Our composite materials solutions
The partner of choice for advanced materials development
As a top tier supplier to the aerospace engineered materials market known for our technology leadership and the value Solvay brings to our customers: scale and technical capability, profitability in the top quartile of peers, double-digit earnings growth in previous business cycles.
Combining 50 years of technology heritage, a comprehensive product portfolio and expertise in design materials and process engineering to deliver innovative customer solutions that maximize technology capability and simplify manufacturing.
We also provide advanced composite and adhesive materials for extreme-demand environments, radical temperature changes, aircraft material expansion and contraction and other external conditions.
Product portfolio for Solvay's Composite Materials solutions.
Solvay is a premier supplier of composite materials for the aerospace and industrial markets. Customers use our advanced material solutions for unique and demanding applications with complex geometries and varied life cycles including: primary and secondary structure, interiors, aircraft engines, tooling and other applications where a combination of lightweighting, mechanical performance and design freedom are required.
Solvay's prepregs and resin systems are the industry standard for stiffness, impact resistance and thermal performance. We offer flexible processing options to enhance design freedom and lower manufacturing costs. Our knowledgeable, experienced technical support and account teams help our customers develop complex and comprehensive aerospace composite solutions.
Our prepregs and resin systems portfolio includes:
- Thermoset Prepregs
- Thermoplastic Prepregs
- Preforms and Resin Infusion Systems
Manufacturing composite parts involves creation of a mold to form the material. For part manufacturers, tooling materials require high dimensional stability and appropriate durability depending on the number of cycles. Solvay offers epoxy- and BMI-based tooling materials. Both types offer superior handling characteristics and molded surface quality, which are important in assuring accurate manufacture of composite parts.
Solvay approaches composite tooling by focusing on developing material to meet future demands. Through our focused engagement in collaborative research and development programs with government, academia and industry bodies, we are able to push the boundaries in function, cost-effectiveness, durability and robust processing.
Solvay's tooling portfolio was developed to meet the Industrial markets' requirements:
- Low temperature initial cures enabling our customers to use low cost master models and removes the need for intermediate tooling
- Vacuum-only (Out of Autoclave) cure formulations being invaluable for marine, wind energy, and large tools where an autoclave would not be viable
Our tooling portfolio includes:
- Tooling prepregs – epoxy and BMI materials
- Tooling hardware manufacture (out of our Saint Jean, France site) – composite tools, heated tools, reusable silicone tooling
- Ancillary products – tooling block, tooling core, backing structures and sealing systems
Manufacturers rely on Solvay for world-leading adhesive technology and top quality products. Our adhesives are suitable for composite-to-composite, composite-to-metal and metal-to-metal bonding. Our products are designed to address the challenges that customers face due to varying substrate materials, robotic assembly processes and an infinite combination of production environments and performance requirements. As the leading supplier of aerospace adhesives, our products are qualified for use on aircraft programs and are proven to perform in demanding applications.
We formulate and manufacture a comprehensive range of molding surface improvement epoxy films fully compatible with our out-of-autoclave processable prepregs. These films are formulated to provide a range of surface options, including tough and high visual quality finishes, or sandable and paint-ready surfaces all direct from the mold, most with either no or minimal reworking prior to use.
Our full portfolio of adhesive, surfacing films and primers are available in a variety of product forms to enable manufacturing flexibility. Our knowledgeable technical and account teams provide exceptional support to help customers develop solutions for their rigorous adhesive and surfacing applications.
Our adhesives and surfacing portfolio includes:
- Composite Surfacing
- Core Splice Foams and Potting Compounds
- Firewall Sealants
- Bonding Primers
Solvay offers a variety of ancillary materials that support our advanced composite and adhesive product portfolios. These supplementary product forms are uniquely designed to complement our primary products and to support your advanced component manufacturing needs. Our ancillary materials portfolio includes:
- Silicone Firewall Sealants
- Silicone Casting Compounds
- Silicone Adhesives and Coatings
- Rubber Sheeting and Extrusions
- Potting Compounds
Carbon fiber products offer advantages for advanced material solutions such as light-weight, high-tensile strength, manufacturing flexibility and heat resistance. Solvay offers a range of carbon fiber products that deliver superior structural, thermal, electrical and frictional performance for a variety of unique applications, including brakes, defense systems and commercial aircraft.
