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Improved structural performance of long fibre composites

Source:International Plastics News for Asi     Date:2022-05-02
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Long fibre composites are known for their excellent properties that include strength, toughness and durability. At higher aspect ratio, the reinforced fibres are extended longer, yet with the strength and durability that enable them to withstand distortion and retain their shape when subjected to heavy load.  Moreover, long fibre composites offer the flexibility that make them ideal for applications in automotive, transportation, durable consumer goods, infrastructure and agriculture. The lightweighting potential and greater functionality are also added characteristics along with stability and reduced thermal expansion. 


Long fibre composites based on reclaimed fishing nets 

Avient announced the commercial availability of Complēt™ R long fibre-reinforced composites, which incorporate post-consumer recycled nylon 6 material reclaimed from end-of-life fishing nets.  This is Avient’s first recycled-content long fibre composite material in a planned larger portfolio based on recycled resin. As Eric Wollan, General Manager for Long Fibre Technologies at Avient puts it: “Historically, it has been a challenge to source streams of recycled resins that are compatible with the pultrusion process used to manufacture long fibre composites. But we’re committed to leading the industry by offering sustainable options even in our performance-critical materials like long fibre composites.”


Creating a positive environmental impact by reducing ocean-bound plastic waste, Complēt R nylon 6 long fibre composites can help OEMs to meet their goals for using materials containing recycled content. Potential markets contain those whose products involve structural applications often deployed in demanding environments. Examples include lighter-weight adventure gear for outdoor recreation, next-generation vehicles that go further using fewer energy resources, and recycled-content office furnishings that contribute towards LEED certification for buildings. Complēt™ R nylon 6 long fibre composites provide stiffness, strength, and toughness performance on par with standard nylon 6 long fibre formulations using virgin resin, giving these materials the structural capability necessary to be used as an alternative to metals.

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Complēt™ R long fibre-reinforced composites from Avient incorporate 

post-consumer recycled nylon 6 material reclaimed from end-of-life fishing nets. 


Using these composites as a metal replacement also fosters significant weight reductions along with the time and cost savings benefits of single-step injection moulding.  Formulations are available globally in a standard black colour at typical weight percentages of long glass fibre, long carbon fibre, or hybrid combinations. Levels of post-consumer resin content vary within the offerings, which allows end products to meet different performance and sustainability requirements. 


Avient Corporation, with 2021 revenues of US$4.8 billion, provides specialised and sustainable material solutions that transform customer challenges into opportunities, bringing new products to life for a better world. Avient offers unique technologies that improve the recyclability of products and enable recycled content to be incorporated, thus advancing a more circular economy, has light-weighting solutions that replace heavier traditional materials like metal, glass and wood, which can improve fuel efficiency in all modes of transportation and reduce carbon footprint, and promotes sustainable infrastructure solutions that increase energy efficiency, renewable energy, natural resource conservation and fibre optic / 5G network accessibility. 


Lightweighting through novel plastic-composite hybrid solution

SABIC has collaborated with Dongfeng Motors, one of the largest truck manufacturers in China, on the development of a novel plastic composite hybrid solution to produce a strong lightweight truck-mounted toolbox. The application is made with a combination of SABIC’s STAMAX™ resin, a long glass fibre polypropylene (PP), and continuous glass fibre composite laminate inserts via a single overmoulding process. The finished part is lighter by up to 30% compared to a similarly designed part in steel, and use of the solution allows Dongfeng to benefit from resulting production efficiencies.


“This plastic composite solution is a great example of how SABIC helps automotive customers expand design options and simplify production so they can achieve their goals,” said Abdullah Al-Otaibi, General Manager, ETP & Market Solutions, SABIC. “By combining two different materials, our solution improves both performance and processability. Now that this composite technology is validated and in mass production with Dongfeng, we see many other automotive applications that could benefit and we are excited to help manufacturers seize those opportunities.”


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SABIC collaborates with Dongfeng Motors on the development of a novel plastic 

composite hybrid solution to produce a strong lightweight truck-mounted toolbox. 


In addition to truck toolboxes, automotive applications for this hybrid solution with STAMAX resin can potentially include tailgates, seating, front-end modules and battery housings for electric vehicles. Use of this plastic composite solution can enable manufacturers to not only reduce weight, but also lower carbon emissions, control costs through production efficiencies, and achieve higher performance.


