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Composite fabrication know-how

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Armed with the right skills and equipment (some of which may already be in your shop), end product manufacturers can get into the fabric composites game. Ben Cox of Trelleborg Engineered Systems recommends that fabricators have a mechanical die cutter, heavy-duty sewing machines and welding equipment for applications that need heat sealing.

“If you’re a typical gasket cutter using nylon-based materials and decide to work with Kevlar®, Nomex® or other very high-end strong materials, you may have higher tool wear,” Cox adds. “You may choose to invest in more expensive tooling up front, but it shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone entering the marketplace.”

“Sometimes composite materials do need special cutting equipment and a heat-seal process because they are very robust,” says Leslie Richardson of Warwick Mills. “We also design and build specialized heat-seal equipment or can assist a customer in adapting their equipment and process to work with these new materials.”

Cooley Group also works directly with end product manufacturers to make sure they have the right skills and equipment. “There is a little bit of a learning curve in working with these materials,” says Darius Shirzadi, “but our technical department can tell them the types of machinery they should get, the settings to use for different polymers, and give them examples of how others fabricate the materials.”

Holly O’Dell is a freelance writer based in Pine City, Minn.

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