Solvay maintains a stable, comprehensive and competitive supply of high-quality carbon fiber in support of our global composites manufacturing. With vertical integration capability, we offer customers streamlined product platform development and long-term supply stability. Our carbon fiber portfolio includes:
- PAN-based carbon fibers
- Pitch-based carbon fibers
Solvay's Composite Materials Application Engineering expertise is key to the business leadership. Our teams are dedicated to developing new composite products, technologies and processes to meet the affordability and higher-rate needs of our customer's industries.
We work collaboratively with our partners and customers to develop solutions that meet the market expectations in terms of lightweighting, design freedom, part and system integration. We put a strong focus on automated systems that will be key to the industrialization of composites. Our Application Center in Heanor, UK, is fully equipped with robotic equipment and is the test bed for many of our new technologies.
Hot compression molding is a method of molding in which the composite is first placed in an open, heated tool. The tool is closed and pressure is applied to force the material into contact with all tool areas, while the heat and pressure are maintained until the material has cured.
- Single step molding process.
- Fast cure times and short takt times (Sub 5 minute takt times for automotive application materials)
- Reduced tooling investment (vs metal forming processes).
- Highly automatable.
- Potential to redeploy existing pressing infrastructure
- High rate manufacture of structural and non structural components for serial automotive and high volume (and typically smaller size) aerospace parts
HP-RTM combines hot compression molding with resin injection. A dry pre-consolidated preform is inserted into the mould mounted in the press. Once the press is closed and at the right temperature, the specifically developed HP-RTM resin is injected at pressures up to to 200 bar, filling the tool and flowing all throughout the preform.
- Sub 3 minute cure.
- Total takt time of sub 5 minutes depending on part size.
- Highly automatable processing (preforms through to post mold processing).
- Structural integrity on hot demolding with Solvalite™ 750.
- Excellent structural performance.
- Internal release agent compatible.
- Particularly suited to complex geometries.
- Serial manufacture of automotive body structure components such as floor pans, sidewall panels, crush cans, bulkheads.
Solvay has developed automation technology for the creation of tailored composite blanks for single step molding.
- Developed for serial automotive production volumes
- Enables single minute Takt times from a single production line
- Highly automatable
- Suitable for a variety of manufacturing processes; including preforming for RTM/HP-RTM as well as for the manufacture of prepreg composite components.
- Flexible cell equipment can support multiple components with a tool and program change.
Solvay has developed a novel forming technology for composite components. This method helps to reliably convert a flat prepreg blank into a cured component, whilst drastically reducing time and cost. This technology is ideal for automated/robotic lay-up, where the speed and repeatability can be fully exploited.
- The use of proprietary films during the forming process supports and enhances material drape in the single step moulding process.
- Highly versatile process, which can be applied for different scenarios and applications
- The composite materials are isolated from the environment and therefore are less prone to contamination
- Enables complex geometries to be formed in a single process step whilst controlling and minimising any defects that might have formed
- The technology removes the need for tool cleaning or tool releasing, which in turn reduces cycle time and cost…
- The parts can be considered as chemically inert until such time as the Solvay films are removed from the component post-process.
Serial production of structural components, up to 50,000 per year from a single manufacturing line. Successfully demonstrated on:
- Regular and low tack prepregs.
- Fast and slow cure prepregs.
- Wet-wound blanks.
- Woven and NCF reinforcements with binder for RTM/HP-RTM preforms.
When looking at serial production of CFRP parts, recycling becomes a key part of the equation. The opportunity in recycling prepregs is how to strip away the resin from the fibers while preserving the properties of the fibers and therefore enabling these to be reused to manufacture parts. The focus when recycling dry fibers is to recover the fiber with minimal impact to the fiber length to preserve mechanical performance.
