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thermoplastic composites | Technology Nevertheless, Lanxess is not abandoning plastics/

metal hybrid technology. “The Tepex hybrid front end carrier can be seen as an evolution of the plastic/metal hybrid,” says company spokesman Udo Erbstösser. “But it is definitely not a replacement of the plastic-metal technology. The market gives room for both technolo- gies [as well as] fully thermoplastic front ends using highly reinforced materials. Requirements strongly differ from customer to customer and even for different vehicle classes.” And that is not just in front ends. Last year, Lanxess

demonstrated an instrument panel support produced from a new variant of plastic-metal hybrid technology, using a metal forming process developed by a partner company it cooperated with.

Above: This FiberForm TPC manufacturing cell was displayed by KraussMaffei at K2013. It is based around an AX300 moulding machine

integrated production cell on its K2013 stand. Ultrala- minate inserts were over-moulded with an Ultramid rigid component and an Elastollan TPU soft component. Lanxess made clear its belief in the future of TPCs with the acquisition of long-term partner Bond-Lami- nates in 2012. (Bond-Laminates was originally set up after a management buy-out of the Tepex thermoplastic laminates business originally created by DuPont in the 1990s.) A few months ago, Lanxess announced that, together with automotive component producer ZF Friedrichshafen and other partners, it had developed the world’s first plastics brake pedal, produced from a Tepex grade over-moulded with a Durethan polyamide 6. It weighs around half as much as a steel brake pedal, but is just as strong mechanically. The first commercial production of the pedals was

Below: KraussMaffei produced this hollow PA6 TPC part at K using its Fiberform system. Weighing 139g, it was joined in the mould by overmoulding

originally set to begin at the end of last year, but at press time ZF Frieidrischshafen would not comment on the status of the project. In December, ZF Friedrichshafen agreed to sell its Rubber & Plastics Business Unit to Chinese company Zhuzhou Times New Material Technol- ogy Co, but it is now understood that ZF’s activities in composites may not be included in the sale. Commenting on the brake pedal project, Lanxess head of High Performance Materials Dr Michael Zobel says: “This is all the more of a success when you consid- er that all-plastic brake pedals, as safety components, were viewed as an impossibility just a few years ago on account of the extremely high demands imposed on their mechanical strength”.

FEM analysis is key Developments like this are possible thanks to the development of new materials, and also to the signifi- cant advances made in recent years in computerized finite element analysis and simulation techniques. It is worth pointing out that, while there was a considerable buzz at K2013 about the technology, it was already on display at K2010. GK, for example, demonstrated a prototype TPC part— a passenger car side impact protection component developed in close collaboration with Audi, KraussMaffei, Lanxess, Bond-Laminates, and Jacob Composite. GK’s Götze says that one of the key developments in the intervening three years has been in FEM analysis that can now be applied to parts incorpo- rating continuous fibre reinforcement. “Back in K2010, we made lots of contacts for

projects, but it soon became clear that we needed to do more work to make the technology succeed,” Götze says. “Particularly as far as simulations were con- cerned: at the time we were unable to incorporate material properties from the sheet reinforcement, so people in the automotive industry were unable to design and evaluate parts in the way they were used to. That’s why we set up the LIPA (Lightweight Integrated Process Application) project in 2011.” This has led in the meantime to the commercial production of some low-volume parts, such as the seat pan on the Opel Astra OPC sports coupé and the lower beam of the latest Audi A8 front end module. The aim of the LIPA project has been to develop

know-how technology for integrated forming and over-moulding of TPCs to the level that it could be used in mass production. The focus is on the process consolidation, complete process control

and monitoring, as well as on the efficient use of resources and energy. Mould design is critical to the successful production

32 INJECTION WORLD | January/February 2014

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