The joint venture with Tri-Mack Plastics to accelerate use of PAEK composite components in aerospace.
A joint venture recently formed by Victrex (U.S. office in West Conshohoken, Penn.) and Tri-Mack Plastics Manufacturing Corp. of Bristol, R.I., aims to accelerate the commercial adoption of PAEK composites in aerospace applications. This multi-million dollar investment, TxV Aero Composites, includes the establishment of a new U.S.-based, purpose-built polyketone composites center of excellence, due for completion in 2017, according to the partners.
This PAEK (polyaryetherketone) composite parts downstream manufacturing venture represents the second such move by Victrex, which in 2015 acquired polymer gears specialist Kleiss Gears, Grantsburg, Wisc., with particular expertise in molding PAEK.
Perhaps this is indicative of a returning industry trend toward downstream operations for resin producers, as indicated by Victrex’s recent actions and those of other resin makers in recent years. In past decades, for example, Phillips and Chevron established their own downstream HDPE pipe operations, while Occidental had a PVC pipe venture.
Just this past December, we reported on the acquisition of WL Plastics, one of the largest HDPE pipe manufacturers in North America, by Ineos Olefins & Polymers. Moves of a similar kind include companies such as PolyOne, which acquired Spartech, the leading producer of custom plastic sheet and rollstock in 2013. This year, the company also bought two Colorado-based composites businesses—Gordon Composites and Polystrand.
Meanwhile, new venture TXv Aero Composites intends to offer a range of PAEK composites, from custom laminates to pre-formed composite inserts for hybrid molding processes, as well as finished composite parts and complete over-molded hybrid composite components and assemblies. Such composites boast weight savings of up to 60% over conventional metallic options, along with continuous manufacturing processes and cycle times measured in minutes versus hours for thermoset alternatives.
One example is new Victrex AE 250 composites, a family of lower-temperature processing PAEK-based composites that is said to enable a unique hybrid molding process. It is said to combine the strength of continuously-reinforced thermoplastics composites with the design flexibility proven performance of PEEK injection molding resins.
TxV Aero Composites anticipates it will be able to address customer challenges with dedicated speed and focus, through the combination world-class expertise in materials, engineering, development and manufacturing.
Said Victrex CEO David Hummel:
“This is a hugely exciting opportunity to accelerate innovative and differentiated solutions for our customers in the aerospace industry. Victrex has an unrivalled history of making markets where polyketones have a strong advantage…Our Aerospace Loaded Brackets program is a great example of how we can offer new forms and components, alongside supplying materials, and build a new supply chain to address the unmet needs of the aerospace industry.”
Tri-Mack Plastics develops and manufactures complex parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry, with a long-standing partnership with Victrex. Will Kain, president of Tri-Mack Plastics, is a proponent of thermoplastic composites, as indicated by his comments on the joint venture.
“With an estimated 35,000 new aircraft to be launched in the next 20 years, the aerospace industry is embracing thermoplastic composites as a cost-effective solution to support this growth. The efficient processing and performance advantages of PAEK thermoplastic composites combined with state-of-the-art automated manufacturing will position TxV Aero Composites to meet the Industry’s cost and weight challenges.”