- Targeting elimination of prepreg offcuts.
- 100% utilization of the composite materials; this is typically achieved when pressing sheet metal.
- Eliminate disposal of valuable carbon fiber products.
- Eliminate expensive landfill costs for fiber and resin waste streams
- Solvay’s recycling technology enables the production of a Recyclate Molding Compound.
- Resultant RMC can be co-molded with conventional prepreg
- Allows for the addition of localised features and overmolding bosses, ribs, inserts etc.
- Can enable 100% material utilization.
- Non structural components such as brackets, ribs, bosses, etc.
Composite materials may require cutting at different stages during the manufacturing process of a component. Firstly, the dry fiber or prepreg will be cut to an approximate shape and size prior to laying-up in the mold as a preform. Net-edge trimming of the preform may then be performed to reduce post-curing machining operations, or the component may be machined after curing to achieve the finished part geometry.
Cutting of Raw Material
A variety of different methods can be used to cut uncured composite materials. The most well established is the use of an automated ply cutting table. This consists of a ‘moving bed’ with a cutting gantry that runs above the bed. The gantry houses either an ultrasonic cutter or a ‘powered wheel’ cut. The ply shapes are pre-programed into the ply cutting table and when needed, the roll of material advances along the table to the cutting zone, where a drag knife, or ultrasonic cutter are present and able to perform the cut.
Trimming of Preform Laminates
“Net-edge trimming” of shaped preform laminates (parts that have been laid-up and contoured to shape, but not yet cured) is a new technique that has been developed to reduce the amount of scrap trimmed from a part after the part has been cured. The final geometry of the part is cut-out by ultrasonic blade.
Reduces the amount of post-curing machining operations required, in some cases the part can be used as-is.
The waste fiber can potentially be recycled without the need to extract the fiber from cured resin.
Trimming of Cured Parts
Trimming of cured parts is a standard step in composite part manufacture to achieve final-part geometry and for any hole drilling/cut-outs required. Various cutting techniques are available: rotary cutter (machining) and waterjet are the most common, whilst laser trimming is currently in developmental stages for composite materials. The techniques can be used either on standard robotic arms or multi-axis CNC machines.
|Advantages||Similar process and equipment to traditional metal trimming||
No direct tool wear
Reduced heating due to water acting as coolant
Speed of operation
Very high degree of accuracy
Other machining operations possible, e.g. etching
Tool damage requires repairing regularly
Heat generated can cause damage to laminate (delamination is typical)
The process is relatively slow for complex parts, due to the need for the cutting head to be reorientated as the cut progresses
May have to trim twice to achieve desired tolerance
Complex geometries not possible
Requires pilot hole to be drilled if not starting from edge of part
Machinery consumables (such as nozzles)
Can cause delamination and damage during cutting
Developmental technique - no large-scale industrial experience
The composite material experiences a ‘#heat affected zone’, which is difficult to characterise
Adhesive Bonding – Benefits:
- Well distributed load transfer when compared to point fasteners
- Durability – fatigue resistance
- ‘Sealed’ joints
- Secondary benefits such as acoustic damping
Joint Design – Key issues:
- Load transfer – in both typical and ‘abuse’ loadcases
- Thermal expansion – particularly when mating dissimilar composite and metallic substrates
- Disassembly requirements – for crash repair and end-of-life
- Design for Manufacture – avoiding wipe-off, ensuring consistent gaps, etc.
Bonding Solution – Selection:
- Manufacturing ready – appropriate takt-time for handling strength
- Structural strength within operating conditions
- Environmental resistance – matches or exceeds the substrates
- Hybrid fastener/bonding solutions – can accelerate assembly and affect joint performance
Key Manufacturing Technologies for Production:
- Automated surface preparation – cleanliness and activated bond surfaces
- Repeatable adhesive deposition
- Robust jigging for geometry control, joint creation and accelerated curing
- Non-destructive evaluation of bonds