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1st March 2018, Marlborough, MA

Destination Europe for Web Industries

General manager Ben Winters. © Web IndustriesWeb Industries, headquartered in Marlborough, Massachusetts, is preparing to bring its specialist composites converting services to Europe.

Ahead of the company’s visit to JEC World in Paris next week, Inside Composites spoke to general manager Ben Winters, VP of corporate development Kevin Young, VP of operations Michael Quarry and Grand Hou, director of research and technology about the company’s future plans.

Please tell our readers a little bit about your company.

Ben Winters: Web Industries enables innovation for global aerospace companies by developing and commercialising precision formatting processes for advanced composite materials. We are the formatter of choice for the largest commercial aerospace programmes in the world. Our company combines deep expertise in developing new composite formatting technologies with the proven ability to support commercial scale programmes applying aerospace grade systems and integrated supply chain solutions that drive value and mitigate risk.

VP of corporate development Kevin Young. © Web IndustriesKevin Young: Our mission is to provide OEM and Tier One market leaders with speed to market and trusted supply chain solutions that drive their advanced composites strategies and are revolutionising global air travel.

You’ve recently opened a new ply cutting and kitting Centre of Excellence in Suwanee, Georgia. What are the services being carried out there?

Michael Quarry: The Suwanee operation is our third North American site, in addition to existing ones in Montpelier, Vermont, and Denton, Texas, offering our CAD Cut ply cutting and kitting services.

Grand Hou: The site provides the aerospace manufacturing industry with additional risk mitigation and outsourced capacity, critical supply chain benefits and mistake-proof delivery of advanced composite ply-cut kits.

What are its capabilities?

BW: The site has both static and conveyor cutting tables housed in an ISO 8 controlled environment. Video systems positioned above the cutting tables maintain robust records management and traceability for every product. Web’s Suwanee site is the first in the world to receive accreditation to the new NADCAP AC7118 for Composite Formatting standard for ply cutting.

VP of operations Michael Quarry. © Web IndustriesYou’ve also opened the Thermoplastic Composite Development and Qualification Centre at the same location. What activities are carried out here?

GH: This is specifically designed, staffed and equipped for the purpose of creating custom formats of thermoplastic carbon fibre prepreg materials – including PEEK, PEKK and PPS – for use in various fabrication technologies. It houses slitting equipment capable of cutting materials into tapes as narrow as a sixteenth-to-half an inch wide on a traverse wound spooling line. A second slitter/winder precision cuts wide rolls into one-to-six-inch+ strips for planetary-wound formats.

MQ: The space is also equipped with machinery that chops materials into fibre flakes measuring half an inch by half an inch or a sixteenth of an inch by half an inch for use in compression moulding, and will incorporate seaming technology for bias ply applications later this year. All of the process equipment is capable of achieving high precision tolerances down to thousands of an inch, contingent on incoming material quality.

How rapidly are thermoplastic composites being adopted by the aerospace industries?

GH: The industry has long dreamed of having automated processing for thermoplastic composites manufacturing. This is now feasible thanks to advancements in fabrication techniques. As a result, an increasing number of aircraft parts are being designed to use thermoplastics. The industry is expected to use thermoplastic composite for large number of primary structures in upcoming commercial programmes.

Grand Hou, director of research and technology. © Web IndustriesWhat are the key advantages of thermoplastics over thermosets?

GH: They can be stronger, have higher heat and chemical resistance, and lighter weight. These and other material advantages can reduce the overall cost of an application. For example, instead of having to fasten aerospace components with adhesives or metallic fasteners, thermoplastics can be assembled by thermal welding or co-consolidation.

BW: Our extensive experience in formatting thermoset materials for aerospace applications makes Web Industries well suited to pioneering new thermoplastic composites formatting.

Our engineers, machine operators and technicians are all highly experienced people, many of whom were involved in thermoset format development and slit tape processing for the latest generation of commercial airliners. The Thermoplastic Composite Development and Qualification Centre is entirely separate from the thermoset processing operations, to allow for dedicated solutions and material control. It is climate controlled and designed to minimize FOD issues.

Is recycling another driver for the adoption of thermoplastics?

Web Industries is preparing to bring its specialist composites converting services to Europe. © Web IndustriesMQ: Recycling is an important driver for both thermoset and thermoplastics. It is an area where everyone in the supply chain is working to improve. The need for recycling is not just due to the cost of the material, but also the long-term environmental concerns of ever increasing composite material usage.

Thermoplastic materials do have an advantage in recycling compared to thermosets. The ability to reuse thermoplastic materials for a wider range of applications and the ease of handling thermoplastic material is an advantage over thermoset composite materials.

What services are you emphasising for European companies here at JEC World?

MQ: The show will enable Web Industries to discuss with current and future customers our plans for establishing an additional factory in Europe to support their needs for precision formatting processes for advanced composite materials.

Web Industries enables innovation for global aerospace companies by developing and commercialising precision formatting processes for advanced composite materials. © Web Industries BW: Our next factory in Europe will include Cad Cut formatting, cutting, and kitting services, precision slit tape for thermo-composites, slit tape for thermoplastics, as well as chopping for thermoplastics.

Our plan is to replicate our US services so that we can support global OEM and Tier One market leaders in Europe, with the same consistency and quality of products demanded in aerospace markets.

www.webindustries.com

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