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Rolls Royce is growing its presence in Southern California, with a $30 million expansion into a new 62,000 square foot facility that will be dedicated to research and development of ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials and processes for use in next generation aircraft engine components.

The company held a dedication ceremony with federal, state and local officials, customers and employees at the new facility. Rolls-Royce purchased Hyper-Therm High-Temperature Composites back in May 2013 and continues to grow and invest with this new “CMC technology hub” located in Cypress, Calif.

Rolls-Royce President and CEO of North America, Marion Blakey said this expansion will develop novel solutions to improve performance of future aircraft engines.

The development of lighter, stronger, composite fibre components is just part of our commitment to continuously improve the performance of our products by focusing on lowering fuel consumption, emissions and noise. The team here in Cypress will be dedicated to seeing the commercial application of these technologies that will soon be adopted into advanced manufacturing production methods for gas turbine components.

Ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) offer multiple advantages for a range of high-tech industries such as aerospace and other applications with demanding thermal and mechanical requirements. CMCs deliver the high temperature capability of ceramics with the strength and reliability that is required for gas turbine engine applications, but weigh less than current alloys. CMC components help save on fuel costs since they are lighter weight and require less cooling over traditional nickel-based components.

The facility will develop production-ready manufacturing processes and produce components that will be used for engine test programs. From there, manufacturing processes refined in Cypress facility will be applied to a future dedicated production facility for manufacturing of engine components.

Since Rolls-Royce acquired Hyper-Therm in 2013, it has grown from 15 employees to nearly 50 positions today. The company expects to hire at least 10 more people this year with the potential for forty more positions as production and testing of products increase. In late 2015, Rolls-Royce received tax incentives totalling nearly $735,000 for the purchase of the high precision machinery, from the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority.

BMW look set to limit the use of carbon fibre, turning instead to lightweight steels to keep profits high.

The German auto maker has invested heavily in carbon fibre production and, while its stronger and lighter than other traditional materials like aluminium and steel, it’s also vastly more expensive, which leaves the company with tough choices on how to remain profitable as it’s competition closes in.

One of the options being looked at is bonding carbon fibre with other lightweight steels to reduce weight without dramatically increasing the cost.

Oliver Zipse, BMW’s board member responsible for manufacturing said;

The main equation is how much cost do I spend for a kilogram reduction in weight. It is not about one material it is about the combination of materials.

Back in 2013 BMW announced the launch of two cars which heavily featured carbon fibre. The €45,000 i3 city car and the i8 hybrid which featured a passenger cell made entirely of carbon fibre. Sales of BMW’s i3 electric car failed to get going which, analysts say is in part down to the use of carbon fibre which has made the vehicle too expensive.

BMW faces stiff competition in the electric car market as Tesla, owned by its German rivals Daimler AG, plans to launch its new electric car models for around $35,000, and have already received up to 400,000 pre-orders.

The cost of carbon fibre is expected to reduce as the use of the material increases and BMW has strategically positioned itself in pole position by investing almost 2 billion euros in advanced lightweight composite technologies.

GE has announced its intent to purchase LM Wind Power, a Denmark-based manufacturer and supplier of rotor blades to the wind industry.

The deal, which is expected to be worth $1.65 billion will improve GE’s ability to increase its energy output and create value for onshore and offshore customers. Since 2001, LM Wind Power has been owned by Doughty Hanson, a London-based private equity firm.

The acquisition is valued at 8.3 times pro forma earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) (2016 estimate). The transaction is subject to customary regulatory and governmental approvals and GE expects to close the transaction in the first half of 2017. GE expects the acquisition to be accretive to earnings in 2018.

As the cost of electricity from renewable sources continues to decline and nations pursue low-carbon forms of energy, renewable sources are gaining share in power generation capacity. In 2015, approximately 50% of all new electricity capacity additions were renewable energy sources, with wind representing 35% of that growth.

Following the closing of the deal, GE intends to operate LM Wind Power as a standalone unit within GE Renewable Energy and will continue to fully support all industry customers with the aim of expanding these relationships. GE will also retain the ability to source blades from other suppliers. LM Wind Power will continue to be led by its existing management team and be headquartered in Denmark, where it also maintains a global technology centre.

MIT’s School of Architecture’s Self-Assembly Labs has partnered with Google to create these transformable meeting spaces.

The project uses a woven wood structure with fibreglass pods that depend from the ceiling which transforms from a large meeting space into a smaller one.

Transformable structures often require expensive and complex electromechanical systems to create movement. This research explores an alternative approach utilising transformable woven structures that can smoothly transform with lightweight and soft and materials/mechanisms. A series of prototypes were built at different sizes to demonstrate articulating woven structures for various applications.

Transformable Meeting Spaces are aimed at re-imagining interior office or building environments. There are two predominant approaches to office design – open spaces versus fixed offices. Open office plans have been shown to decrease productivity due to noise and privacy challenges yet they provide flexibility and collaborative opportunities. Fixed offices offer privacy and quite environments but restrict the type of working spaces available and occupy more square footage.

This research proposes an alternative whereby structures can easily transform between private phone booths, lounge spaces or other quiet meeting spaces into open flexible areas. By utilising woven and transformable materials these meeting spaces can expand and contract to create a meeting room for 6–8 people or morph into the ceiling leaving a clear and open area below.

