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composites and LFTs | technology

Above: Ticona’s Celstran LFT is used in the substructure of the GMC Acadia instrument panel, cutting weight and cost

manufacture the sub-structure carrier for the all-poly- olefi n IP design, which is said to cut weight by 15%. Meanwhile, Sabic Innovative Plastics announced

last year it is increasing capacity for production of its Stamax LFT-G PP grades at its plant at Genk in Belgium, with the new production capacity scheduled to commence operation in the second half of this year. The company has not disclosed the size of the capacity expansion at the Genk facility, which supplies the European and Asian markets. However, when the unit opened in 2010 it was said to have a single Stamax production line with a capacity of 30,000 tonnes/year. Stamax LFT-G products are produced using a

proprietary ‘wire coating’ technique, which the company claims allows higher line speeds than conventional pultrusion production. Sabic Innovative Plastics’ automotive leader in Europe Leon Jacobs says the new capacity is required to meet growing demand for Stamax PP products from the automotive industry in applications such as front end and door modules, tailgate structures and seating systems. Specialist LFT-G producer Epic Polymers increased capacity at its plant at Kaiserlautern in Germany last year with the commissioning of a new 4,000 tonne/year production line using the company’s fi bre impregnation production technology. It will produce a range of high performance LFT grades based on PA and PPA rein- forced with long glass and carbon fi bres.

Right: Epic’s

latest Strator LFT is pitched at replacing

metal in gear applications

Epic’s LFT-G products are marketed under the Strator brand and are aimed at applica- tions requiring high levels of mechani- cal performance over a broad range of temperatures. The company claims that at temperatures up to 180˚C the materials can outperform PPA, PPS or PEEK.

One of the most recent additions to the Epic range is Stator A-3XC, a long carbon fi bre reinforced PA6,6 grade originally developed for

20 INJECTION WORLD | January/February 2013 www.

production of plastics gears for a textile machinery manufacturer. “At 330 MPA, the tensile strength of Strator A-3XC exceeds that of many metal alloys,” says Fred Panhuizen, director of marketing and technology at Epic. “The long carbon fi bre reinforcement results in a fatigue strength of 100 MPa, which is signifi cantly better than most metals.” LFTs played a key role in the development of the all-thermoplastic rear hatch (lift-gate) door for the latest Renault Clio. The structural core of this three- part component is injection moulded using Styron’s Inspire LFT-G PP system, which comprises a long glass fi bre reinforced concentrate that is diluted with PP copolymer at the moulding machine. Styron’s Inspire LFT-G PP is also used on the latest

version of the Ford Fusion car in the US to manufacture a new integrated hood bump stop and headlamp fi xing system designed to meet the latest US pedestrian safety regulations. Replacing a plastic/steel assembly, the part is produced in a 30% glass reinforced Inspire PP grade by Magna Exterior and incorporates two shear pins that help to reduce the Head Injury Criterion (HIC) result in Pedestrian Protection tests by 30% by breaking away under impact. One of the key benefi ts of LFT-G compounds is the low initial investment required for processors – the products can be processed on standard injection moulding equipment. The downside is the maximum fi bre length achievable. Most LFT-G products offer an initial maximum fi bre length of 10-12mm prior to plasticising, where shear forces in the screw can result in considerable fi bre breakage.

Direct compounding of LFTs at the processing machine (LFT-D) avoids the granulation step and enables longer glass fi bre lengths to be incorporated. KraussMaffei has had considerable success with its Injection Moulding Compounding (IMC) systems, which manufacture LFT-D products using a twin screw compounding system feeding directly into an injection moulding unit. However, while material costs can be reduced, the initial capital cost is considerable. During the Fakuma fair in Germany in October last year, injection moulding machinery maker Arburg demonstrated a new system for direct processing of LFT-D materials developed in combination with Würzburg, Germany-based Kunstst- off-Zentrum SKZ that could reduce the entry cost. The system uses a

modifi ed reciprocal screw plasticis- ing unit allowing glass fi bres of up to 100mm in length to be incorpo- rated at the moulding machine. The Arburg/SKZ solution feeds

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