Engineering in industry of composites: Relationship between Education, Science and Industry
"New Materials, Composites and Nanotechnology"
founded in Bauman Moscow State Technical
University to carry out fundamental and applied
research, as well as development
and engineering activities in the field
of materials, composites and nanotechnology
Indeed, the Russian market of composite materials is still in its formative phase. Previously, the production was almost exclusively focused on the needs of the military-industrial complex and space technology, but now the situation is changing, and the government is greatly contributing to this process. Thanks to the Subprogram 14 called “Development of production of composite materials (composites) and their products”, which the Ministry of Industry began to implement two years ago, composite materials became widely used in shipbuilding, civil aviation, utilities, and manufacture of consumer goods. State companies are adopting their own innovative development programs, therefore they allocate funds for purchase of modern technologies, and we expect these measures to be effective.
At the regional level, the Moscow government helps us a lot, in particular, the Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship and the Center for Innovative Development, which subsidize the engineering development. We also cooperate with the Moscow Region, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and there are interesting large-scale projects implemented together with the Kama innovative territorial production cluster.
FFirstly, we should note the prospects of widespread use of binders made from biomaterials. Our laboratory is working on this issue, and we can confirm that binders made from sawdust and pulp are not inferior technologically to conventional materials made from petrochemical products. Furthermore, the use of biogenic component ensures low cost, environmental cleanliness and hygiene (no specific smell) of the material. The products in the field of "green chemistry" are already at their pre-commercial stage, and after the completion of R&D, we will market a few products designed for conventional and innovative applications of composite materials in basic industries, including the fuel and energy complex, housing, utilities, and road infrastructure.
Another area is related to solving the problem of delamination of composites by improving adhesion between components. The technology of self-repair of composite products is under development. In particular, our center has developed and patented a polymer binder that fills the damaged area of the material when heated. While this technology is under research, we can predict that, in the future, it will be improved and it will significantly increase the maintainability of products from composite materials.
Does the development of nanotechnology improve the characteristics of composite materials?
Nanotechnologies are used in the development of new types of binders. In particular, in the production of certain structures, nanotubes are dispersed in a binder, which improves the performance of composite materials. I emphasize that the Russian market of nano-additives is growing and there is wide selection offered by various companies.
How do you estimate the technological level of domestic producers of composites?
Our technologies and products are cheaper than the foreign products, but not inferior to them in quality, so the Russian market is almost exclusively dominated by domestic companies. We still have to use some imported components, but the Ministry of Industry and Trade is taking steps for import substitution. In particular, we are almost fully independent from foreign companies in the manufacture of special purpose products for the military industrial complex.
For a rapid growth of the sector, it is necessary to introduce new composite materials into production. Everyone knows that products made of composites are, as a rule, lighter and more robust than similar products made from conventional materials, but producers fear higher costs. We explain to businesses that composites offer cost advantages, because they have a longer life. If you choose the right recipe, the structures made of fiberglass and carbon fiber can last 50 to 100 years. Thus, one of the most urgent tasks of our industry is to inform the market on the benefits of composite materials.
What is the role of the NMCN in the development of composite industry?
As a structural subdivision of Bauman MSTU, our center links education, science and industry. We are a laboratory and manufacturing facility for several departments of the University; we organize educational technological practice, laboratory classes, and assist the staff of different departments in research and development. R&D projects of the Center involve undergraduate and graduate students, which helps to train highly qualified personnel for the industry, able to resolve applied science problems.
All our products are designed for practical application and further implementation in serial production. Over three and a half years, we have completed about 50 applied projects, all of which are used in industry. Our largest partners are RT-Himkompozit holding, which is part of the Rostec Corporation, and companies of the Union of Composites Manufacturers.
What are the specifics of engineering in the field of composite materials?
The special feature is that a project team must consist of a work designer, a technologist, a strength scientist and a material scientist. It is important to understand that the design does not merely imply a copy of the geometry of products made from conventional materials. The anisotropy of properties and other features of the composite must be taken into account. Only then, it is possible to create composite products with the best features. From the strategic perspective, we create a sort of a bridge between science and industry, like all engineering organizations.
What are the technological capacities of the center?
We have equipment for a full cycle of operations - from design of materials to creation of the finished composite products using both the conventional methods and the latest technologies, for example, vacuum infusion and RTM (Resin Transfer Molding). In addition to our laboratories, the structure of the center includes a manufacturing site located in the main buildings of Bauman MSTU in the village of Orevo in the Dmitrovsky District of the Moscow Region. In particular, it can produce large structures and it has testing equipment. The manufacturing site can produce small batches of products, but it is not our priority. The center’s equipment was specially selected for developing product-manufacturing processes and for a subsequent transfer of technology to mass production factories.
What projects did the Center implement with the use of nanotechnology that you can mention?
We have developed and organized the production of power structures of nano-modified composite materials; we have created a complex of vacuum and ion-vacuum technologies for chemical and thermal treatment of equipment parts with obtaining nanostructured state of diffusion layers; we have researched the changes in the structure and physico-mechanical properties of stress-deformed constructional nanomodified polymer composite materials for use in the Far North; we have developed multilayer nanostructured coatings for space vehicles. However, this is not a complete list and the number of projects is constantly growing.
The NMCN is one of the initiators and active participants of the Moscow composite cluster. What are the goals of this organization?
The Moscow Composite Cluster was created for development of cooperation between enterprises of the composite industry in the capital. The need for such interaction has grown because each company has its own competences or knowhow. The main objective of the cluster is to bring these competencies together to obtain a synergistic effect. Previously, everybody was trying to do everything independently, but now we have agreed on close cooperation, and we even coordinate the equipment procurement to avoid unnecessary duplication. The general equipment list will be posted on the web site, and each cluster partner will be able to know where it is appropriate to place an order. There are other important task, as well, such as providing help in the development of standards, lobbying interests in regional and federal authorities.
The cluster is controlled by the Supervisory Board and the Management Board, the members of which are top managers of the largest companies in the composite industry, and the head is Anatoly Alexandrov, the rector of Bauman MSTU. There is also working group that resolves operational tasks of coordinating the work of members of the cluster. The structure is very effective and we are planning large joint projects for the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Moscow Water Supply Authority (Mosvodokanal), and other customers.
At the end of the year, people usually summarize the results and outline the future plans...
The past year was full of events. Firstly, we started the construction of the second part of our center, which is the laboratory-industrial complex. Secondly, as already mentioned, we actively participated in the creation of the Moscow composite cluster, which is an important achievement for the Russian composite industry. Additionally, our center is participating in the creation of the Moscow cluster of biological, chemical and pharmaceutical technologies. The interest to this area is generated by the fact that, on the one hand, composite components are products of the chemical industry; on the other hand, composites are increasingly used in medicine for manufacture of prostheses, implants... We have already developed some interesting products, for example, special coatings that protect composites from bacteria, and a technology to produce modern canes for the blind.
Important achievements in 2014 were strengthening inter-institutional cooperation with Lomonosov Moscow State University, establishment and successful development of relations with Tupolev Kazan State technical University.
The plans for next year are to increase the number of projects, to develop and to implement new promising technologies, to augment participation in educational processes. Despite the difficult economic situation, the composite industry is advancing and our center is growing, too.
Thank you for the interesting interview.
The interview was taken by Dmitry Gudilin ■