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reinforcing fibres | Innovation Right:


Thermoflow chopped glass fibres from Johns Manville


agreements with China-based Xingtai Jinniu Fibreglass Company and Taishan Fibreglass.


Carbon on the rise Use of carbon fibre continues to grow, not only in mats and tapes for continuously reinforced composites in high-end automotive and aerospace applications but also in injection moulding compounds. Andreas Erber, responsible for thermoplastic composites at carbon- based product specialist SGL Group, says the group is now moving into a new segment with its thermoplastics portfolio. SGL Group has previously concentrated on thermo-


set applications such as continuous-fibre prepregs, but for several months now has been producing its own long fibre thermoplastic (LFT) compounds based on carbon fibre reinforcements (and also glass fibre), as well as composite sheets and tapes based on thermo- plastics. It is also selling carbon fibres to other compounders for production of long and short fibre reinforced compounds. Erber highlights the fact that SGL uses its own heavy tow (50k) carbon fibres, which go by the name of Sigrafil. He says this is very much customised for users in the automotive industry. The company has also developed a special sizing. The portfolio also includes a more typical 24k carbon fibre dedicated to thermoplastic applications. For a long time, there has been a question mark


hanging over the price of carbon fibres and composites. Part of this is down to the problem of the cost of producing in low volumes. Erber takes the view that increased demand for composites, in combination with elaborated designs of composite components, will see overall costs to fall. To this end, SGL is currently setting up a Lightweight and Application Center. This will offer


Table 1: Typical properties of 40% carbon fibre (50k) reinforced PA6 LFT


Typical properties


Tensile strength, MPa Tensile modulus, GPa Elongation at break, %


Flexural strength (O’), MPa Flexural modulus (O’), GPa Charpy impact strength, kJ/m2


Charpy notched impact strength, kJ/m2 Viscosity, cm3


/g


Coefficient of linear expansion, E-6/K Deflection temperature under 8 Mpa load Source: SGL Group


18 COMPOUNDING WORLD | October 2016


Dry 295 30.9 1.2


450 25.2 58 16


123 2.9


206 Values


Conditioned 220 22.5 1.3


310 16.6 65 20


customers services such as simulation and prototyping to help bring costs down. On the raw materials front, SGL announced in September that it had opened a new line for making PAN fibres in Lavradio, in Portugal, consolidating its vertical integration. The production line has been set up by converting and enhancing parts of the existing production facility there.


Cutting carbon cost Elsewhere, various other attempts have been made to develop new lower-cost production routes. Several years ago, for example, the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) undertook work on using polyethylene fibres rather than the usual polyacrylonitrile as a precursor, but that development appears to have been put on hold. More recently, it has been making progress with a process that uses a low-cost acrylic fibre. Earlier this year, researchers at ORNL demonstrated


a production method they estimate will halve the cost of carbon fibre and use more than 60% less energy to make it. The process has been prototyped by industrial partners and ORNL is now making the new method available for licensing. The first announced licensee is LeMond Composites, founded by ex-Tour de France cycle race champion Greg LeMond. It says the first com- mercially available product will be ready in Q1 of 2018. “The researchers’ success promises to accelerate adoption of carbon fibre composites in high-volume industrial applications including automobiles, wind turbines, compressed gas storage and building infrastructure,” according to ORNL. ORNL points out that in current commercial practice,


the PAN precursor is chemically modified and optimised to maximise the mechanical properties of the end product. “The high cost of specialty precursor materials and the energy and capital-intensive nature of the conversion process are the principal contributors to the high cost of the end product,” it says. “Acrylic fibre of


www.compoundingworld.com


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