Superman would weep
There are occasions when nobody wants to go. And there are occasions when you’re invited to Lake Constance! Even before we knew why we were supposed to be on our way there, we were sitting in the plane bound for Friedrichshafen. When we arrived, it turned out that the feast for our journalistic eyes and ears that awaited us – apart from the panoramic views of Lake Constance – was the 5th users’ conference “Textile Concrete in Theory and Practice”, run by TUDALIT e.V.
In lectures and discussions, the textile scientists and practitioners there gave us insights into their world of concrete textiles. There was talk of new possibilities for fibre-reinforced stabilisation of bridges, of the hoped-for imminent mass use of carbon and fibre glass reinforced textile concretes in structural engineering and the enormous potential of these fibre-concrete compounds for the building industry in general. One thing is certain: carbon is harder than steel, thus increasing the structural stability of bridges and buildings. And carbon and glass fibres have a similar relationship to water as Superman to bullets – he is just as impervious to them. Because of their resistance to corrosion, the fibre-based building materials of the future overcome the unavoidable and economically costly repairs to possible rust damage.
No wonder, then, that Wolf-Rüdiger Baumann, General Secretary of the umbrella organisation for the German textile and fashion industry stressed recently in WirtschaftsWoche (No. 43) that carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRP) have the potential to “become the steel of the 21st century”. With such “fibretastic” prospects for the future, the next Techtextil from 5 to 7 May 2015 should turn out to be of considerable interest to construction companies, engineers and architects. The word at the conference of the TUDALIT Association, both in front of and behind the scenes, was that, by then, things should well have happened in terms of the licensing of these building materials to the advantage of textile construction work in general.
Now for a change of sector: the fact that aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing are already building some of their planes half out of carbon fibre composites is – still contrary to the current situation in the building industry – already pretty well old hat. In addition to the advantage of their enormous structural stability, fuselage parts and wings made of carbon also help to save weight and, hence, fuel. No right-thinking airline, with an eye to profitability, can resist the charms of such potential savings. In the wings at the conference, we even learned that there are currently concrete moves afoot amongst aeroplane manufacturers to roll out planes from the workshops with carbon-fibre based turbine blades in years to come. Lighter, yet harder than titanium, they can save up to 200 kg in weight per turbine. Harder than titanium? Superman, man of steel, would doubtlessly weep.