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JB Martin has been manufacturing engineering fabrics for over 20 years. An offshoot of the JB Martin Group, world leader in velvet production since 1832, the company produces reinforcements for composite materials using mainly glass, carbon, aramid, polyester, basalt and polypropylene fibres.
(Published on October 2008 – JEC Magazine #44)
Avelvet manufacturer since 1832, this corporation of French origin has been present in North America since 1899. In 1934, the Group invested in its first velvet factory. Fifty years later, in 1985, the company started producing engineering fabrics in its plant at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec. In 2004, the decision was made to stop velvet production and dedicate the site to the production of engineering fabrics. Velvet production continues in the United States and Mexico. The Group discontinued all its European operations in 1976.
JB Martin, in addition to its composites activity, is also present on the markets for protective fabrics and what it calls “functional” fabrics. JB Martin’s revenues at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu amount to $US 20-30 million and it exports around 70% of its production. The company has 65 full-time employees.
Specialty fabrics are characterized by optimized physical properties and processing technologies. Working closely with its customers, JB Martin is constantly looking to push the envelope for its products, developing new architectures and forever seeking the best fibre combinations and orientations.
In the composites sector, the company has a foothold on a variety of markets: marine, transportation, wind energy, aerospace, civil engineering, construction, sport & leisure and industry. Its fabrics can be found in a wide range of products, from canoe paddles through aircraft parts to wind turbine blades.
JB Martin is also active in the protective fabrics sector and has a subsidiary, Martintek, that specializes in this field. Created in 1996, Martintek has made its name on this market and has built a solid reputation for both quality and innovation, supplying fabrics for ballistic armour, bullet-resistant vests and protection against mines and explosives. Martintek caters to the military, law enforcement, fire-fighters, loggers, foundry workers, electricity workers and other environments that require high-performance protection. Martintek products are certified by numerous bodies throughout America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
In the field of “functional” fabrics, JB Martin generally caters to complex specifications for applications that are as specialized as they are varied: ice hockey skates, powder bags, fireproofing walls, 3D structures, self-fastening tapes, etc.
As well as the quality of its products, JB Martin also sets great store by its quality of service, this being one of the company’s overriding concerns.
The standard product lines account for only 1/3 of the activity, with the remaining 2/3 deriving from specifically developed products. This underlines the company’s capacity for innovation.
In the composites sector, JB Martin’s reputation is secure, and is born of the company’s capacity to innovate and uphold its commitments to its customers. The fibres used for reinforcement production are Eglass, S2-glass, aramid, carbon, basalt, polyester and polypropylene.
The wide range of reinforcements for the composites sector is available in grades of between 130 and 3,250 g/m². In addition to conventional architectures (taffeta, twill, satin, etc.), JB Martin has specialized over the last twenty years in optimized proprietary architectures (3D NCS, interlock weaves, UD, etc.). All fabrics are designed to be easy to process.
In the protection sector, the company produces a range of reinforcements that push back the boundaries in impact protection. In this field, the services that the Martintek division has to offer cover standardized applications, conventional architectures and fabrics produced to particular specifications. The company has also made a speciality of meeting particular needs by developing innovative solutions (architectures, material, finish) in close co-operation with its customers. To this end, it uses high-performance fibres, is constantly on the lookout for new fibres, works on improving its processes and runs frequent performance tests.
Martintek fabrics are used in a variety of applications, including bullet-proof vests, ballistic armour, impact resistance, abrasion resistance, fire resistance, vandal-proofing, knife-proof garments and forestry.
Meeting the needs of the market
JB Martin markets a complete range of reinforcements for closed moulding technologies, offering permeability performance that is unmatched on the market for their category. Vacuum-assisted processes are becoming increasingly common in the composites sector, and infusion moulding is becoming a standard among these processes.
The three-dimensional NCS architecture developed by JB Martin in 1986 meets the specific requirements of vacuum moulding processes.
Today, NCS is regularly used by small & medium-sized enterprises and by multinationals alike to produce parts ranging in size from 1 metre through to 60 metres.
Compared to other high-performance reinforcements, the 3D NCS architecture offers improved resin flow in the vacuumassisted process along all three axes (X, Y, Z). NCS also offers good formability, good interlaminar properties thanks to the ZNo44 oriented fibre, and excellent mechanical properties thanks to the quality of the strand alignment and the high fibre content. Last but not least is the good surface finish.
Manufacturers of composite parts are always on the look-out for solutions to create components that are resistant to different types of impact, penetration and abrasion while meeting cost and weight targets.
JB Martin has therefore developed a comprehensive range of reinforcements with the aim of meeting the needs of engineers and designers. The Martinpact range comprises hybrid fabrics from 300 to 1,830 g/m² that offer improved resistance to impact and/or abrasion.
The interlock weave architecture developed in-house offers excellent formability. Hybrid glass/aramid reinforcements also offer the benefit of costing less than 100% aramid fabrics. They also get round the problems of compression and delamination inherent in aramid, as well as being less fragile and lighter than 100%-glass fabrics. With the stabilization option, they are also easier to handle.
The desire for development is plain to see, and investments continue apace, the latest being the four new Dornier weaving machines that have just been brought into service, capable of producing fabrics 2.40 m in breadth.
JEC Composites Magazine: What tangible advantages do you get from having two complementary activities?
NICOLAS JUILLARD: These two activities share complementary cycles. They require similar technological approaches or performance requirements. This means we can increase our volume of business with the same production tool, while securing our future.
JCM: Your composite activity is steadily developing. What is your strategy in this field?
N.J.: The composite market is becoming more and more sophisticated and calls for products with an ever-increasing performance level. Textile materials can help part manufacturers to make higher-performance parts, to achieve greater reproducibility, or even to automate processes that have always been labour-intensive in the past. JB Martin is working to exploit these avenues. The demand in transportation and aeronautics is growing and changing with the deployment of infusion processes and the redeployment of thermoplastic matrices to take advantage of their physical properties or recycling potential. Using low energy-content or recyclable materials will also be a priority in the future. JB Martin is a leader in these fields and intends to expand its international influence on this level.
JCM: Are you targeting any key markets in particular to drive your growth?
N.J.: Aeronautics, transportation, civil engineering and protection.
JCM: Are you planning to make any new investments in the medium-term?
N.J.: Yes, there will be other investments but it is too early to make any announcements.