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4th April 2018, Paris

Interview with DSM Dyneema President Wilfrid Gambade

DSM, a Life Sciences and Materials Sciences company, presented successfully at this month’s JEC World trade show for the composites industry in Paris, where it highlighted the company’s latest composites innovations to the international audience of potential customers. The company, which only ventured into the composites field two years ago, showcased its Carbon with Dyneema and Dyneema Flexible Composite Fabrics, along with a range of thermoplastic unidirectional (UD) tapes and materials for additive manufacturing.

On show was the Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP race car, representing the technology partnership DSM has with Toyota Motorsport.  DSM also demonstrated an OMP racing steering wheel, a racing bike frame, reinforced with Carbon with Dyneema, and an emergency lightweight outdoor jacket made with Dyneema Flexible Composite Fabrics.

Wilfrid Gambade, DSM Dyneema President. © Inside Composites

At JEC World, Inside Composites spoke to DSM Dyneema President Wilfrid Gambade, who took the lead of the company two months ago. Mr Gambade joined DSM in 2009 and was responsible for the Composite Resins business in Europe and then from 2011 moved into the role of President Composite Resins & Synres. For the past three years, he was very successful in turning around DSM’s Personal Care business.

How do you find the exhibition this year?

Wilfrid Gambade: The first day was extremely busy, I had a chance to reconnect with the people I knew from the past, and of course, we talked to the visitors at our booth. I believe we attract a great deal of interest – after being in this composites business for only two years, we managed to impress both potential customers and competitors by introducing a new fibre to the composites market. I was glad to see how many people are interested in finding out more.

This year, you are promoting Carbon with Dyneema hybrid material. What advantages does it bring?

WG: Dyneema, the ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene fibre is the world’s strongest fibre, topping fibreglass, carbon and aramid, such as Kevlar. It is also 15 times stronger than steel, on weight per weight ratio. So, when you add a Dyneema fibre into a carbon composite, you can make that part much stronger, yet very light.

The company showcased its Carbon with Dyneema and Dyneema Flexible Composite Fabrics. © Inside Composites

For example, here, we are exhibiting a Toyota Hybrid race car. As part of a technical partnership, we are now involved in reinforcing and protecting the carbon body by using Carbon with Dyneema. This material protects the front and underside of the car against debris coming of the track. Also, in case of the crash during the race, or in collision with other cars, the parts reinforced by Carbon with Dyneema are less brittle and will not break off easily compared to pure carbon solutions.  So, we basically make the lightweight structure stronger, helping increase the safety of the drivers and avoid damage to the car.

We also have an ongoing joint development programme with OMP to develop several hybrid Carbon with Dyneema racing parts. A first success is a hybrid steering wheel based on Carbon with Dyneema. It is very light and comfortable, and it offers more safety – the more Dyneema fibre you put inside the carbon, the lighter you can make the product, and in case of an accident, you don’t break the wheel which keeps the driver safer.

What does this partnership with Toyota mean to you?

WG: For us, this partnership is very important. The company is obviously very well-known in the racing sport, and it is always looking for the very high-performance material, because these people know that every kilogram and every gram they can save – matters. So, teaming up with Toyota has been very productive – we don’t need to explain to them what it is that we do – they are engineers who want to go ahead and try and test new technology in order to win the next season. And if people like these are interested in using our material, then we can use this kind of partnerships to validate the concept and then approach the automotive industry interested in a bigger series production. The idea is to cascade the knowhow and apply it to the passenger car.

On show was the Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP race car. © Inside Composites

Is the sports industry more suitable for trying out new technologies?

WG: With this kind of collaboration, you work with people who aim to raise the performance bar and eager to find a new type of technology, and they are very agile – they can perform the necessary tests and come back to you extremely fast. What we do in few months with them, may take several years to accomplish with other automakers. They are eager to achieve the result and do it fast, because any minor change in performance you can bring, can make them a world champion.

What are your main markets at the moment?

WG: We started looking at the hybrid composites fairly recently, only about two years ago. Since then we did a couple of collaborations – one for the steering wheel and one for the car, and we also currently have another important ongoing collaboration in the automotive sector, very important to us, because we are looking at using this kind of technology to reinforce the chassis of the car. Right now, we are looking at fantastic results from the car crash test, following the work we have done with the chassis.

We are also working on developments in the bike industry, because like with cars, when you use Carbon with Dyneema, you make your bike stronger, safer and much more comfortable than that made with pure carbon, which is very rigid, and you can feel that as a driver. With Dyneema inside, the frame can absorb more shocks and helps lower the level of vibration, and in case of the fall, there is a lower chance that the frame will break, which makes it a safer option.

OMP racing steering wheel with Carbon with Dyneema. © DSM

What about flexible composite materials for sports apparel?

WG: We produce a Dyneema Flexible Composite fabric through a unique process – the technology is coming from an acquisition we did several years ago in the US. We have some examples on display here, including an outdoor jacket. The performance of the fabric is ideal for use in the outdoor and sports industries. It is light, durable and comfortable.

The US Olympic snowboarding team wore the official team jacket with our fabric this year, which was fantastic considering all the gold medals they accumulated. In addition, Dyneema Flexible Composite fabrics have been used in outdoor tents, as they are extremely light, protective, yet they pack small. The outdoor and the sports industries have really embraced our fabric properties by using them for backpacks, bags, tents and jackets.

Emergency outdoor jacket with Dyneema composite fabric. © DSM

What are your future objectives then?

WG: We only started two years ago, but we’ve already started to prove that our concept can bring real innovations and can play an important role in bringing the weight down. We are interested in electric cars and any cars that have an objective to cut down weight in order to be more efficient and save fuel, which is a big trend at the moment.

But we are also looking at sports applications, such as bikes, auto equipment, outdoor apparel – that’s the future. If we can deliver the same performance of your jacket, which probably weight around 2kg, with a jacket that would be few grams, that’s fantastic, and on top of that you can fold it in your bag. The improved comfort and performance is what we are aiming to explore.

How important is environmental sustainability to the company’s growth strategy?

WG: It is very important to DSM. For us, it is a clear objective and a global trend we address as a company. Our CEO personally is engaged in a lot of programmes and activities around the world that are linked to sustainability. Dyneema fibre has the lowest carbon footprint per tenacity, compared to other fibres, including aramid such as Kevlar.

Bike frame reinforced with Carbon with Dyneema. © DSM

We work continuously to reduce energy during our production and we look carefully at where we source – we address challenges and have targets to meet in order to reduce the impact of our products. Of course, we do not stop there. We also look down the value chain at how to recycle. For that we are already looking for partners who will help our customers to recycle the part with Dyneema fibre.

Do you feel there is a requirement in the industry to be more sustainable?

WG: You need to take responsibility. Even if there is no requirement from the industry, that’s our culture and our DNA at DSM. In the last couple of years, we have been ranked very high in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, twice reaching number one. In the Fortune magazine, DSM has been named as the second most impactful company which we are very proud of.

We invest a lot of money in this area, and our CEO has been very consistent. Ten years ago, he was already defining the purpose of the company, and what kind of global trends we will have to clearly address.

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