Written by American Military News – May 20, 2020
Imagine if there was a product developed through years of effort and funding by one of the most advanced companies in the world, which could save billions in costs and CO2 emissions each year by replacing one of the most common metals in the world. Now imagine if that product continued to go unused for years.
Each year, hundreds of millions if not billions of internal research and development dollars go into developing concept technologies for the military and many of those technologies never result in an end product in the defense market. In 2014, Catalyze Dallas launched as one company hoping to turn those unused defense concepts into working products for public and private consumer markets.
Through a subsidiary company called Alpine Advanced Materials, Catalyze Dallas turned one of those unused defense concepts, HX5 thermoplastic, into a product with thousands of potential applications. The company touts HX5’s ability to replace aerospace-grade aluminum while maintaining 90 percent of aluminum’s strength and shockingly, at 50% the weight. Beyond the simple weight reduction, HX5 can withstand extreme temperatures and corrosion and has even proven resilient in the vacuum of outer space.
The concept for the advanced thermoplastic was first born out of the needs of the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. While not the first aircraft to employ carbon fiber parts, the F-35 employed carbon fiber to such a large degree that it birthed a need for new materials that could fit with different components without experiencing galvanic corrosion or dangerous thermal differences between materials.
Lockheed Martin found traditional aircraft aluminum combined with the aircraft’s carbon fiber could experience galvanic corrosion and warping due to heat.
“There were environmental elements at the speed that that plane flies and the heat that’s generated that would create abnormalities between the machined aluminum and the carbon fiber,” said Joe D’Cruz, who founded Catalyze Dallas with his wife Tricia D’Cruz.
With the existing design constraints, Joe D’Cruz said Lockheed Martin scoured the marketplace for an alternative, but eventually had to turn inward for a solution. They conceptualized HX5 to resolve their F-35 wingtip problem and after eight years and more than $50 million in development costs the thermoplastic became a reality.