BGF Rolls Out New Metallized Fabric for Luggage

Demand for Lightweight Luggage Has Manufacturers Searching for New Materials

(Greensboro, NC) – May 26, 2011 – Air travel industry observers have noted a distinct trend among airline passengers—they are placing increased importance on using the lightest possible luggage. “The most common question we receive is centered on finding the lightest suitcase available,” said John Ebb, CEO of the travel goods website, suitcase.com. “Whether for meeting baggage weight restrictions, or just for overall ease of navigating through airports and other travel facilities, the demand is for lightweight options.” Ebb’s observation is based on suitcase.com’s recently released “2011 Consumer Luggage Report,” which was compiled from a consumer survey conducted by the website.

Following the lead of weight-conscious industries like the aerospace and automotive sectors, travel goods manufacturers trying to stay in step with the trend toward lightweight luggage are turning to composite materials. Fiberglass fabric is a promising possibility, except for one drawback: most glass fabric tends to be somewhat plain in appearance. That’s a problem for travel goods designers anxious to meet another pronounced consumer preference—style.

“Luggage exteriors are undergoing a transformation based on consumer demand for unique, artistic designs, that draw attention from the moment out on the baggage claim conveyor belt, to trekking through airports,” said Ebb, citing the suitcase.com survey. “Everyone from kids to adults is attracted to the new wave toward a more fun and flashy experience.”

How can traditionally bland, yet functional, fiberglass fabric fit the bill for a market looking for a ‘fun and flashy experience’? Composites engineers at BGF Industries say in the hard-sided luggage category, where strength and impact resistance are important, BGF’s newly developed Barracuda® aluminized glass fabric could provide the answer. “Barracuda is made from fiberglass fabric, finished with an aluminum coating,” explains Tom Blackburn, Market Manager at BGF. “It has the strength and lightweight characteristics of industrial high performance glass fabric, and it eliminates the need for a weight-adding metal support frame. On the aesthetic side, when we combine Barracuda with a specific resin, it has a 3-D sheen that looks like woven steel. We can even finish it in different metallic colors.”

Blackburn says Barracuda is lightweight and flexible enough to mold to the shape of just about any hard-sided travel bag. “In addition to the traditional suitcase, possible applications include makeup cases, golf bag hard cases, camera and electronics cases, sample cases, and specialty cases we don’t even know about,” he says.

Blackburn concludes, “Glass composites are used throughout an aircraft to provide strength at minimum weight. It only makes sense that we’re using the same materials concept to minimize weight in the baggage that goes in the overhead bin or the luggage hold.”