The Lighter Side of Heavy-Duty Composites

Compressed air tanks that fully exploit the advantages of engineered composites use proprietary manufacturing techniques that are totally different from those for making metal tanks.

Heavy trucks are not known for their fuel economy, but that doesn’t mean designers have thrown in the towel in looking for ways to up a vehicle’s mpg. As with any vehicle, reducing weight can improve fuel economy. This is why so many nonstructural parts (and some structural) are now made of various plastics.

With the advent of high-strength plastics and composites, more and more parts are now being made of these engineered materials. For example, Polygon Co., Walkerton, Ind., recently introduced the first fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite compressed air receiver designed exclusively for over-the-road Class 8 trucks and trailers and service vehicles.

Polygon’s new composite air tank uses thermoplastic resin matrices forming a pressure vessel that, literally, can be hammered without stress crack propagation . Polygon’s composite air receivers provide an impact structure that is 20-30% lighter than any metallic tank on the market, while at the same time being price competitive with traditional metal tanks.

Transportation and trucking industries are demanding new technology that successfully contributes to the working horsepower of the unit, minimizing nonproductive weight. Every pound saved can be used in a more productive manner, especially as we approach the next series of emission standards requirement in 2010.

A material whose time has come
Skyrocketing fuel prices are making composites more the material of choice by maximizing strength-to-weight ratios. The key in this evolving technology is to design with composites in mind, rather than replace existing metallic parts in geometry, size, or form.

Proprietary processing technology has been developed to make the tank using methods totally different from those used for making traditional thermoset pressure vessels. Polygon is seeking entities interested in initiating beta- site testing for the new air tank. In addition, a multi-tank or stacked tank design is being developed for a systemized approach, rather than just individual placement around the truck or trailer chassis. For more information, call Jim Shobert at (800) 918-9261 or e-mail [email protected]