors for future applications; Frank Erhart of Altair Engineering gave a detailed paper on how their design software approach can reduce component weight; and Soraia Pimenta of Imperial College London outlined the performance advantages of tow-based discontinuous composites and their potential in current as well as new applications.
After coffee, the final session of the day featured an in depth look at the chemistry of carbon fibre precursors, and what we might be able to do to manipulate these building blocks to create strong carbon fibres with alternative precursors. Silvestre Pinho from Imperial College London closed out proceedings with an overview of the latest on carbon fibre recycling and reuse. While the market for recycled materials remains slow to develop, these is a lot of research and development into how to make the most of waste and end of life material, it's only a matter of time before this parallel material stream establish itself as a highly commercialised supply chain.
All in all, it was an excellent conference programme with a wide range of topics addressed by some of the industry's top names. We will look forward to building on this for 2015 to bring you an even better event, and a more comprehensive audience.