From idea to series production-ready fibre composite solutions: At JEC World KraussMaffei has highlighted its system expertise in developing and implementing series production-ready processes for fibre-reinforced lightweight construction. The focus of the trade show appearance was on new processes and applications that are based on both thermoset and thermoplastic matrix materials. The FiberForm process, pultrusion and unidirectional (UD) tapes are front and center.
"We give our customers advice independent of the process and accompany them along the entire journey, from idea to series production-ready fibre composite solutions. This expertise is what sets us apart, along with our experience and the worldwide references from serial producers. In doing so, we supply solutions along the entire process chain and work closely together with partners from the industry and research communities," states Nicolas Beyl, President of the Reaction Process Machinery Segment at KraussMaffei.
For the first time at JEC, a continuous-fibre-reinforced thermoplastic series-produced lightweight component with a unit quantity of over 1 million per year was exhibited. It is manufactured by forming and back-injecting stable fibre-reinforced composites, known as organo sheets. The organo sheet, which is only 0.5 mm thick, ensures the required stiffness with a low dead weight and makes a major contribution to weight savings (up to 4 kg/vehicle). The injection moulding process helps the dimensional compliance of the geometry and is responsible for the additional component functions.
An additional sample component from a research project with the Dresden University of Technology demonstrates the use of recycled materials such as recycled carbon fibres and remanufactured compounds. In another groundbreaking innovation, the injection moulding production technology called foam moulding was implemented on a complex geometry. This technology makes it possible to produce thermoplastic sandwich structures with fibre-reinforced cover layers in a one-shot process.
The third application, a successful combination of FiberForm and swivel plate technology for multi-component injection molding, is a center armrest for the automotive interior.
"This combination can be used to create completely new visual and haptic component features for thermoplastic composites in a single process. The TPE component gives the functional and visible parts of the center armrest an outstandingly soft and visually appealing surface," explains Dr. Mesut Cetin, Group Product Manager at KraussMaffei Automation. In turn, the use of the composite sheet increases the rigidity and strength of the component. This enables the reinforcement ribs and the component itself to be designed with thinner walls, cutting weight by approximately 20 percent and cutting costs by around 15 percent.
New standards for pultrusion with iPul
Another highlight at the KraussMaffei booth was the presentation of the iPul technology from KraussMaffei Reaction Process Machinery. With the system solution launched on the market in 2017, the company has set new standards in pultrusion, a continuous process for fibre-reinforced profiles and round bars. The iPul system faster production speed compared to usual open bath processes.
"Our iPul system is exactly what the times demand. The new technology is attracting massive interest in the construction industry, for example for window profiles or rebar in concrete, or in wind power. In this field, we recently got a series order for a large project in Russia," confirms Philipp Zimmermann, Head of the Composites/Surfaces Business Unit at KraussMaffei. However, the automotive industry offers a great deal of potential, as does the energy and power supply sector. "In this field, we've launched two forward-looking development projects with Tier1 suppliers and the Fraunhofer IGCV. Here, pultrusion's true strength is on display: cost-effective production of fibre composite profiles with a low barrier to entry in terms of investment in systems and tooling. This makes lightweight construction as attractive as can be," states Zimmermann confidently.
The new iPul series is KraussMaffei's first bold foray into the field of complete turnkey systems where the systems, process and mold technology are from a single source. The series features central control of important process parameters such as the output capacity and draw-off speed. A further benefit of iPul is the great flexibility and precision of the systems. The injection box and metering technology with a newly developed mixing head make it possible to process completely different resins, including even polyurethane systems.
First-class surfaces for large components
The long-fibre injection process is KraussMaffei's established series system solution for fibre-reinforced lightweight construction. "The long-fibre injection process is ideal for large-format, complex and simultaneously thin-walled parts. Typical end applications include finishers for trucks, commercial vehicles and agricultural machines. Here, we continue to see incredible potential in the market, particularly in China and the US," says Zimmermann. The high degree of automation ensures short cycle times. The high fibre volume content of up to 50 % guarantees high component stability and low weight at the same time. LFI components feature high temperature stability and excellent impact strength and have surfaces that can be used directly off-mold. At JEC, KraussMaffei has presented a series component for a tractor side cover.
Combination of UD tapes and FiberForm
Extrusion specialists KraussMaffei Berstorff have raised their game even further in the FiberForm process with UD tapes. UD tapes feature unidirectional reinforcement fibres made of materials such as glass or carbon that are embedded in a thermoplastic matrix. "UD tapes are the ideal basis for organo sheets for the FiberForm process. We can't wait to show customers our rock-solid system expertise at JEC. We're taking our expertise from extrusion and thermoplastic lightweight construction and bundling it with injection molding technology to develop new and ingenious solutions in lightweight construction," states Hilmar Heithorst, Product Manager at KraussMaffei Berstorff.
Another application for UD tapes is in thermoplastic composite pipes (TCP). A TCP system wraps UD tapes around plastic pipes and then melts the layers. This composite material and the orientation of the longitudinal fibres gives them incredible pressure resistance and makes them exceptionally well suited for the requirements of the oil and gas industry.
In developing the UD tape technologies, KraussMaffei is working hand-in-hand with the Fraunhofer Pilot Plant Center for Polymer Synthesis and Processing (PAZ) in Schkopau, Germany. Since 2017, the Center has had a new UD tape system, the world's largest melt-impregnation plant. The UD tape system achieves an impressive manufacturing speed of up to 20 m/min at processing temperatures up to 350 °C.