Hello and welcome to the first Composites newsletter by CFI. It’s with great excitement that we launch what we hope will be a quarterly newsletter to share with you. This includes what’s new in the marketplace, materials and processing, insights into our global market and supply chain, news from our global suppliers, views on the economy and outlook for our market.
Hence the name Sustain. We feel it’s fitting and what, in many ways, we are all seeking to do to improve our situations. This first addition sees my first trip back to JEC World Exhibition in Paris, France after nearly 2 years of not being able to host the exhibition due to COVID 19. The JEC was off to a new start after being pushed back from its normal dates in April to the new date of 2-5 May 2022.
For myself and Composites Fibreglass International, it was of great excitement. While we have held many team meetings with our principal suppliers over the last two years, there is nothing like meeting face to face as so much more can be learned when physically sitting together.
The show was as big as ever, spanning two open halls. At times, I wish I had a pair of runners to comfort my feet. Many old colleagues and friends turned up as well, and I met many new people and companies. We will share some of the details with you further along in the newsletter.
The State of the Nation
It would seem for over two years we wonder what COVID would mean for us in Australia and for the rest of the world and our market segment. It’s true after the initial fears of doom and gloom it seemed if you were not busy with orders and wondering how you were going to make all these items in time and find the staff to expand your business, you were doing something wrong.
Yes, the supply chain got messy and delays in raw materials became the normal. But we started to live with this and some lock downs depending on which state you were in. Still, it’s been good times with record low interest rates and a strong market demand.
We even thought by end of last year the long lead times on supply chains and raw materials would ease, and this year would be even easier. But that is not the case. Things got worse. China held on to its zero COVID cases policy. 22 major cities in China with 10 times more population than Australia were fully locked down, and some since April well over 5 weeks solid. Mostly on the east coast and at first making further congestion in Shanghai port it has now expanded to Beijing and other ports.
At JEC this was of a lot of discussion among suppliers, and we expect the delay will run all year, and while China is affected the world also has its own challenges from this. I have heard talk of up to 2025 before things normalise as we once were pre-covid.
Supply chains in other regions of the world are much the same and you simply can’t jump to other regions for supply. Ports all over the work experience congestion and lack containers due the abnormal flow from place to place. The war in Ukraine with Russia now puts another spin on things and makes deepening issues in Europe with gas supply and other exports out of the Ukraine.
On top of all this now we see all major countries have the same outlook as we do here down under. That’s right. Inflation is back. Low unemployment and interest rates on the rise to curb inflation. The tricky world of macroeconomics kicks in now and how governments handle this will be a challenge for us all. Still it’s not all doom and gloom and the Grim reaper is not here yet. I will leave the economics to the experts at Beyond in the next section to give you a better understanding.
Composites Fibreglass International Visit the Headquarters of Armacell in Thimister, Belgium.
Prior to going to JEC, I took time to travel to Belgium to the town of Thimister to the HQ of Armacell. For those of you who don’t know Armacell, they are the leader in fully recycled PET structural cores for use in composite construction. Armacell make PET core materials from fully recycled PET such as drink bottles.
These are the starting point, and ultimately can end up back where it all began in a closed loop fashion. This is very sustainable. For us here in Australia, PET cores are relatively new and we have not seen a lot of them until now. CFI was appointed the distributor of PET cores 2 years ago, and we began to bring in varying grades of the Structural Grade known as GR.
Armacell have 4 product lines in their offering which is unique to other suppliers who currently just have one type.
Structural grades from 70-320kg/m3 density. All these grades are DNV GL approved and come with full engineering values.
The newest is the lowest density ECO 50 and these, while still having structural values, are more engineered for insulation values as well. These will be a game changer in the future for the RV and commercial truck markets. They are also used in Civil in façade work as well.
This is a micro sandwich core and can be produced from 1mm to 5mm and comes in a coil or a flat sheet. The core can be thermoformed to shape and can also partially expand to thickness. This again has many applications in sports equipment such as surf products and automotive interior parts.
This is a PET formed sphere and comes in 4 and 6mm spherical beads. These can be put into heated match moulds and formed to a net shape or used in a polymer mix. I have some examples of this in our newsletter.
I toured the plant with Stefan Reutolov, who is head of technology at Armacell. Unfortunately I can’t show you any images of the plant machinery, but it’s fully automated and extremely high end, with many special controls along the process.
