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As 2023 begins, a look back at trending CW topics in 2022

With 2022 now behind us, CW’s editor-in-chief Jeff Sloan takes a look at the CW stories last year that received the most reader attention.
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Photo Credit: (Top left) Qarbon Aerospace, (top right) HATCI and Forward Engineering, (bottom left) Allied Cycle Works and (bottom right) Re-Wind Network.

It’s mid-December as I write this. The world is gearing up for the holidays, but we here at CompositesWorld are already into 2023, working on this first issue of the new year. That said, we can’t help but look back on the year that was and reflect on our reporting of composites manufacturing.

CW starts every year with an editorial plan that sets forth our hopes and dreams for how we expect to cover the industry. Each issue is carefully considered and mapped out with specific stories that we have unearthed during the preceding year. 

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Inevitably, however, things fall apart. Applications or technologies don’t mature like we thought they would. Sources who were willing to work with us on a story have a change of heart. End users/customers get cold feet. It’s also true that throughout the year, stories come upon us that we hadn’t planned for at all, and they are good and interesting enough that we feel compelled to bring them to fruition as soon as possible.

Given all of this, it’s interesting to look back on the stories we published that attracted the most interest on the CW website. These are the 20 most-viewed CW stories of 2022:

  1. Plant tour: Qarbon Aerospace, Milledgeville, Ga. and Red Oak, Texas
  2. Will the Airbus-CFM H2 flight demonstrator use metal or composite tanks?
  3. Price, performance, protection: EV battery enclosures, Part 1
  4. SMC material configurations tailored to automotive battery enclosure design
  5. Cycling forward with bike frame materials and processes
  6. Multi-material toolbox for cost-effective, scalable EV battery enclosure design
  7. Laser bondline inspection becomes reality
  8. Sensors: Data for next-gen composites manufacturing
  9. Protocol aims to improve testing of thermal runaway for composite EV battery enclosures
  10. Plant tour: Dowty Propellers, Gloucester, U.K.
  11. CFRTP enables better, greener smartphones
  12. Thermoplastic composites welding advances for more sustainable airframes
  13. Plant tour: Victrex Composites Solutions, Bristol, Rhode Island, U.S.
  14. One-piece, one-shot, 17-meter wing spar for high-rate aircraft manufacture
  15. Envisioning high-volume, 100% composite wheels
  16. Multi-composite thrust chamber aims to boost rockets, reduce cost for New Space economy
  17. New polymer expands composites options in demanding environments
  18. Multi-material steel/composite leaf spring targets lightweight, high-volume applications
  19. Multi-flange RTM frames enable radical rear fuselage design
  20. Moving toward next-generation wind blade recycling

So, looking at this list, what jumps out at me?

First, you will notice that #3, #4, #6, #9, #15 and #18 are all automotive-focused, and four of those feature materials or process technologies developed for battery enclosures in electric vehicles (EVs). Of these, three were authored by CW contributing writer Peggy Malnati. Her reporting revealed that as the mobility world transitions toward battery-powered propulsion, the job of protecting battery cells from the outside world, and protecting the outside world from battery cells, is not trivial and will be done primarily by composites. 

Second, there are three plant tours on this list — #1 (Qarbon Aerospace), #10 (Dowty Propellers) and #13 (Victrex Composites). We published our first plant tour in 2015, thinking that seeing how other composites manufacturers run their facilities would be of interest to you. I think we were right, as tours are frequently among the most sought-after type of story on the CW website. The three tours on this list were written by CW senior technical editor Ginger Gardiner and represent different corners of the aerospace composites world. You’ll have to read them to find out more.

Aerospace and space manufacturing is, not surprisingly, well represented on this list, checking in at #1, #2, #12, #13, #14, #16 and #19. You’ll find that these stories touch on many of the technologies driving innovation in aerocomposites manufacturing — thermoplastics, out-of-autoclave (OOA) cure, large-part resin transfer molding (RTM), welding and more. These technologies will continue to be front and center as next-generation aerostructures are developed for new commercial aerospace programs. Expect to see and hear more about each of them.

I am a little surprised by #5, contributing writer Karen Mason’s story on composites use in bicycles. We had not covered the bike industry in-depth in a few years and figured Karen’s story would be revelatory about how this important end market is evolving. But this story’s high ranking tells me that our audience probably needs more than an occasional look at how composites are being applied in bike manufacturing.

Finally, I want to shed light on #20. This is technical editor Hannah Mason’s story on end-of-life strategies for wind blades. We were keen to bring this critical story to life and I am glad to see it got the attention it deserves.

I wish you a happy and healthy 2023. 

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