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Fabrics bring air cargo to new heights

News | August 1, 2012 | By:

Just as in road freight, air cargo relies on fabric-based applications to secure the transport of materials. AmSafe Bridport in Bridport, Dorset, England specializes in the manufacture of cargo restraint products, such as pallet nets and main deck barrier nets, used in commercial aviation.

“Historically, we have used nylon and polyester for most of our aviation applications, but in recent years we have used DSM Dyneema® for both webbings and braids for our work,” says Mark Trafford, head of engineering for AmSafe Bridport.

Dyneema, the brand for ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), allows for lower weight and higher strength than traditional materials used in cargo restraint, Trafford adds. “Traditional products are still in demand, yet some customers are looking for lightweight alternatives in their drive to save fuel, help the environment and so on,” he says. “Dyneema-based products are in greater demand due to this.” However, final determination of base cloth and coating type used in restraint products depends on the aviation industry’s regulations related to fire, smoke and toxicity (FST).

The company sees growth opportunities beyond restraint products. For example, safety needs are driving up demand for fire containment covers, or FCCs. “A number of aircraft have burned due to cargo problems, and the FCC is aimed at helping to contain a fire,” Trafford says.

Designed to protect temperature-sensitive goods during transport, thermal coverings represent another growth area. AmSafe Bridport produces two kinds of covers: a single-skin product that uses DuPont™ Tyvek®, an HDPE flash-spun nonwoven material, and a reusable blanket, which is comprised of metalized film laminated on both sides of LDPE foam, which is placed inside a cover of PVC-coated polyester fabric. In addition, the company is eyeing the development of products that use textiles at the expense of other more traditional (typically metallic) materials.

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

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