NOV 2018


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NEWS 31 Trucks, Trailers, Composites near-term upswing in the market for heavy-truck components made from advanced materials including composites, with a long-term (10-year) expected annual growth rate of 6-8% globally. Component milestones e current stalwart application for composite component manufacturers serving the heavy-truck and trailer sector is reflected in recent news. Core Molding Technologies Inc. (CMT, Columbus, OH, US), for example, surrounded the 2014 produc- tion of its 2 millionth truck hood with great fanfare, also reporting at the time that the company was serving 32 hood programs for seven truck brands, and was producing about 150,000 truck hoods annually. CMT's glass-reinforced polymer hoods are manufactured through a variety of processes, from fiberglass spray-up molding to high-volume compression molding of sheet molding compound (SMC). In another example, at this writing, the commercial vehicles landing page for Molded Fiber Glass Cos. (Ashtabula, OH, US) touts the company's heavy-truck trailblazing activity, dating back to the 1960s, as well as its current annual production of 40,000 composite roof caps. While market maturity presents many of these component manufacturers with dependable business, it also creates chal- lenges. A case in point is the Fusion Floor by Havco Wood Products LLC (Scott City, MO, US), a hybrid product in which a glass/epoxy panel, produced on a double-belt press, is subsequently bonded to laminated oak flooring. Under development since 1993, this product made its way into production in 2000; but it was not until about 2007 that sales accelerated. Fusion Floor inventor Gopal Padmanabhan, VP of product development, presented the patented technology at a JEC Composites Forum that same year, and by then Havco had collected data from a 10-year field test of the flooring. "e results showed that the 10-year-old composite floor board is stronger than a new 1.31- or 1.38-inch standard oak floor board," the forum proceedings report. As John Carr, Havco VP of sales and marketing, notes, "Usually when fleets go to Fusion — even with its price premium — they never go back." is is especially true of fleets transporting goods that "weigh out before they cube out." at is, they reach maximum gross vehicle weight of 80,000 lb before the volume of the trailer is filled. Goods such as beverages or paper (for which a single roll may weigh upwards of 8,000 lb) place extreme demands on the trailer floor, especially during loading and unloading. Havco says it has sold more than 300,000 of these composite/ wood floors. Such floors captured an increasing market share of dry-freight vans between 2007 and 2017, plateauing at 16%. One of the challenges Havco faces is that its North American patents ran out in 2016 and 2017, which has led to increased competi- tion. With other companies trying their hand at wood/composite flooring, a variety of approaches — and quality — has emerged. "ere's confusion in the market about what the specification of the composite sheet should be," Padmanabhan notes. Havco has continued to advance the technology, maintaining its market share. Since introducing the product, the company has worked with vendors to increase glass content in the epoxy composite laminate from 70% to 75%. Havco also has worked with hot-melt adhesives makers and laminating equipment manufac- turers to increase processing speed without sacrificing perfor- mance. "We used to bond the composite and wood together at 25 ft/min; now the rate is 40 to 45 ft/min," Padmanabhan says. Floors can be shipped within 4 hours of bonding and obtain full cure within three days; previously, 24 hours and seven days, respec- tively, were required. A broadening field of applications Additional composites applications in trailers, as well as in aerodynamic auxiliary components such as skirts and fairings, are emerging and/or growing. "e trends are definitely on the positive side," says Chris Lee, VP of engineering at long-haul trailer manufacturer Great Dane (Savannah, GA, US). One reason, he says, is cost. "e price of polymer-based composites has come down through optimization of resin to fiber ratio, manufacturing processes and strength-to-weight ratio." Providing lightweight durability Great Dane's PunctureGuard lines the walls of some of its trailers, preventing damage while adding minimally to the trailer's empty weight. Source | Great Dane Protecting insulation performance By sealing out moisture intrusion and other perfor- mance-degrading factors, Great Dane's ThermoGuard helps maintain thermal performance of the company's refrigerated vans. The glass/PP and metal laminate adds minimal weight, and also prevents the van from gaining weight through water absorption into the insulating material. Source | Great Dane

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