The U.S. is among the few countries that do not require composite board manufacturers to submit a safety-certified design before they can produce the boards.
“I’m not saying they can’t make something that’s not certified, but it would be the least of my concerns,” said Jim Karp, vice president of manufacturing and technology at Hirsch Group, which produces components for aerospace, automotive and industrial companies.
“What I’m concerned about is whether they’ll be able to do that on time.”
Aluminum composite board supplier Hirsch also does not require that its products be certified by the National Safety Council, the body that certifies safety standards for aluminum composite board suppliers.
The council’s certification process is more stringent than those of other industries.
In addition, the NSC is one of the few federal agencies that certify all aluminum composite boards manufactured in the United States, and it sets standards for manufacturing in the U.K., Germany and elsewhere.
The U-shaped board is typically manufactured with a three-sided, two-layer steel plate.
A three-layer plate is more resistant to bending, according to Karp.
The three-piece design is typically used in high-strength, lightweight products, including some of the largest high-performance aerospace components used in airplanes.
The aluminum board used in Hirsch’s products is manufactured using two-sided plastic with two layers of high-density, thin-film aluminum.
Aluminum composite boards with a single-layer aluminum plate have been around since the 1960s.
In 2006, Hirsch and a consortium of other companies including the aerospace industry’s biggest supplier, General Electric, formed a joint venture called Hirsch Technologies with the goal of producing a more durable and strong aluminum composite that could withstand heavy impacts.
The company has been working to make that dream a reality.
“The manufacturing process is very different than most other industries,” Karp said.
“We have a lot of experience with composite and have been doing this for a long time.
We don’t need to change it.”
Hirsch began working on the new aluminum composite in 2017 with the help of a U.W. team that included researchers at the U-M Transportation Research Institute and other universities.
The team tested the composite boards on a variety of testing equipment.
“They had a very high tolerance for impact, so they didn’t crack,” Kars said.
The composite is also resistant to being bent, as is the case for the board that uses a single layer of the same material.
Hirsch plans to have the boards ready for customers later this year.
“It’s a new product,” Karrp said.