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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Ultem composites, foam and fiber
Article Type: Materials From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 81, Issue 6
SABIC Innovative Plastics claims to have leap-frogged its Ultem resin technology to advanced new levels of extreme performance with its recent launch of new leading-edge Ultem composite, fiber and foam technologies at NPE 2009. These new products have been specifically engineered to give customers a previously unavailable competitive edge: advanced new materials technology solutions that create virtually unlimited growth opportunities in existing, new and emerging markets. The new materials build on the company's hugely successful Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) resin, an industry-renowned workhorse thermoplastic that has given customers years of reliable, extreme performance for the most demanding and high-heat resistant applications.
Target markets and applications for the new Ultem technologies include flame retardant fabrics, ultra-lightweight aircraft interiors, state-of-the art radomes and communications equipment, and other high-end products where outstanding levels of performance are required.
“These new Ultem forms are ultra-tough, super-performance materials designed to meet the important and ever-changing needs of our customers,” said Kim Choate, global product director for Ultem Resins, SABIC Innovative Plastics. “They offer virtually unmatched performance and value, and illustrate how we are reengineering our premier technologies to give our customers new game-changing solutions that enable a wide range of new business opportunities. It's an incredibly exciting time in the history of polymer science – for us and our customers.”
Composites are increasingly replacing metal to achieve weight reduction without sacrificing performance. And more rigorous demands are driving the need for higher temperature and impact performance, particularly in aerospace, electronics and ballistics applications. In aircraft manufacturing, for example, reinforced thermoplastic composites provide a more affordable, simpler and better-performing alternative to metal and thermosets.
By attaching fabric made with Ultem fiber and other materials to an Ultem foam or honeycomb core, unique composites can be created for the design flexibility, low-cost manufacturing and long-term performance needed to address specific application requirements. For example, TenCate Advanced Composites – a leading manufacturer of advanced fiber reinforced composites for semi-structural and interior aircraft applications – has developed CETEX composite skins based on Ultem composites and woven glass (or carbon) fiber.
For TenCate's CETEX System 3 composites, the CETEX skins are attached to the tubular honeycomb core – provided by Tubus Bauer – and can be thermoformed and cut into shapes for structural aircraft exterior and interior components. Tubus Bauer is a German manufacturer of semi-structural and interior aircraft applications.
Ultem composite-based materials also provide exceptional flame-smoke-toxicity (FST) performance, low-moisture uptake, thermoformability, and strength retention enabling the composite systems to deliver light-weight performance to eliminate the use of aluminum and thermosets that require long cure cycles. Their inherent low moisture uptake eliminates the need for edge filling and sealing required for many other thermoplastic composite systems. Textiles for aviation and other transportation interiors must meet extremely stringent and toughening safety requirements, including the highest level of FST performance. Now, with Ultem resin-based fibers, manufacturers of textiles and nonwovens can leverage a familiar and proven material (Ultem resin) in a wide range of applications from carpet to fabrics for seating and vertical wall coverings.
In addition to transportation applications, Ultem fiber is said to meet the safety and performance requirements for home furnishings, including mattresses, specialty high-temperature filtration media, and protective clothing for military, emergency response and sports applications. On display in the SABIC booth is a fire suit with an outer shell made of 95 per cent Ultem fiber, and an aircraft tapestry also made from this material.
Ultem fiber delivers inherent FST performance without the use of halogens or other flame retardant additives, as well as resistance to extremely high temperatures, chemicals and ultraviolet (UV) light. In addition, the material brings a unique capability to the high-performance fiber market in that it can be dyed using a typical polyester dying process to produce a vast array of colors. Using melt spinning, the material can be produced as monofilaments, multifilaments or staple fibers.
To reduce fuel costs, aircraft manufacturers continue to look for potential weight savings through material replacement in interior and exterior components. The use of Ultem foam can deliver impressive weight savings, coupled with the hallmark, best-in-class FST and high-temperature performance of Ultem resin. Ultem foam is up to 20-times lighter than Ultem resin. This thermoformable, rigid foam with a uniform cell structure is ideal as the structural core in multi-layer systems. Ultem foam meets Ohio State University performance levels below 50/50, and offers low-moisture absorption, excellent energy absorption and low-dielectric loss. It is also transparent to radar.
The Ultem foam product family includes grades with three different densities: 60 kg/m3 (3.8 lb/ft3); 80 kg/m3 (5 lb/ft3); and 110 kg/m3 (6.9 lb/ft3). All three grades are manufactured as foam boards by SABIC Innovative Plastics. The boards are suitable for a number of composite manufacturing processes including machining, vacuum bagging, compression molding, and thermoforming.
Ultem foam is compatible with metals and thermoset laminate materials, potentially eliminating adhesives and other secondary operations that are common to the aircraft industry.
Applications include aircraft radomes and interior components such as galleys and dado panels.