Since 2006, Alabama-based MACRO Industries, Inc. have been developing MACRO-Lite, which are sturdy, impact-resistant composite panels for unit load devices (ULDs) used in the air freight industry. In particular, MACRO-Lite leverages the high-performance properties of Teijin Aramid’s Twaron and MACRO Industries’ proprietary resin and manufacturing techniques, allowing manufacturers of air freight containers to create products that weigh less, meet higher safety standards, require fewer repairs, and have a lower environmental impact. The German company PalNet Air Cargo Products recently certified the first AKE container with MACRO-lite panels, and further exciting developments involving this technology are ahead.
From flying cars to ULDs
MACRO Industries was established in 1991 with the aim of developing civilian transportation systems of the future by investing in research, new ideas, and the latest technologies. “The idea of integrating Teijin Aramid’s materials into our products first came about when we were developing blade containment and the lightweight body of a flying car,” says Dan Ziegler, President at MACRO Industries. “We needed a tough material with both strength and impact resistance. We soon realized that the high-performance qualities of Teijin’s aramid materials could be integrated into many other composite products, including the MACRO-Lite panels we now make for ULDs. Our collaboration with Teijin has been very successful so far: not only are our values naturally aligned, but the combination of our expertise and efforts should lead to new products and big improvements in our composite technology.”
Higher performance with aramid
“The integration of Twaron into our composite panels allows us to add value in several ways,” explains Dan Ziegler. “First of all, containers built with MACRO-Lite skins are significantly stronger than standard aluminum containers, despite being significantly lighter, making them ideal for the air freight industry. Airlines, who are the end-users of the ULDs with our panels, can reduce their fuel costs, and limit their environmental impact. What’s more, MACRO-Lite ULDs offer higher cut and dent resistance, minimizing the need for servicing and lowering maintenance costs. Overall, manufacturers of ULDs can really produce a product of much higher quality with MACRO-Lite.”
PalNet: Delivering higher-specification containers
MACRO-Lite panels have been commercially available since 2010, and have been successfully adopted by several manufacturers of ULDs. PalNet, a German manufacturing company specializing in air cargo products, was among the first to integrate this aramid-based technology. “We’re very pleased with the MACRO-Lite composite panels we integrate into our air freight containers,” says Klaus Demtroeder, Managing Director at PalNet. “By using these panels, we can lower the weight of each container by 15kg compared to containers made with traditional materials. This allows airlines, our customers, to make significant cuts in fuel costs, as well as limiting their impact on the environment. MACRO-Lite panels also allow us to deliver air containers to higher specifications. We’ve just certified the first AKE container, the most mainstream type of container, which is a great achievement!”
“Our collaboration with MACRO Industries so far has been great,” says Klaus Demtroeder. “They’ve provided us with technical support and industry know-how. However, I believe this is only the start of our collaboration. The world needs air freight containers to be more durable, and more environmentally friendly. Over the next few years, I foresee a significant scaleup in the number of containers we produce using the technology of Teijin Aramid and MACRO Industries. We’d also like to produce an AKH-certified container, which will be compatible with the Airbus 320. Aramid-based air freight containers are the future – and we’re ready for takeoff!”