Armacell control all stages of the process including the recycled chips brought in that are batch tested, then made into the pellets for the extruders and then freed to extruders. Armacell feed the raw materials to other plants around the world so that the products are ensured to be the same from master batches.
There are some exciting new developments coming this year and we will keep you posted.
About Armacell Cores
PET cores will be the new cores of the future and bring lower costs than traditional cores such as PVC and SAN. While they may be slightly lower in strength than the equivalent density, the cost and the fact, they are fully recyclable brings a greater benefit when it comes to sustainability. They have greater thermal values than PVC and SAN, with Armacell now produced in grades 70-150 with Sealed surface treatments. This reduces resin uptake on core surfaces and is lower than PVC and SAN. Please note PET is a fully closed cell core and ST treatment is only improving the cut cells surface for uptake on the PET cores.
“If you can take a negative and turn it into a positive it’s more than likely, you will succeed. That’s my plan”
— Todd Henry
Composites Fibreglass International Meet With French Company Chomarat to Agree to Distribute & Carry Chomarat Carbon & Specialty Fibres.
Well, we add yet another key global supplier to our portfolio of products here at CFI.
Chomarat are a French based Carbon fibre weaving and stitching manufacturer with varying plants globally. I have personally been using their carbon fibre and other products in the past on projects for defence and high-speed craft, and have got to personally know some of the team.
It was great to meet Jeremey of Chomarat at JEC and place our first orders. We’re also learning that Chomarat are working to develop a new range of bio-based flax fibres in varying formats, and I’m sure we will start to see much more of these in the coming years.
We will be putting up data on Chomarat Fibres in our website supplier page soon where you can view the offerings and learn more.
Scott Bader UK
I had many meetings during my time at JEC including many with our key principle suppliers. One of these was with Dr Jonathon Stowell, Director of Scott Bader. We had not been able to meet as Jon had taken on his roll after the retirement of John Kemp of the Middle East operations. Then COVID kicked in, stopping all of us from travelling and being able to meet. CFI and Scott Bader are working to bring a new range of specialty products along with the trusted global products to the East coast of Australia. We sat down to discuss this in more detail at the show.
No doubt you will be seeing more of us and these offerings, along with some of the technical team in the coming months to talk more about the offerings.
Scott Bader also bring very low styrene emission gelcoats and resins, and as part of our plan to make a more sustainable market we want you to benefit from this as well. We all have our part to play, and our customers are all seeking a more sustainable product.
Diatex is a leader in Vacuum consumables and equipment for all segments of the composites market. I took time to meet and hand over our next order to Rodolphe, our export manager at Diatex.
Diatex and CFI formed a technical agreement to distribute these materials here in Australia almost 2 years ago. We carry a wide range of vacuum bags in sizes 2mtr-24mtr wide along with specialised tube bags and other products. We also carry tapes, seals, peel ply’s, bleeders, flow nets and combi flow nets.
We are pleased to announce we will soon bring in the first of the silicon bag products and equipment for reusable silicon bag technology.
I spent a morning on the Diatex stand running over these items that we are now under way with. To learn more on the Diatex range, click here.
CFI have begun to introduce the range of PVC cores made by Visight. Our partnership here brings together not only the cores, but, through a specialised agreement with a kitting company, we can introduce a series of specialised core finishes for infusion and hand laminations or vacuum consolidation. While our first few shipments have arrived, we have more in place to aim to cope with demand in the market and for a quality core and finish. If you need PVC cores, contact us as we plan more orders. Chances are we may have what you need coming soon.
We will soon have our finishing details up on the website for you to view.
Sphertex Cores Germany
During JEC, I met with our good friends Holger and Sandra from Spheretex, who have been one of CFI’s long running principle partners to find out what was new. Of late, the close moulding process seems to be increasing in our home market particularly in use of LRTM with silicon bagging.
Close moulding brings some challenges when it comes to cosmetic finishes, due to the higher pressure exerted on the parts while processing, as well as directly infusing onto the gelcoat surface in one step.
Sphertex have introduced a range of print blockers and veils – some of which are in combination formats to aid this process. We will discuss these in more detail later and you can learn about these offerings here.
If you are passionate or a composite nut and you have not been to JEC, it’s a must do! Not only is it in one of the best cities in the world, but there is more to learn and see than you can manage in just three days.
Do yourself a favour and book a ticket. Study the guide and check out some of the papers, presentations and demos during the show.
There is always a free drink at some point in the show and you can share this with many newly-made friends in the composites world.
Some images and highlights of the JEC 2022.