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Durable and fire-resistant air freight containers

News International-French

16 Mar 2016

Teijin Aramid and MACRO Industries announced a collaboration agreement for the joint development, manufacturing and commercialization of more durable, fire-resistant air freight containers.

The super strong, lightweight Twaron fiber will be used to create the new Unit Load Devices (ULDs) that meets the high safety standards in aviation.

This agreement with MACRO Industries represents Teijin Aramids goal to collaborate with partners and participate in a global ecosystem where people work with Twaron. The MACRO-Lite ULDs are built with the next generation reinforced composite materials making the containers fire-resistant for over 4 hours according to recent testing by the FAA and UPS*. According to statements made by UPS – based upon this testing – the usage of the para-aramid fiber Twaron makes the containers significantly lighter and more durable than standard aluminum containers. Teijin Aramids super fiber Twaron is heat-resistant and five times stronger than steel at the same weight.

“We are thrilled about the collaboration with Teijin Aramid and our ability to make air freight containers weigh less, meet higher safety standards, require fewer repairs, and have a lower environmental impact. Combining our technical knowledge and markets will definitely lead to more and new products in the near future”, says Norris Luce, co-owner and CEO of MACRO Industries.

MACRO-Lite can be easily used as a replacement for existing aluminum panels in operational ULDs and it allows fleet operators to easily upgrade their containers. Upgrading to MACRO-Lite skins also reduces the cost and frequency of repairs. The MACRO-Lite ULD has the benefit of a high performance composite material but behaves like sheet metal making it more durable and cutting the costs for servicing and maintenance. It’s expected that there are about 900,000 aluminum ULDs in circulation globally that can be replaced with MACRO-Lite panels.

ULDs with MACRO-Lite panels can contain a fire with a peak temperature of 1,200-degree Fahrenheit (648.9°C) for four hours, while an aluminum container could only do so for a few minutes. The extra time is crucial in allowing flight crews to land safely in the event of an in-flight fire. In addition, this higher fire-resistance will allow cargo companies to comply with potentially stricter safety regulations regarding the transport of lithium-ion batteries.

MACRO-Lite addresses the air industry’s increasing concerns over fire hazards and stricter safety regulations for the transport of lithium-ion batteries. On 1 January 2015, an ICAO mandate came into force that bans airlines from transporting lithium-ion batteries as cargo in the belly hold of passenger aircrafts and many airlines already refused to transport these batteries as cargo. Lithium ion batteries, transported as cargo or used by passengers to power their electronic devices, have been the cause of a number of onboard fires. “Approximately 5.5 billion USD worth of lithium-ion batteries legally produced each year are now only transported by sea and over land, making these fire-resistant containers a game changer for the air freight industry”, says Hendrik de Zeeuw, business manager at Teijin Aramid. “MACRO Industries have proven to be absolute technology leader when it comes to developing composite materials based on our Twaron. We are very excited with this first step to represent MACRO Industries in Europe.”