Materials supplier installs automated composite molding cell, and custom molder opens advanced composites center.

Lanxess subsidiary Bond-Laminates GmbH in Brilon, Germany (U.S. office in Pittsburgh), has started up a demonstration cell for simultaneously forming and injection overmolding heated Tepex continuous-fiber thermoplastic sheets. The fully automated cell was supplied by Engel Austria (U.S. office in York, Pa.) with a 130-metric-ton press and six-axis articulated-arm robot. One special feature is two infrared ovens with a “drawer system” newly developed by Engel The facility will have several demonstration molds for applications in the main target markets of automotive, consumer electronics, and sporting goods. The first mold will be for sports goods made of reinforced TPU sheet overmolded with TPU on both sides after shaping.

Lanxess also announced that its HiAnt proprietary simulation software was recently enhanced to model precisely the cooling of reinforced TP sheet after it is hung in the mold, before the forming and injection cycle begins. This enables Lanxess to determine whether complex geometries can be shaped successfully and whether the sheet might wrinkle or fibers might rip.

Meanwhile, custom injection molder Tri-Mack Plastics Manufacturing Corp., Bristol, R.I., opened an Advanced Composites Center last fall and hired three dozen new employees. It already plans to expand the center, which is designed to process continuous-fiber thermoplastic composites via automated layup of prepreg tape and fabric, compression molding, and injection overmolding. The main focus will be on high-temperature resins like PEEK, PPS, and PEI. Tri-Mack recently completed a project to qualify over 200 part numbers for a large aerospace OEM. Metal-to-plastic conversion cut part weight by an average of 40%.