Interest in developing high-volume composite production systems for automotive applications continues to grow.
Plasan’s development of an out-of-autoclave system was an attention getter. Now comes a strategic alliance to cooperate on the development, production and commercialization of thermoplastic composites for vehicle production. The players are significant: TenCate Advanced Composites and BAS.
TenCate says it has a leading market position in continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites that are now mainly used for aircraft structures and interiors in programs such as the Airbus A380, A350 and Boeing 787. BASF is a major innovator in engineering thermoplastics such as polyamide, PBT-type polyester and polysulfones.
The emphasis on thermoplastics versus thermosets means that cycle times are dramatically reduced. Products are also more recyclable. Work still needs to be done on welding technologies to assemble thermoplastic composite structures.
“The next major advance in lightweight automotive constructions will not be possible without a dramatic reduction in processing costs. This can be accomplished by using continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites. The breakthrough for composites to mass production, however, has not yet been made. By working together with TenCate, we intend to jointly achieve this breakthrough”, said Melanie Maas-Brunner, new head of the Engineering Plastics Europe business unit of BASF in Germany.
Thermoplastic laminates with continuous fiber reinforcement are woven or non-woven fabrics impregnated with resins and formed into sheets, which are extremely light yet very strong. UD-tapes, another product class, make full use of the anisotropic nature of uni-directionally (UD) oriented impregnated fibers. In a second step, these semi-finished products can be formed into more complex parts and overmolded by means of injection molding.