MOST PREPREGS TEMPORARILY OUT OF STOCK: Due to global supply chain issues we have temporarily disabled the sale of most prepregs. We anticipate a resupply of most styles by late summer 2021. Please check back often while as we plan to update this category immediately upon receipt of more materials.
Have you ever wondered how aircraft interiors and Formula 1 cars are so stiff and light? The secret is sandwich panels. Sandwich panels are used whenever lightness and stiffness are required for a flat or irregular shape. The main theory behind sandwich panels is the concept of mass moment of inertia. Increasing the mass moment of inertia directly increases the stiffness. So how do you increase the mass moment of inertia while keeping weight down?
First, let's consider a solid carbon fiber plate. Thicker plates will be stiffer, but not just because there is more material. When layers are further from the center (commonly called the neutral axis) they contribute more stiffness. Consider two tubes of different diameter. The large diameter tube will be stiffer than the small diameter tube, even if the amount of materials in them is equal! This is because the larger diameter tube has more material further from the center.
An I-beam works using the same principal. The web of the I-beam (the skinny center section) holds the flanges (the end pieces) far from the center, making the beam much stiffer than a solid plate using the amount of material. (See Figure 1.)
So, we know a thick plate will be stiffer but we need something lightweight. That's when the sandwich comes in. When a plate bends, the outermost layers don't just add the most stiffness, they also take a majority of the load. Both faces will experience stress with one in compression and one in tension. Strangely enough, the center of a bending plate sees no stress at all! Therefore, if we know the center layers of a plate don't contribute much we can eliminate them and replace them with foam or honeycomb.
Replacing the center layers reduces overall stiffness a little bit, bringing us right back to the mass moment of inertia by effectively moving the load carrying materials (also referred t as the panel "skins") further from the neutral axis. If we make the core thicker we've increased the mass moment of inertia and increased the bending stiffness and strength. If we add more layers we can also increase the strength and stiffness since we add more materials far from the center, and we can distribute the load over more cross-section. Getting the thickness right results in a panel that is considerably lighter than an equivalent solid panel. Rock West Composites offers sandwich panels in a multitude of thicknesses and constructions to suit your needs. And as always, if we don't have it shoot us an email or give us a call and we CAN build it for you!
Want to print this information off? We have made an awesome flyer.
Rock West has been in business for 15 years! The business was started by Jim Gormican and Keith Loss, two former colleagues, who decided to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor together in Jim’s garage in late 2006. Since then, Rock West has grown into a business with four locations and nearly 200 people.
From the Garage to the New Headquarters in 15 Years
The initial work was centered around aerospace engineering and the commercialization of carbon fiber composites, which had been historically expensive, too expensive to use beyond specific, highly demanding applications. The business grew in 2009 through the acquisition of the former Maclean Composites in Salt Lake City, and the Rock West Composites brand was born. The new office pursued the online sales of carbon tubing and pioneered ecommerce for composites.
Ecommerce Pioneer: flashback from a decade ago (left) to our current site (right) Ecommerce operations are located in our Salt Lake City facility (bottom right)
Joining the Rock West team shortly thereafter was a group of applied sensor specialists located in Santa Barbara. They became the Rock West Solutions division. In 2017, the business launched a venture in Mexico to help reduce labor costs while allowing easy access to facilities. As part of the CaliBaja Mega Region, Rock West is working to re-shore jobs that have gone offshore, bringing work back to US in partnership with our neighbors in Mexico.
Santa Barbara office (left), Baja California (right)
Jump ahead to today and our headquarters in San Diego is now in over 100,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space. Our Salt Lake City facility has expanded to encompass its entire building. Santa Barbara has grown to include more office space and new secured labs. Tijuana has continued to expand and improve its facility and equipment. Rock West has come a far way from the original garage office.
Facilities: San Diego warehouse (top left), Salt Lake City
At Rock West’s new headquarters, we have an RF test lab to help with our many radome, antenna, and integrated RF structure programs. Recently we had a radome that needed to be evaluated for scatter patterns as part of its testing and verification requirements.
For this particular program, the radome provides high-performance, low loss coverage for modern radar equipment. It has both military and commercial applications and is built in conjunction with R4 Integration who is the solution provider.
The build is a multi-layer sandwich construction using low dielectric materials that are optimized to provide low transmission loss over wide broadband frequencies. This customer had narrow frequency bands of interest, and we were able to tune the radome for best performance within those specific frequency bands.
