Winter 2016

In the centre of the high-tech composites industry

Thermoplastic composites for the aircraft industry, and automotive and industrial applications played a central role at Experience Composites and ITHEC. Held in Germany, these two trade fairs plus conferences featured the development, characteristics and applicability of these materials. TenCate Advanced Composites was present with a team and an exhibition stand

Germany is a major player in the aerospace and automotive markets. The proportion of thermoplastic composite materials is growing in the aircraft programmes of Airbus, Boeing and other OEMs. Thanks to rapid processing speeds, thermoplastics make low production costs possible. They are suitable for high-volume production, are characterised by a high strength: weight ratio, are easy to recycle and are fire-retardant. They contribute to reductions in weight and CO2 emissions. That’s why the automotive industry is also showing increasing interest. The market potential is based chiefly on the need for substantially lower vehicle CO2 emissions. This branch of industry is therefore looking for energy-saving solutions. 

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Production in Augsburg of the A350 with thermoplastic clips (photo: Jost-g.thorau/thoraufotografie)

Experience Composites took place in Augsburg (South Germany) in September; ITHEC in Bremen (North Germany) in October. No random choice of location. The German aviation industry is clustered within a northern and a southern region. Furthermore, the majority of German car manufacturers are found in South Germany. This region leads the way when it comes to composite material in vehicles. 

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(CFKValley/Premium Aerotec)

‘For us, it’s a case of putting composites for the German aviation and automotive industries even more firmly on the map,’ says Marlie Koekenberg (sector sales manager aerospace EMEA). ‘The focus in aviation lies on thermoplastics. Many R&D initiatives and innovation efforts are taking place around the line Stuttgart-Augsburg-Munich. We want to use the German Aeronautics and Space Centre (DLR) to gain better access to major aircraft programmes. DLR conducts materials assessment, designs aircraft parts and investigates the producibility of a part. That’s interesting information for customers.’  

composites premium aerotec 3
(CFKValley/Premium Aerotec)

‘Currently, the proportion of thermoset composites in the automotive industry is substantially larger,’ says Michael Versteegen (account manager Industrial Central Europe of TenCate Advanced Composites). ‘That’s because there are many small programmes. There are many more opportunities for thermoplastics precisely
Car manufacturers want to use thermoplastics but they expect the supplier to have sufficient production capacity and only decide at the last moment whether or not to opt for application. First, the production processes will have to change. ‘That is indeed the direction in the middle term. New programmes are becoming increasingly specific. If we can further optimise the price comparative to that of metal, then it is only a question of time.’ 

composites bremen airbus
Wing components for Airbus are manufactured in Bremen (copyright: Airbus/M. Lindner)

TenCate Advanced Composites is distinguished by its years of know-how. ‘There are many producers of composites and prepregs, but relatively little knowledge to be found among suppliers and customers.’ 

composites ithec
At the ITHEC

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)