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Danu Chotikapanich, CEO, Cobra International

JEC Composites Magazine interviews Danu Chotikapanich, CEO, Cobra International, who explains to us how the company has evolved and grown without ever losing the ability to innovative and successfully face new challenges. He will also present to us, Cobra’s latests innovations which will be highlighted at JEC World 2022.

Danu Chotikapanich, CEO,  Cobra International
READING TIME

6 minutes, 0 secondes

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you tell us about your company and in which sectors you work?
Danu Chotikapanich, CEO, Cobra International: “My father started building composite windsurf boards in Bangkok in 1978, with the company known as Windglider Thailand at the time before the launch of the Cobra International name in 1985. 44 years on, the progress has been immense and water sports is still one of our key business units. In 2006 we started to supply into automotive, with Cobra Advanced Composites (CAC) building a world class reputation in this field. As part of our one-stop-shop approach our accessories division supplies a massive range of soft goods and fittings to complement the watersports business and our design and development office now takes a leading role in guiding clients from first concept to series production parts. In recent years we have also expanded our work in new markets, with exciting new projects in robotics, UAVs, luxury furniture and even medical composites. In summary, we are specialists in serial production of strong, light, and beautiful composite products.”

JEC Composites Magazine: What impact has the COVID crisis had on your business and your product development strategy? Has there been an impact on the overall Thai composites market? import export ?
Danu Chotikapanich: “Of course the pandemic has brought many challenges but in business terms Cobra has remained strong overall and we have seen record production levels on water sports lines. Customer development has continued to grow and one change we have noted is that we’ve completed projects – initial contact, development, prototypes, and series part delivery – without even meeting face to face. This is totally new for us but it shows what can be achieved, and the trust that our customers have in our work.

Cobra Advanced Composites (CAC), the Automotive division of Cobra, has been delivering serial production carbon fibre prepreg parts to premium automotive OEMs since 2006. Most recently, CAC has supplied carbon fibre factory option parts for the BMW S 1000RR.
Cobra Advanced Composites (CAC), the Automotive division of Cobra, has been delivering serial production carbon fibre prepreg parts to premium automotive OEMs since 2006. Most recently, CAC has supplied carbon fibre factory option parts for the BMW S 1000RR.

The situation was tough in Thailand, we had to adapt significantly to protect our team, but with good measures in place, our own vaccine program, and the support of our entire staff, we have definitely come out the other side stronger. Like all composite manufacturers we have also had to navigate some tough times with rising raw material costs and unprecedented freight rates and capacity issues but once again, we feel we are through the worst and have been happy with our results through the pandemic.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Has the epidemic stimulated your need/capacity to innovate?
Danu Chotikapanich: “I think our situation was similar to many other others in that lockdowns, working from home and new business technologies gave us plenty of time for reflection. We took the chance to look back at some earlier successes – we recently published a report detailing Cobra innovations in windsurfing – and also set aside time to look to the future. Increasingly now, we find ourselves working alongside our customers contributing to their own innovation pathways as they draw on our experience across so many composite processes and technologies.”

JEC Composites Magazine: As one of the world leaders in water sports (Windsurf, SUP, Kite and Surf boards), what are your latest innovations in this sector? or upcoming innovations?
Danu Chotikapanich: “We have done a lot of novel work in the powered surfboard sector, developing composite boards, and integrating battery and controller technology for leading foiling and non-foiling brands. This market continues to expand and we will show one of our newest eFoil projects at JEC World 2022. As the foiling trend also continues in windsurf foiling and wing foiling, we continue to optimize our board constructions to remain lightweight but also durable enough to take the extra loads from the foil and the increasing impacts as riders now start making jumps and loops on the board. Across all sports – windsurf, SUP, Kite and Surf – consumers want boards that last longer and have less impact on the oceans they play in so sustainability is definitely a leading theme too.”

