Continuous inline process for polypropylene honeycomb cores

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  • International patented process
  • Production of honeycomb cores with a thickness between 3 and 30 mm
  • Applications: automotive, ship building & construction

Thermoplastic honeycomb cores are usually produced in several, cost-intensive production steps. At Thermex Waben GmbH this happens in one single operation. The German company employs a continuous process for the cost-efficient production of thermoplastic honeycomb cores that are used for lightweight sandwich panels and parts. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Belgian company Econcore that deals exclusively with the research and development in lightweight construction.

The continuous ThermHex process

The patented ThermHex process is a continuous inline production method where the honeycomb core is produced in a single operation: a polypropylene film structure is extruded, thermally formed by means of rotational vacuum forming, folded up and then in-line laminated with surface materials. This continuous process allows the production of honeycomb cores with a thickness between 3 and  30 mm at a line speed of up to 10 m/min.

 ThermHex continuous production line

The ThermHex continuous production line

Besides the standard densities of 60 kg/m³ and 80 kg/m³, the company also provides the ThermHex PP honeycomb cores in 45 kg/m³ and 120 kg/m³. In fact, with the continuous process the company is in a position to produce basically any required density from 40 kg/m³ to over 200 kg/m³, depending on the core width. In addition, the continuous process also allows large scale production of honeycomb cores of virtually any length. The only limits are the logistic handling of the produced product.

ThermHex honeycomb core material structure

ThermHex Material honeycomb core structure

Applications: from automotive to construction

The honeycomb cores are used for the production of lightweight sandwich panels and parts that are used in various industries such as automotive (rigid truck boxes, caravan body parts, vehicle floor covers, roof linings and casing for sound insulation), yachting and ship building (cockpit bottoms, internal fittings, furniture & furniture components) and construction (lightweight construction walls, sound insulation panels, scaffolding panels, swimming pools). Even complex-shaped parts such as wind turbine gondola casings and nacelle covers are possible. With a thickness of only 3 mm, it is also possible to replace conventional fibre composite boards. Compared to conventional, homogenous fibre composite boards, a weight reduction of up to 50 percent at the same stiffness and loading capacity can be achieved.

 

2014 Hugo Junkers Award of Saxony-Anhalt

For the development of the automated production of lightweight and relatively inexpensive honeycomb cores, the ThermHex Waben GmbH has been awarded the 2014 Hugo Junkers Award of Saxony-Anhalt. Hugo Junkers himself had developed and patented the sandwich construction with honeycomb core for his aircrafts.

Since fiber composites and lightweight construction are key technologies in Saxony-Anhalt, the state has supported the company’s settlement at the location in Halle with 50 percent of the EUR 1.4 million investment. A second 4,000 square meter plant is planned, and the number of employees to double from 10 to 20.

The fact that the company is located right in Halle an der Saale in Saxony-Anhalt is no coincidence. In the year 1901, the paper product company Heilbrun & Pinner developed and patented the expanded paper honeycombs. Now the idea and spirit returned to its birthplace.

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