Radome being mounted on test frame
To help with our overall testing capability, our team had commissioned a custom structure to measure RF scatter for smaller structures at 5 degree increments in both the azimuthal and elevation planes. It’s built mostly of wood and fiberglass to minimize structural RF interference. These are images from the testing process.
Scatter testing radome and different angles of incidence
The successful scattered tests enabled this program to move forward with production, saving cost/time????
Rock West produces radomes from l-band to ka-band with transmission loss typically below -1 dB, with many radomes tuned to loss below -0.5dB in primary transmit and receive bands. Our in-house testing capability enables us to quickly test prototypes, shorten program schedules and reduce risk for programs with strict RF requirements, including this particular radome program.
This radome is designed, analyzed, and qualified to FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) requirements. Rock West has heritage in FAA qualification for wide range of aircraft and radome types.
Full Test setup
We're always adding to things to our store to provide our customers more options. Here are some brand new additions.
EXPANDED HIGH TEMP PLATES
We are expanding our high temperature plate selection with new thinner options. We've added 0.060” and 0.125” to the lineup but still offer 0.250” and 0.500” if you require thicker plate. These are press cured, balanced carbon fiber & epoxy resin prepreg laminates. The laminate plates (panels) are made with a nylon (green) peel ply co-cured on both outer surfaces of the laminate, which can be removed before application. It can be used in applications up to 400°F.
G10 FIBERGLASS PLATE
Meet our brand new G10 Fiberglass Plate. It has excellent machinability and electrical insulative properties. This glass/epoxy laminate offers a superior strength/size ratio and self-extinguishing properties. In addition to its high mechanical strength, it exhibits good dielectric loss and electrical properties under a range of dry and humid conditions. The flame resistance is Class I in accordance with NEMA test method 7.11. Read more on the G10 plate product page and order today
Several of our team members are into racing and not just as spectators. Some even go out to test their metal at what is billed as the “fastest racetrack on earth,” the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
One of the Rock West team, Nick Montoya, is part of a local group, Bean Bandits Racing Team Est. 1949, and has raced with them for five years. He has worked on cars since he was a kid and raced at Bonneville before, but in 2021 he joined the Bean Bandits team at the famous track to test a car they built. Nick said, “We built this car from scratch in Barrio Logan in San Diego. The body is an original 1927 Ford Roadster, heavily modified. The chassis and all other components are custom and built by us.”
Nick is joined by Derby Pattengill, the senior driver for Bean Bandits, and has his HANS device at the ready
Safety is always the top priority for the team, and the objective of last year’s run was to tune the chassis and make sure the car acted accordingly at speed. This was a test run. Derby Pattengill, the senior driver for the Bean Bandits, has driven over 242 MPH and has over 20-years driving experience. He drove the car the first time to ensure Nick could get behind the wheel safely.
Derby Pattengill with the Bean Bandits XF Gas Modified Roadster
In addition, Nick drove using the HANS Pro Ultralight safety device, a head and neck restraint, in his test run. Rock West Composites manufactures the carbon fiber structure of this HANS device for Simpson Motor Sports.
Now that the car has proven sound on the track, in 2022 the team plans on racing for a world record in the car’s class by meeting and beating 160 MPH. We wish them luck and safe racing in 2022 at the Bonneville Salt Flats!
The Bean Bandits XF Gas Modified Roadster
Working at Rock West is always fun, but sometimes challenging because we are a rapidly growing business. One of the strategies we use to help our team succeed and address challenges is to treat every employee like a business owner, which they are.
Today we had our quarterly meeting which covers our company’s financials and business direction. We celebrate our successes, recognize key contributors, discuss our challenges, and review our plans to maximize growth. Everyone has the opportunity to ask questions throughout the presentation to clarify information or better understand the "why" of decisions that affect the larger vision of the business.
It is a major financial investment for the business to have the entire staff at every level of the business take one hour of their day every quarter to hear the CEO discuss sales, orders, EBIT and cash flow. But it is representative of what we value: transparency. Our CEO Jim Gormican says, “People make better decisions if they have better information." This is true in our relationships with employees and customers.
At Rock West, we are all owners through our Employee Stock Option Program and are invested in the success of the business. Understanding the financials helps every employee be a better business owner, whether they are a composites technician or program manager, a facilities tech or staff accountant. Every employee makes a difference.
All employees from every facility join our Quarterly Meeting updates. People can join in person or via video conferencing.
If you are interested in being a part of a growing business that values its employees and becoming an owner invested in the whole team, learn more about careers with us because we are hiring