Working in partnership with customers Starboard and Maui Fin Company (MFC), Cobra has successfully integrated novel recyclable epoxy resins (Aditya Birla’s proprietary Recyclamine® technology) into its series production of water sports components and has initiated a closed loop process to re-use the recovered reinforcement fabrics and thermoplastic polymers produced when the epoxy composite is recycled. This achievement won Cobra a JEC Innovations award in 2020.
Working in partnership with customers Starboard and Maui Fin Company (MFC), Cobra has successfully integrated novel recyclable epoxy resins (Aditya Birla’s proprietary Recyclamine® technology) into its series production of water sports components and has initiated a closed loop process to re-use the recovered reinforcement fabrics and thermoplastic polymers produced when the epoxy composite is recycled. This achievement won Cobra a JEC Composites Innovations award in 2020.

JEC Composites Magazine: Last year you participated in the construction of a Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft (VTOL)  in carbon fiber composites with HG Robotics. Can you tell us more about the technologies used? Are there other developments to come in the aeronautics sector?
Danu Chotikapanich: “Yes, that’s correct. The VETAL is a twin rotor, tail sitting VTOL platform developed by HG Robotics for large agricultural surveys. We have worked with them on UAV components since 2018 with the VETAL being the first full airframe we have supplied and a great opportunity to improve on their existing composite structure. Drawing from our experience with close tolerance moulding of EPS foam cored sandwich components for the water sports market, the team proposed a hybrid solution, combining both hollow and cored sections, for the flying wing.

The main body of the aircraft uses a PVC foam sandwich shell with a low density EPS foam rib which, combined with a fully foam cored tail structure, delivers a complete airframe fractionally lighter than the customer’s challenging target. The new build method reduced the overall cycle time and also improved the impact resistance and overall durability of the VETAL platform, a key benefit for industrial users who need to keep their survey drones flying with the minimum of maintenance. We are currently discussing the next projects with HG Robotics and have a number of other aeronautics programs underway that we hope to be able to speak about in more detail soon.”

Cobra supports HG Robotics with new production concept for the VETAL tail sitter VTOL drone

JEC Composites Magazine: What ambitions do you have regarding the sustainability of your products? Do you use biosourced, recycled or eco-designed materials to meet current environmental requirements?
Danu Chotikapanich: “Sustainability is a huge focus for us, and we are constantly improving our performance in terms of product, manufacturing processes, our people and also the environment we work in (both on site at Cobra and on a wider scale across Thailand). We are proud of the leading role we have taken in adopting bio-sourced materials, and the recognition given by JEC as award winners in 2009 and 2020, as we continue to include bio-epoxy resins and natural fibres in many of our products. We tend to follow two approaches when looking at sustainability. The first looks at circular manufacturing and how products can be recycled and re-used, and whilst this is still a challenge with thermoset composites, we see great promise with technologies like Aditya Birla’s Recyclamine® resins and also with the latest thermoplastic resin developments. We want to include more recycled content in our boards and fully recycled EPS cores are still our target. The second approach considers raw materials and sees us select those with the minimum environmental impact. Our programs with coconut fibres, flax, cork, and bio-based epoxies have successfully introduced these materials into high volume composite production.”

JEC Composites Magazine: What can we wish you for the JEC World 2022 show which is coming very soon, and can you tell us more about the innovations or achievements you will present to us ?
Danu Chotikapanich: “We’ve already mentioned some of our new business areas but for JEC visitors can be sure to expect an exciting blend of traditional Cobra and CAC products as well as plenty of newly developed solutions. We will display one of the newest eFoil boards – the Audi e-tron Foil by Aerofoils – as well as our latest thoughts in sustainable surfboard construction. CAC will be showing both visual and painted carbon parts as well as the latest natural fibre composite options. The VETAL UAV, and the wing section of the larger Swiftlet fixed wing drone, will highlight our work in this field and we will also have some carbon fibre prosthetics and luxury carbon fibre furniture on our stand”

Discover Cobra latest innovations on their stand located Hall 6, E28.

In 2021, Cobra International confirmed its continued partnership with Fliteboard as the builders of the new Fliteboard Series 2. Conceived in 2016, the Fliteboard range of electric foiling surfboards has established a leading position in the eFoil market.
In 2021, Cobra International confirmed its continued partnership with Fliteboard as the builders of the new Fliteboard Series 2. Conceived in 2016, the Fliteboard range of electric foiling surfboards has established a leading position in the eFoil market.

JEC World 2022 • Paris Nord Villepinte
3-5 May 2022
www.jec-world.events

More information www.cobrainter.com