SABIC’s hybrid solution combines STAMAX resin with thermoformed composite inserts made of unidirectional (UD) glass fibre-reinforced PP tape from China-based Qiyi Tech, a company dedicated to the development and production of continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastic composite materials. The laminate inserts are pre-heated before being placed in the tool and overmoulded with STAMAX resin in a single operation. The inserts add stiffness and strength to critical areas of the part, enabling the use of thin-wall geometries that can reduce weight. Compared to steel, the conventional material for truck toolbox applications, SABIC’s plastic composite hybrid solution expands design options, enables the consolidation of parts, and avoids secondary operations that can add costs and prevent high-volume production. The plastic composite solution reduces the weight of the toolbox by approximately 30 percent (from 6 to 4 kg) without sacrificing the stiffness, toughness, or strength required for this utility application. STAMAX resins feature 10-25% lower density than some competitive materials for weight-out. Their properties include high stiffness and impact strength, excellent structural performance, and easy flow for thin walls.


Recyclable alternatives to sheet moulding compounds

LANXESS has expanded its Tepex flowcore composite range. With Tepex, LANXESS is one of the leading manufacturers of fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composites for lightweight and highly mechanically resilient structural components. The specialty chemicals company offers a composite range called Tepex flowcore for numerous variations of the compression moulding process. This product line has now been expanded and optimised. The new composites are designed as alternatives to thermoset sheet moulding compounds (SMCs). Offering similar mechanical performance, they are much more ductile and, as thermoplastic systems, much easier to recycle than SMCs. They are easy to process because they are moulded and shaped by thermal means only.


“We are targeting Tepex flowcore primarily at large underbody paneling components and load compartment wells for cars, but also at components such as large casings and battery covers,” says Sabrina Anders, project manager for Tepex flowcore at LANXESS High Performance Materials business unit. Tepex flowcore has already proved its worth in series production, such as in a bumper beam for a mid-size sedan from a Japanese car manufacturer.


The new plate-shaped composites are offered with a matrix based on polypropylene, polyamide 6, polyamide 12, thermoplastic polyurethane or flame-retardant polycarbonate. The matrix is reinforced with long fibres rather than the continuous fibres found in Tepex dynalite. These are up to 50 millimetres long and distributed throughout the matrix as cut fibres of constant lengths. Tepex flowcore is offered with either glass- or carbon-fibre reinforcement. In suitable processing conditions, components made from the new lightweight materials can exhibit almost the same flexural stiffness as their equivalents in the Tepex dynalite range, and they have much higher strengths than injection-moulded materials, which are usually reinforced with short fibres. Depending on processing method and component design, the fibres can be arranged in one preferred direction or completely randomly. “The components can be designed such that they exhibit mechanical properties quasi-isotropically; in other words, almost identically in all directions,” explains Ms. Anders.


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No additional injection-moulded material was used to produce the ribbing on the demonstrator model.

It is made entirely from compression-moulded Tepex flowcore.


The new composites are extremely versatile in terms of how they can be processed. For example, they can be compression-moulded with standard tools for long-fibre- or glass-mat-reinforced thermoplastics (LFTs and GMTs, respectively). They can also be used with existing SMC systems and tools. “They have such good flow characteristics that delicate areas of components, such as ribbed structures, can be reproduced with great precision, and walls can be made very thin,” says Ms. Anders. Tepex flowcore and Tepex dynalite can also be used together in compression moulding processes, demonstrating excellent adhesion between each other due to their identical polymer matrix. This opens up the opportunity to use Tepex dynalite to reinforce specific component areas under particularly heavy stress and, at the same time, to integrate features such as guides and mounts in a cost-saving way with Tepex flowcore. Another benefit is that the processor obtains all these composite semi-finished products from one place rather than having to combine materials from different manufacturers.


The new composites – much like Tepex dynalite – are also well suited to the hybrid moulding process. This involves them being formed in an injection moulding tool and then being given features by means of injection moulding in a single process. The production of the bumper support for the Japanese sedan went one step further. That structural component was made from Tepex flowcore and Tepex dynalite, overmoulded and functionalised with a polyamide 6 compound from the Durethan brand.  

- This article also appears in the International Plastics News for Asia - April issue. To read the full issue, click here








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