JEC 2022: trends and challenges for the composite industry
JEC World 2022 will take place in Paris - Nord Villepinte from May 3rd to 5th
Trade shows are a good way to get a feeling of trends happening in a particular industry. In our industry, the composites industry, JEC World is the place to be.
Held every year in Paris (except for the last two years, due to the pandemic), JEC World gathers all the major players.
JEC World in figures:
- More than 40000 professional visitors
- More than 1300 exhibitors
- More than 110 countries
- On more than 76000m²
The conference program gives us clues on the trends and challenges for our industry. We can draw three major topics:
- Composites sustainability
- Industry 4.0
- New mobilities
Announced as this year’s theme, composites sustainability is not only a trend, but a necessity. Composite parts are more and more used in every transportation industry, (aeronautics, automotive, and railway) and contributes to reduce CO2 emissions by weight reduction. But greenhouse gases emission reduction must be considered on the whole industry value chain level: from raw material production to end use, without forgetting recycling.
Raw material sustainable production
Almost all thermoset and thermoplastic resins in use nowadays are by-products of oil production, so are many fibers. Fiber manufacturing is also very energy-consuming, needing lots of heat for either glass or carbon fiber production for instance. For a greener composite value chain, every link must rethink itself.
One solution to overcome fossil fuel for composite raw material, is to rely on bio-resins, and natural fibers.
Bio-resins are for the most part produced out of soybeans (polyol) and corn (ethanol), but compete with the now trending bio-fuel. Those bio sourced products face issues like rising prices for food, farmland availability, and other environmental concerns.
Natural fibers are getting more and more popular due to their very low weight, good enough structural performance, recyclability, and sustainability. The automotive industry already uses natural fibers for interior parts like door panels, seat backs, or headliners.
Recycling actors should be considered as part of the composite value chain, just like fiber, resin, and prepreg suppliers, and part manufacturers.
Still at the development stage, recycling for composite parts mainly focus on reclaiming fibers for reuse. But recycling processes are either based on chemically dissolving (solvolysis) or burning off (pyrolysis) the resin, which in turn are also not environmentally friendly. New epoxy resins are being developed which could be dissolved and then reuse. All these technologies will be successful only if they find a viable and scalable business model.
Thermoplastic resins offer multiple reuses, they can be remelted and reshaped, contrary to thermoset resins whose chemical reaction is not reversible. Those characteristics make thermoplastic parts prone to repairs and favors end of life recyclability.
The First Industrial Revolution enabled the switch from hand production methods to machines powered by water or steam power. The Second Industrial Revolution was possible thanks to electricity which sped up transfer of people, ideas, and goods. The Third Industrial Revolution also known as the Digital Revolution, was marked by the rise of computers.
Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening right now. It encompasses for instance automation, simulation, and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. Of all the aspects involved in this revolution, the followings will be addresses during JEC’s conferences: simulation, automation, and additive manufacturing.
There are various types of simulations that occur at different steps of the design process. Part simulation is usually focusing on mechanical stress and its environment. Process simulation helps validating the part feasibility. The manufacturing simulation provides projections for production line yields, but also helps speeding up commissioning process by simulating machines digitally. In every case, simulations need the most accurate simulation models possible.
Digital simulation is a key element in the design frugality we now must embrace. An accurate simulation means a part which dimensions are calculated just right. No more, no less.
A well-designed part involves less development time, less prototyping, and less tests. It also involves less material, which directly translate into cost and weight savings. Another aspect which results from savvy devised component is a longer lifespan, hence less maintenance.
Automation and robotization
The composite industry is really embracing automation and robotization. As all sectors, aviation, automotive, railway, pressure vessels, etc. are moving towards C02 emission reduction through lightweight materials and new energies.
Automotive, aviation, and new urban mobilities are expected to grow at unprecedented rate. In order to keep up with the projected volumes, a high degree of automation will be necessary for composite part manufacturers.
Some processes, like thermoplastic stamping, need automation to ensure part quality as the transfer time between the oven and the press is critical. Preforming is a great candidate for robotization and automation and could enables light-out composite part manufacturing in a very near future.
Automation and robotization bring another advantage to the balance which are increased quality and repeatability. Both attributes are going towards waste reduction and raw material optimization.
