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Material and process are focused in composite (FRP) industries

2018-07-28

Today, I would like to write column the title of "Material and process are focused in composite (FRP) industries".

I have supported companies which try to spread or start their business in composite (FRP) industries including practical affairs for more than 3 years.

 

Our company business field is not limited in Japan, but also Asia countries, north America, and Europe. I try to write a column regarding the proposal for future’s composite industries, based on our forefront experiences in wide area of composite fields.

 

Too high weight on materials and processes

I am CEO/President of engineering consultant company to support companies, without employed in a specific company. But I am having very strange feeling that composite industries are focusing materials and processes.

 

I have long experiences in aeronautical industry as a composite parts designer. My main job was;

– Define the engineering requirement

– Evaluate design validity regarding material, component, and assembly

 

This work should be very normal design work in all over the industries.

 

I have also written some columns regarding composite designers. Below are some example.

What is the FRP designer?

Point of FRP design using a material testing machine

What is the important information for designers in wide range of industries?

 

My specialty is of course FRP (Composite), but component design, quality assurance, production design, and develop management should be also within my experience.

 

I have started my business as engineering consulting company with skill above, then I have noticed surprisingly that;

 

“Engineering and business in FRP (Composite) industry is always discussed and progressed from material and process view point without designers one.”
 

It is reasonable that material or process supplier’s proposal is important in FRP industry, but it should not be always proper.

 

I believe that this strange culture in FRP industry should be one of the hardships to develop themselves.

 

Then, we should think about the question; What is the answer for the industry development.

 

I try to write up my opinion.

 

View point from materials is basically qualitative

Matrix resins in FRP is polymer. That is to say, this molecular configuration is long chain and/or 3D bridged.

 

This complexed molecular configuration leads to “Fuzzy” property. Because of such features, discussion based on polymer chemistry in composites is basically qualitative.

 

Academic research tries to clarify to explain the characters from micro view point. This is reasonable in academic area, but it is not always acceptable in industries because engineering requirement tends to become qualitative and very vague for especially customers in part’s design engineering.

 

 
Unfortunately, many of engineers in manufacturing and design do not have enough knowledge regarding FRP (composite) materials, so clear quantitative engineering requirement discussion is important to proceed the discussion on the same field.


In addition to the truth above,

 

“Many of engineers in material suppliers do not have enough skills to define engineering requirement and make up drawings.”

 

 

The lack of skills regarding materials in designers, and one of about design in material engineers, lead to the confusion during the development process.

 

Material specification including engineering requirement shall be referred by part’s drawing, and then composite parts will be produced. This process should be shared among material suppliers and design companies.


This point is also very important from business view point.

 

If material suppliers are developing new products, just assuming customers’ requests, the produced materials should not always fit their preference. This should not be efficient work process.

 

The ideal direction for material supplier should be;

 

“Communicating with customers via MATERIAL SPEC”

Material spec consists of only QUANTITATIVE requirements. This spec must be “Common Language” between material suppliers and their customers.

 

This work culture is essential for FRP industry normalization.

 

FRPs contain resins but their required property is quite different.

FRP will be sometimes applied to primary structure part, though resins are used as non-high-stress areas.

 

The truth, that there are many material specs for metals, indicates that FRP should be designated by their own material specs.

 

 

Manufacturing process should be simple, flexible, and conservative

I have designed composite parts before, and manufacturing process is not so important in the drawing, because designers are ONLY interested in the engineering judgement if the shipped parts meet all engineering requirements in the drawing or not.

 

The point above shall be firstly understood.


Many of manufacturer show intention to close their own technology, but it is not so important for designers. I can understand their feeling, but too closed process often leads to production issues like low yield, delivery delay, or etc.

 

 

The more important point for manufacturing process should be;

 

“Simple, flexible, and conservative”

 

 

The concept above will enable us to solve the issues quickly and effectively. This is the one that all designers are wishing for sure.

 

Effective production process e.g. automation should be important without any hesitating.

 

But quick solution of problems in mass production is priority #1.

 

Another precious point is;

 

“Applying existing and historical technologies which are conservative”

 

 

New technologies are very attractive and sometimes applicable for composite manufacturing process. But existing and historical technologies have been already optimized through the long time basically. Why don’t we use them?

 

 

 

Ahead to positive perspective

I believe many of readers could understand what I mean. But much daily work will not allow you to think about them everyday. And you will be facing the comments from bosses and colleagues like;

 

– Not meeting the deadline

– Would not like to do anything leading to cost-up

– Entrust suppliers and let them do as they want

– Other company do that, so it’s no problem

 

 

I also understand opinions above but such insistence will lead to issues usually, based on my company support experience.

 

I can say that all people in material and/or process supplier are paying attention to the basic points which I have mentioned above would be one of the best solutions, not only from engineering view point, but also business view point.

 

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