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thermoplastic composites | Technology


Above: Battery tray demonstration parts made using BASF’s Ultracom fibre-reinforced composite materials


running on equipment producing TPCs on the Arburg and the KraussMaffei stands. As reported in Injection World October 2013, the Arburg production cell was an all-guns-firing demonstration of what can be achieved with reinforced thermoplastics, featuring not only a glass-reinforced prepreg but also the cutting and incorporation of long fibres into the over-moulding material at the injection machine itself. Arburg highlights the ability, using the latter, to modify the glass length according to the application and the cost advantage of not having to buy pre-compounded LFT granules.


As a demonstrator, the Arburg cell was extremely


Right: The carrier plate of this door module from Brose, in a polypropyl- ene TPC, is around 350 g lighter than a conventional plastic system and 1.2 kg lighter than steel


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powerful, with its sophisticated robotics and also its infrared cameras monitoring the effectiveness of the pre-heating station for the prepreg. But it is not clear how many applications will require the use of both LFTs and prepregs. With a high level of confidentiality surrounding current development projects, it will take a while before the picture becomes clear. Certainly suppliers of LFTs are actively monitoring developments, and indications are that some are actively involved. At LFT producer RTP, Eric Lee, Structural Products manager, certainly sees opportunities. “This is what composites are all about, achieving


synergies between different materials,” he says. However, enquiries about specific projects draw the “no comment” response. The KraussMaffei exhibit, which was based around an AX300 moulding machine, was producing a hollow PA6 TPC component weighing 139g. Produced using the company’s FiberForm technique, it involved producing two composite parts that were then brought together and overmoulded in the machine to form a single hollow member. All over-moulding and trimming was integrated into the automatic production cycle. As also reported in Injection World October 2013, BASF has developed a package of materials and technologies under the Ultracom banner. It offers continuous fibre-reinforced laminates in sheet and tape form, as well as injection moulding grades of polyamide 6 optimized for over-moulding and the required engineering and application development back-up. BASF cooperated with glass manufacturer Owens Corning and Tencate Performance Composites to develop the laminates. At K2013, the company presented the first demon-


strator part for the Ultracom tape variant, called Ultratape. The part is derived from the geometry of a structural battery tray for vehicles with an electric or hybrid drive. It combines tape-reinforced areas with an injection molded rib structure. Two versions of the demonstrator part show the


design freedom when using Ultratape. The first variant demonstrates the localized use of a tape insert in the form of a cross to reinforce specific load paths. The sec- ond variant shows a larger reinforcing structure. According to BASF, the application of Ultratape “makes it possible to satisfy the demanding requirements for mechanical stability in structural parts at the lowest possible weight.” The part was produced under conditions near to


large-scale manufacturing using an automated manufacturing process called “Ultralitec,” developed by automotive supplier Rehau and the research institute Neue Materialien Bayreuth. In this, the tape is first taken from the roll and laid down to form the desired lay-up sequence. This lay-up is consolidated in a heated press, after which it is formed and over-moulded in an automated production cell.


BASF says that although the thermoplastic tape


requires more processing effort than woven mats, it offsets this by offering a more application-specific, local reinforcement based on the actual load path. The multi-part tape process is also more complex, but has less trim waste and provides higher performance, the company claims. BASF also demonstrated production of TPCs in an


INJECTION WORLD | January/February 2014 www.injectionworld.com


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