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GE Building Michigan R&D Center

General Electric recently announced plans to build a new R&D Center in Michigan, near Detroit.  While portions o the Center will house Software Engineers, much of it will relate to advanced composites for renewable energy, aircraft engine, gas turbine and other high-technology products.  The further development of composites, machining, inspection, casting and coating technologies will be pursued to benefit GE’s Aviation and Energy businesses. This move generally marks a change in direction for GE’s growth in the United States.  Prior to this announcement, most of their new operations were opening in Asia and India.  There is a potential for a large number of new jobs should this plan reach fruition.  Heavy tax incentives and a large number of unemployed engineers have helped make this plan make sense. The locating of such a large composites R&D center near the automotive heart of America shows how important composites are to the future of American automobiles.  Traveling by cars, planes, and trains consume mass amounts of energy, which is only going to become more expensive.  Reducing the amount of energy consumption will improve the cost effectiveness of new materials and technologies. GE is aligned very closely with the Federal Government, who now owns two car companies that also happen to be in Detroit.  I would expect to see a lot of collaboration amongst all of these parties as time goes...

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Effects of Clear Gelcoat

One of the really cool effects that fiberglass parts can use clear gelcoat.  The basic process starts with a properly prepared mold that is waxed and ready for production.  The part build begins with a layer of clear gelcoat.  Several manufacturers have this product available, and it is sprayed on the same as pigmented gelcoat. Once the clear gelcoat is tacky, the visible effect is placed down.  This can be a wide range of materials and patterns, depending upon the desired outcome.  I have a table that has ground granite rock specks. These granite specks are placed down uniformly and consistently to give an acceptable finish.  Then some opaque gelcoat is used to finish off the look and help bind it together.  After this is cured, the fiberglass buildup is added to the desired strength and structure to give the desired finished part. This clearcoat can be sanded and buffed much the same way as the opaque gelcoat, though sanding though to the underlying effects would be disastrous. One of the drawbacks to this style of part comes when an unknown mistake occurs with the detail layer.  If contamination or uneven materials have visual problems, the whole part is built before the part is removed from the mold to find these problems.  The shape and structure are complete, but surface defects that cannot be repaired relegate these parts to...

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Stopping a Crack

Composites can be very impact-resistant compared to other materials.  Based upon their makeup, different composites materials will offer different degrees of resistance to impact.  Once the threshold to impact resistance is passed, cracking will occur.  Localized impact can form a crack in the weakened material, and vibration and additional loading can keep the cracks spreading.  There is a relatively simple solution to stopping this. I am currently working on repairing an SMC composite truck hood, which has various forms of damage including cracks.  I want to repair the cracks, but also must keep them from spreading.  So the solution is … Drill a Hole! A hole that is drilled at the end of a crack in the material will stop it from spreading.  There is no place for it to restart.  It cannot travel any farther because there is not any high-stress area that is weaker than the surrounding surface. In my example, I am working on a complete repair, not just stopping the crack from spreading.  I drilled the hole, reinforced the back side, and sanded the surface to accept filler.  The filler will fill this low spot over the crack as well as the hole that was drilled.  It can be filled right back in but will still retain its crack resistance! Another way for cracks to start is from high-stress areas such as square corners.  When...

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