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12th July 2017, Obertshausen

Cop Max 4 impresses at Karl Mayer event

Karl Mayer, the leading manufacturer of technology for warp knitting, warp yarn preparation and technical textiles, marked its 80th anniversary with a series of Open House events for customers at its headquarters in Obertshausen, Germany, last week.

With its latest Cop Max 4 multiaxial knitting machine and accompanying UD 700 fibre spreading unit, the company has gained a dominant position in advanced technology for the production of reinforcements for composites based on glass, aramids and more recently, carbon fibres.

The sheer size of the COP MAX 4 attracted a great deal of attention at the technology show in Obertshausen. © Karl Mayer

These machines are showcased in the company’s development centre at Obertshausen, along with a range of others for the production of diverse fabrics ranging from lingerie and lace to sportswear and footwear components and to automotive fabrics and substrates for advertising hoardings, in addition to composite reinforcements.

Imposing

The Cop Max 4 in the Obertshausen development centre however, is certainly imposing – with a working width of 2.5 metres it is 35 metres long and equipped with two automatic devices which were demonstrated precisely laying yarns at angles of 80°.

“By far the biggest end-use for multiaxial reinforcements made with our technology is for wind turbines, representing about 80-90% of the total,” explained Hagen Lotzmann, the company’s sales director for technical textiles. “This market has been the main driving force for the development of our multiaxial technology with glass fibres beginning back in the 1980s.”

More recently, there has been a market demand for multiaxials based on carbon fibres, and here the use of the UD 700 fibre spreading unit becomes significant.

COP MAX 4. © Karl Mayer

“High-performance fibres are expensive and to an extent, their availability can be limited,” Lotzmann said. “The UD 700 fibre spreading unit can be used to process expensive carbon, glass or aramid filaments from heavy tows – filament yarns with 60,000 individual filaments. These are spread in the machine and their tension and orientation are equalised. A spread, uniform tape is produced, which enables the potential of the raw materials to be exploited fully in subsequent end-uses.”

The biggest sector using carbon is still the aerospace industry, he added, followed closely by the automotive industry, but carbon is also being used increasingly in the wind turbine sector.

“As the wind blade rotates, the centrifugal forces are extremely high, and the multiaxial textiles are used to provide the necessary strength. Steel, which has the required strength but is comparatively heavy, is not a suitable alternative in this application, as it is in many other industrial sectors. Premium-category wind turbines with a power rating of 6.1 MW have a rotor diameter of 126 metres, on which a centrifugal force of roughly 1.1 MN is exerted at a wind speed of 14 metres per second. For comparison, 1 MN corresponds to a weight force of 70 small cars.

“In general, it is worth using carbon when parts are accelerated quickly, or when large masses have to be moved, but there are also increasingly advanced and expensive S2 glass fibres being employed, rather than the sturdy E-Glass of the past – different markets use different technologies.

Near net shape

“Initially, what was important for us was to minimise waste, while speed was not so critical. As the industry progresses, however, output has become much more significant, and in many cases, quality control is much more important when it comes to aerospace and automotive applications, where there are very strict requirements. In future developments, we will get even closer to achieving fully near-net shape fabric structures to reduce cost and waste even further.”

Guests are shown around the around the new assembly hall. © Karl Mayer

Karl Mayer has invested some €40 million at its operations around the world, including a €14 million new assembly hall and an €8.5 million production hall refurbishment at the Obertshausen site. The company’s Technical Textiles business unit responsible for the Cop Max technology has German plants in Chemnitz and in Naila, where expansion is also currently underway.

With sales of €460 million in 2016, and anticipated sales of €500 million for 2017, Karl Mayer employs 2,500 people worldwide, 1,300 at its operations in Germany, and the rest at subsidiaries in the USA, India, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, China and Switzerland.

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