Additive manufacturing and thermoplastic welding
There several processes which can fit within the description of additive manufacturing.
Continuous fiber additive manufacturing makes possible parts which were once impossible to manufacture. Several technologies exist, like in-situ impregnation, co-extrusion with towpreg, towpreg extrusion, in-situ consolidation, or inline impregnation to name to main one. However, this process is still limited to highly complex parts with low-volume.
Additive manufacturing can be also used for mold making. It considerably reduces cost because contrary to subtractive manufacturing, only the right amount of material is used. Molds can be made of composite materials, or metal like Invar.
Even though welding is not additive manufacturing like 3D printing, some thermoplastic composite welding technologies, such as resistance welding and induction welding, are established methods used for decades. Other newer technologies including ultrasonic welding, laser welding, and conduction welding are currently under development. Thermoplastic composite welding offers the main advantage of being only one material when viewed under a microscope.
Future of mobilities
Lightweight parts are more and more present in every type of transportation.
In aviation, the Airbus A350, and the Boeing 787 are composed of more than 50% (by weight) in composite materials. And in the near future, both Airbus and Boeing will likely announce a whole new single aisle plane within the end of the decade. This new single aisle plane, for both manufacturers, would probably not use composites like they currently are in the A320 or 737. It would include composite wings, composite empennage, and composite fuselage (but less likely). In order to keep up with production forecast, 60 to 100 planes per month, new highly automated processes, will be needed
In the automotive industry, high end and motorsport vehicles were the first segments to use high performance and costly composite parts for better performances. Those two segments are still growing in 2022. But for the wide market of mid- and high-volume production models, less costly composite materials are still being more and more adopted. Processes and materials like glass fiber-reinforced polymers (GFRP), sheet molding compound (SMC), bulk molding compound (BMC), and injection molded thermoplastics, produce parts like leaf springs, body panels and frames, housing and support structures, and bumper frames, lift gates and seat structures. Suspension components and drive shafts are new types of parts being produced using composite materials.
Urban Air Mobility (UAM)
Some analysts have forecast 10,000 UAM units per year by 2035, leading to the description of the UAM market as “aerospace quality at automotive quantity”. The weight saving and strength giving (for safety) properties of composite materials will be key. In order to serve this market and the volumes projected for 2035, the composites industry will be required to increase its high-modulus/high-strength carbon fiber production to serve the 4,500 metric tons per year, and to use technologies that currently are currently available or in development such as automated tape and fiber placement, fiber-reinforced 3D printing, automated bonding and welding, real-time inline inspection, little or no waste, use recycled materials.
As mentioned earlier, weight reduction is a priority for gas powered cars to reduce CO2 emission, but electric vehicles could benefit as well for extended range. On top of the shared parts with gas vehicles, composite battery enclosures are helping to offset the heavyweight of batteries.
This market segment for composite is no exception, and the global commitment to reduce the impact on climate change is a powerful stimulator. Some manufacturers are targeting as high as 50% of their sales to be electric vehicles in 2025.
PINETTE PEI’s take on JEC World 2022 megatrends
As we wandered around some various aspects of the composite industry’s future, you can see by the high number of innovations spread amongst so many fields and markets, that it is far from plateauing. Au contraire! Stimulated by the urgent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, existing markets (aviation, automotive, etc.) will continue to grow, and new markets will emerge, which will, in time, bring new challenges to ensure raw materials and price accessibility for mass adoption. Of course, the composite industry will have to grow while becoming more sustainable in producing raw materials, use bio-sourced composites, and think about the circularity of the production. Thankfully, new tools initiated by the fourth industrial revolution will assist in this great transition.
Since 1863, PINETTE PEI has been constantly innovating to offer you the best solutions customized to your needs. Today, we are still at the forefront of technology innovation by participating to several collaborative projects.
Our R&D engineers are actively listening to our customers’ needs and to the megatrends in order to be at the leading edge of technology in the fields of thermoplastic composite forming, energy consumption, design and factory digitalization, and automation for increased manufacturing yield.
Our customized preforming and forming presses are able to process any type of matrices and reinforcements, and are integrated within automated production lines and turnkey plants.
Our experts and engineers will be happy to discuss how PINETTE can help you overcoming your challenges during the JEC trade show.
Meet us in hall 6, on stand D83, from May 3rd to 5th.