The MIT School of Architecture’s Self-Assembly Lab has teamed up with Google to create Transformable Meeting Spaces, a project that utilizes woven structure research in wood and fiberglass pods that descend from the ceiling, transforming a large space into a smaller one. Designed as a small-scale intervention for reconfiguring open office plans—which “have been shown to decrease productivity due to noise and privacy challenges”—the pods require no electromechanical systems to function, but rather employ a flexible skeleton and counterweight to change shape.

Fraunhofer researchers have partnered with industry experts to develop highly durable thermoplastic foams and composites that make the blades lighter and recyclable

Offshore wind turbines are becoming ever larger, and the transportation, installation, disassembly and disposal of their gigantic rotor blades are presenting operators with new challenges.

The trend toward ever larger offshore wind farms continues with some rotor blades measuring up to 80 metres in length with rotor diameters of over 160 metres. Since the length of the blades is limited by their weight, it is essential to develop lightweight systems with high material strength.

The lower weight makes the wind turbines easier to assemble and disassemble, and also improves their stability at sea. In the EU’s WALiD (Wind Blade Using Cost-Effective Advanced Lightweight Design) project, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal are working closely with ten industry and research partners on the lightweight design of rotor blades. By improving the design and materials used, they hope to reduce the weight of the blades and thus increase their service life.

These days, rotor blades for wind turbines are largely made by hand from thermosetting resin systems. These, however, don’t permit melting, and they aren’t suitable for material recycling. At best, granulated thermoset plastic waste is recycled as filler in simple applications.

Florian Rapp, the project coordinator at Fraunhofer ICT said;

In the WALiD project, we’re pursuing a completely new blade design. We’re switching the material class and using thermoplastics in rotor blades for the first time. These are meltable plastics that we can process efficiently in automated production facilities.

For the outer shell of the rotor blade, as well as for segments of the inner supporting structure, the project partners use sandwich materials made from thermoplastic foams and fibre-reinforced plastics. In general, carbon-fibre-reinforced thermoplastics are used for the areas of the rotor blade that bear the greatest load, while glass fibres reinforce the less stressed areas. For the sandwich core, Rapp and his team are developing thermoplastic foams that are bonded with cover layers made of fibre-reinforced thermoplastics in sandwich design. This combination improves the mechanical strength, efficiency, durability and longevity of the rotor blade.

The ICT foams provide better properties than existing material systems, thus enabling completely new applications – for instance in the automotive, aviation and shipping industries. In vehicles, manufacturers have been using foam materials in visors and seating, for example, but not for load-bearing structures.

The current foams have some limitations, for instance with regard to temperature stability, so they can’t be installed as insulation near the engine. Meltable plastic foams, by contrast, are temperature stable and therefore suitable as insulation material in areas close to the engine. They can permanently withstand higher temperatures than, for example, expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) or expanded polypropylene (EPP). Their enhanced mechanical properties also make them conceivable for use in door modules or as stiffening elements in the sandwich composite.

Yet another advantage is that thermoplastic foams are more easily available than renewable sandwich core materials such as balsa wood. These innovative materials are manufactured in the institute’s own foam extrusion plant in Pfinztal.

The process involves melting the plastic granules, mix a blowing agent into the polymer melt and foam the material. The foamed, stabilised particles and semi-finished products can then be shaped and cut as desired. In the area of foamed polymers, the ICT foam technologies research group covers the entire thermoplastic foams production chain, from material development and manufacture of extrusion-foamed particles and semi-finished products to process media and finished components.

The researchers will be presenting a miniature wind turbine made from the new foams and composites at the K 2016 trade fair in Düsseldorf from October 19 to 26.

SGL Group has celebrated the inauguration of a new production line for precursor at its FISIPE site in Lavradio, near Lisbon in Portugal.

Precursor is a polymer-based fibre which is used as the main raw material for the production of carbon fibres. The production line has been set up by converting and enhancing parts of the existing production facility in Lavradio.

The new line was completed in August following four years of research and development, construction work and qualification procedures. Over this period, in total, 30 million euros have been invested in Lavradio into different elements of the precursor production including the spinning line. As part of the global production network of SGL Group, the precursor from Portugal is being used as of September for the production of our new generation of high-end industrial SIGRAFIL carbon fibres in Moses Lake, Washington State (USA) and Muir of Ord (Scotland). The carbon fibres will then be used in various applications in the automotive, aerospace, as well as in other industries.

In order to further increase value for the customers, the business unit currently enhances its activities offering not only materials but also extensive expertise and support to enable customers to optimise the use of fibres and materials for composites. In this context, SGL Group also sets up a new Lightweight and Applications Centre (LAC) at its biggest site in Meitingen, Germany to facilitate the product and manufacturing technology development from fibres and materials to component.

The completion of the precursor production line is also a consequent and successful step of further developing the business and set-up of the FISIPE site in Lavradio, Portugal. Having been founded more than 40 years ago, FISIPE has established as a specialist for acrylic fibres. Under the umbrella of SGL Group – which acquired FISIPE in April 2012 – the acrylic fibre business is maintained while the precursor production has been set up.

The precursor production is part of SGL Group’s path forward towards sustainable profitable growth targeting a 50% sales increase until 2020 in the fields of composites and graphite materials and systems. In future, the Company will focus on supporting and accelerating developments linked to the mega trends of mobility, energy, and digitalisation.

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