Solvay SA and Dutch composite engineering company Airborne have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop automated processing solutions for composite materials.
The partnership, struck during the JEC World 2019 show in Paris last week, will focus on the industrialisation and high-volume use of composite materials.
“Industrialising the generation of tailored prepreg layups and forming technologies for high volume applications is a significant challenge for the composites industry,” said Solvay in an 18 March statement.
In this new partnership, the two companies aim to bring together digitisation, automation and advanced materials & processes “to bridge from industrial to high-performance high-volume applications.”
Solvay will contribute its composite materials and processes for structural applications to the partnership while Airborne will offer its expertise in automated engineering processes and digital systems.
“Solvay sees great potential in this collaboration with Airborne - our companies have got unique synergies and the same focus on developing industrialization solutions to meet increasing production rates” said Rob Blackburn, application engineering director at Solvay Composite Materials Global business unit.
For his part, Marcus Kremers, CTO at Airborne said such collaborations throughout the value chain would allow enable the materials, processes and automation to go hand-in-hand.
“If we follow such a holistic approach, great breakthroughs are possible,” he added.
Airborne is already in a similar partnership with Saudi petrochemicals company Sabic.
The Dutch firm and Sabic highlighted their “ground-breaking” digital composites manufacturing line during the Paris JEC World 2019.
The two companies said they had successfully completed the pilot phase of the rapid, large-scale laminate manufacturing unit, set up at Airborne's facility in the Hague, the Netherlands.
The partners are currently working on the transition to full-scale production, scheduled for the end of the year.
The new line employs digital technologies such as robotics, to produce up to four thermoplastic composite laminates every minute, totalling up to 1.5 million parts annually.
The system can run multiple laminate sizes simultaneously, and is equipped with adaptive process controls which allow settings to be modified “almost immediately”, Sabic said.
Potential applications include cases and covers for consumer electronics, aircraft inserts, automotive components and sports goods.