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Composite bonding in the rail industry takes in increasing significance

Huntsman Advanced Materials (Duxford) : 22 March, 2013  (Special Report)
Characterised by well documented benefits, including high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent fatigue resistance, corrosion resistance, good impact resistance, and design flexibility, as well as better flame retardancy, smoke and toxicity (FST) performance, composites have become established in the rail industry. Selecting the most suitable joining method is just as important as the design and choice of the composite materials themselves.

According to a recent report from Lucintel, the rail industry for composites is forecast to grow at an average rate of 10.5% until at least 2015. The land-transport sector as a whole accounts for about 25% of the European composites market. Composites provide lighter rail vehicles than metal counterparts. Lower overall weight translates into lower energy costs in vehicle operation - important criteria for all vehicles, including recent high-speed railway projects.

Rail vehicle composite bonding

The rail industry uses composite materials for making exterior and interior parts as well as infrastructure components in combination with adhesive bonding replacing soldering or fastening in the delivery of long term performance and durability.
Interior and exterior components made of composites include major items such as interior ceiling and side wall covers, corridor adapter frames, luggage bins or racks, driver’s cabins, exterior panels, end cabs and more. With their high strength, impact resistance and outstanding combination of high lap shear and peel strength, epoxy adhesives are the type of adhesive most commonly used.
The three main types of structural adhesive from Huntsman all have a different chemistry with different structures and physical characteristics that make them suitable for targeted applications and specific processing requirements.
Methacrylate-based adhesives tend to be used in applications like bonding metal hinges to GRP interior panels, where their fast curing properties provide significant time saving advantages.

Polyurethanes with their flexible properties are the material of choice for joining tough-to-bond engineering thermoplastics, rigid plastics and composites, finding application in frame bonding for example.
Epoxy adhesives, of which  Araldite 2013 is an example, are increasingly being used to bond GRP train driver cabins because of  excellent adhesion to substrates, high durability in ambient weather conditions, fatigue resistance and toughness. For exterior parts, Araldite AW 4859/HW 4859 is an example of an epoxy adhesive which offers the advantages of excellent chemical resistance and thermal stability, even in temperatures as high as 140C.
Innovation in adhesives

As much as innovation in adhesives is about improving mechanical properties, it is also about adding new features such as flame retardance, low smoke density and low toxic emissions.
Based on its long experience of working in the aerospace industry, Huntsman has developed products that meet stringent FST safety criteria. Araldite 2033 is an example of a recent development from Huntsman which allows the possibility of using an adhesive with flame retardant properties.
Offering excellent adhesion on metals and composites, this UL 94 V-0 and NF F 16-101 I2 and F2 approved two component epoxy adhesive exhibits flame retardance, low smoke density and low toxic emissions.
As the use of composites across the rail industry increases, structural adhesives will continue to be a key player in supporting new design methods where the conditions in service, greater efficiency in manufacturing and the type of stress and forces applied during service are critical.

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