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When a standard solution won’t do

Fibrocom’s patented channel composite technology is ideal for producing lightweight, high-strength structures offering high mechanical strength, excellent resistance to damage, and the ability to adapt to a virtually infinite variety of shapes.

Combining a surface laminate, a channel laminate, and a core material – bonded together using vacuum infusion – Fibrocom’s technology can be used to produce parts of virtually any shape that can be seamlessly connected to each other, while providing a reliable fixing surface for other components.

The resulting structures offer high levels of mechanical strength, low weight, and the ability to absorb extensive kinetic energy. Fitted with integrated fire protection, they have also proved much more capable in tests of surviving a fire than thicker aluminium structures with mineral wool fire insulation.

A three-year field trial is under way on Fibrocom’s new multimode container with the Lappeenranta University of Technology to prove its benefits and those of a Fibrocom-developed system for compressing content such as wood chips.
Rail was the first major commercial application for Fibrocom’s channel composite technology. Working with Transtech and Alstom, Fibrocom developed and supplied the underframe skirts for Finland’s high-speed Pendolino trains. This curved pressurised cover is designed to protect the machinery and equipment located under the train’s coaches and driver/trailer units and features a mix of underframe panels, side hatches, and aluminium supports.

Fibrocom’s solution has proved more than a match for the tough winter conditions rail has to contend with in Finland, which is one of the reasons that it was also adopted for the new Allegro trains that recently entered service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Operated by Karelian Trains, the new dual-voltage trains are a significant upgrade of Pendolino technology and have reduced travelling time between the two cities to three and half hours.

Fibrocom also worked with Transtech on their innovative ICS double-decker coaches, developing and supplying end-covers, battery boxes, and interior panels. Fibrocom has also supplied engine covers for Patria Vehicles’ all-terrain vehicles; self-supporting, lightweight containers for transporting products such as peat; and heated floor units for the new low-floor sections added to some of Helsinki City Transport’s trams as part of their life-extension programme.

Enhanced safety is a major feature of the passive safety street lighting columns developed by Fibrocom in cooperation with Tehomet. These channel composite units absorb the impact of a vehicle by folding under it and stopping the vehicle smoothly – and have received the highest rating for high-energy absorption, HE3, ever awarded to a composite structure of this type.

The underframe skirts for Karelian Trains’ new Allegro trainsets have been supplied by Fibrocom and feature the company’s patented channel composite technology. Photo: Leif Rosnell/VR Group.

A new generation of containers

Fibrocom has recently developed a new generation of logistics container for use in transporting bulk products such as wood chips and pellets. This multimode unit can be carried by both road and rail and avoids the need to unload and reload goods during a journey or use specialist solutions – and delivers a significant increase in payload and valuable savings in transport and handling costs.

The new design offers a high strength/weight ratio, excellent impact strength, seamless construction, great weather and corrosion resistance, and easy repairability. Weight savings of up to 50% compared to traditional containers are possible. Good thermal insulation comes as standard, and fire resistance can be added if needed.

One-shot moulding results in seamless walls and floors and eliminates the need for metal profiles for jointing purposes, further increasing weight savings and improving the container’s inherent strength.

Like all fibre composites, channel composite structures do not absorb moisture or rot, or become fragile at low temperatures; and as the bottom of the container is smooth, it will not collect snow or ice either. As channel composite structures can be repaired more easily than traditional plywood structures, wear and tear is also less of a problem.

“Can be carried by both road and rail, 
avoiding the need to unload and 
reload goods during a journey.”
 

It’s all in the channels

Fibrocom’s channel composite technology overcomes the difficulties associated with forming conventional honeycomb structures into complicated shapes. It does this by using a single fibre to weave tubes and channels into a continuous structure, which offers the reduced weight and strength of honeycomb structures, but at a much lower cost.

Filling these channels with various core materials results in a rigid sandwich material that can be easily formed into a very wide range of shapes, and offers good kinetic energy-damping properties, as well as better shear resistance than conventional sandwich materials.

Structures made of channel composite can be coated to provide protection against electromagnetic waves or fire; and tailored to different needs by changing the composition of the fabric, the core material, and the size, shape, and spacing of the channels. The latter can be used to provide thermal and sound insulation or as ducts for wiring.

Channel composite structures can be much stronger and stiffer along all their axes than conventional laminated sandwich structures of the same thickness and weight per square metre made from the same materials. They also offer higher compression strength and better resistance to delamination.

> Mauri Laitinen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)