Demonstration cell for continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastics

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  • Injection molding unit with variable heat management
  • Special feature: two pyrometrically controlled infrared furnaces
  • Several molds for near-series prototype components
  • Hybrid molding process on the rise

Lanxess subsidiary Bond-Laminates GmbH has taken into operation a demonstration cell for processing Tepex continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites at the Brilon site. The company plans to use the facility as a platform to familiarize customers with Tepex and how it is processed. In addition, the company will use the facility to drive forward its own material development.

Special feature: two pyrometrically controlled infrared furnaces

The cell is manufactured by Engel Austria GmbH. The Tepex inserts are introduced to the machine using a magazine with separation function, so that various Tepex sections can be processed in a single production run. Two pyrometrically controlled infrared furnaces with a “drawer system” have been newly developed by Engel. These enable the inserts to be heated quickly in an even, material-specific way, without causing any damage to the thermoplastic matrix of Tepex. A six-axis articulated arm robot with vacuum grippers adapted to Tepex takes over the handling of the inserts. The high speed involved in heating and handling the inserts ensures a high degree of reproducibility for the entire production process, even for very thin-walled components, according to the company.

Bond-Laminates GmbH has taken into operation a demonstration cell for processing Tepex continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite

Bond-Laminates GmbH has taken into operation a demonstration cell for processing Tepex continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites (source: Lanxess AG)

Injection molding unit with variable heat management

The injection molding unit in which the Tepex inserts are shaped and overmolded has a clamping force of 130 metric tons. The maximum projected size for the molded parts is 330 x 280 millimeters, which means that both structural and visible parts in these dimensions can be processed. Heat management in the mold can be either isothermal or variothermal as required. Variothermal mold temperature control results in distortion-free, high-gloss surfaces. The facility is also equipped with a clamping system and associated grippers for inserts with standardized section sizes. These kinds of sections are used to manufacture the specimens needed for testing to standard requirements in material development or shaping experiments, for example.

Several molds for near-series prototype components

The new facility will initially be fitted with a mold for the sports goods industry. The relevant component consists of a Tepex section with TPU matrix that is overmolded with TPU on both sides after shaping. Other near-series molds will soon be available which will then allow to cover applications in automotive, consumer electronics and sports goods industries.

Hybrid molding process on the rise

The hybrid molding process is arousing considerable interest worldwide as it enables the cost-effective production of very lightweight, but still strong structural components in large to very large volumes. Numerous manufacturers of plastic machinery have followed this trend and developed appropriate production plants.

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