Learn the Latest on Materials & Applications for Auto Thermoplastics Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. May 2016

Ford, BASF, Borealis, PlastiComp, Asahi Kasei, Arkema, Covestro, Sigmatex, and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada will present on traditional and ‘hybrid’ carbon-, glass- and natural-fiber reinforced composites, including systems based on polyolefins, PC, liquid reactive resins, bioplastics, and more.


Want to keep abreast on the latest developments in automotive lightweighting enabled by thermoplastics composites? Do so by

registering for our second presentation of “Thermoplastics Composites for Automotive” (TCC Auto2016) conference on June 15-16 at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, Mich. TCC Auto2016 is presented by Plastics Technology magazine and CompositesWorld, sister publications within Gardner Business Media, and will be concurrent with the Ameriomold 2016 show and conference, presented by Gardner’s MoldingMaking Technology magazine.


Our first unique conference, TCC Auto2014, was a standing-room only event, with over 250 attendees. At next month’s event, over a day and a half, we’ll present 22 speakers on topics in Applications & Materials and Machinery & Processes. Expect TCC Auto2016 to provide cutting-edge information on lightweighting, cost reduction through automation, and new approaches to automotive production for injection molders and composites fabricators.


Materials & Applications will present nine speakers on the first day, starting with a keynote address Driving Innovations and Trends for Next Generation Automotive Composites by Cynthia Flanigan, Ford Motor Co. Here is a brief look at the other eight presentations in this category that are featured on the first day:


New Automotive Lightweighting Applications Using Carbon- and- Glass-Fiber Reinforced Thermoplastics, Mark Minnichelli, BASF. As automotive OEMs continue to drive forward to meet new CAFE requirements, the value of removing mass from vehicles continues to increase. New innovative thermoplastic materials and processes involving use of carbon fiber and glass fiber are being developed in order to remove mass from vehicle components while maintain needed performance requirements. Several new automotive applications involving these new materials will be shared.


Fibremod Carbon: An Economical, Lightweight Solution for the Automotive Industry, Sanjay Patel & Tobias Allmendinger, Borealis Group. Borealis, a leading provider of innovative solutions in the field of polyoefins, has developed “revolutionary” carbon-fiber reinforced PP grades based on its proprietary Fibremod technology. This leading-edge technology portfolio already has a proven track record in achieving weight reduction in many automotive applications with the Fibremod series of long- and short-glass PP compounds for the automotive and appliance industries, launched in 2013. This added Fibremod Carbon innovation is expected to help the automotive industry to reap the benefits of carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics such as outstanding density-to-weight ratio, allowing for significant weight reduction and increased functionalization and modularization of components. The excellent economic efficiency of the Fibremod Carbon portfolio will also promote the more widespread use of this potentially revolutionary material in the mass production of automobiles.


Lower Carbon Fiber’s Cost to Entry Barrier with Long-Fiber Hybrids, Eric Wollan, PlastiComp, Inc. Lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites are of increasing interest to the automotive community for their ability to reduce vehicle mass along with associated fuel consumption and emissions. The high price point of carbon fiber presents a barrier to its widespread adoption in the cost-sensitive automotive industry without innovative implementation options. Compounder of long-fiber thermoplastic compounds PlastiComp has developed hybrid long-fiber reinforced thermoplastics composites that combine long glass fiber and long carbon fiber together in a single composite pellet for processing via injection molding. This approach reduces the volume of carbon fiber necessary to obtain higher mechanical performance materials and allows cost-effective long-fiber hybrids to bridge the price gap between all-glass fiber and all-carbon fiber composites.


With most automotive components that can benefit from conversion to long glass fiber composites already accomplished, the industry is in need of more robust thermoplastic material solutions to continue switching more components from metal to structural plastics. Long-fiber hybrids are the ideal segue technology to begin the process of adopting lighter weight carbon fiber as a substitute for metals in components that require performance beyond long glass fiber capabilities. Wollan will present comparative mechanical property data and cost information to explain the performance and economic advantages hybrid long glass and carbon fiber thermoplastics composites offer to the automotive industry.


Bi-Modal Long-Fiber Technology Provides New Enhancements for Structural Composites, J.P. Wiese, Asahi Kasei Plastics. Various automotive components have utilized long-glass PP products for applications that require a balance of structural strength and excellent impact performance. Thermylene I, the latest innovation from Asahi Kasei Plastics, is a bi-modal long-fiber thermoplastic (LFT) that continues the trend of the replacement of costly high-performance engineered compounds for additional weight and cost advantages over traditional LFTs. Weise will present new developmental data pertaining to the development of glass-reinforced compounds, covering dimensional stability, weight, and a balance of properties.


Liquid Reactive Thermoplastic Resins for Automotive Applications, Dana Swan, Arkema. As automotive makers strive to meet tighter government standards (CAFE standards 36.6 mpg by 2017 and EU CO2 emission levels 95 g/km by 2020), the explosion of composite materials is increasing. Lightweighting of automobiles with thermoplastics composites brings the advantages of high technical performance, part consolidation, and recyclability of the scrap and final parts. However, technical limitations around processing of traditional thermoplastics has hindered adoption of thermoplastic composites in the industry. Recent developments of a range of liquid reactive thermoplastic resins, marketed under the Elium trade name, has alleviated some of these challenges, Recent research and development in the processing of the resins for automotive applications will be described, Processing methodology include infusion, RTM and HP-RTM.


Developments in Continuous Fiber-Reinforced Thermoplastic Composites Using Polycarbonate, Paul Platte, Covestro. With increasing demand for lightweighting solutions, thermoplastic composites based on PC resins are a growing alternative to metal or other plastics composite options that target vehicle interior and exterior applications. A new class of thin, lightweight continuous fiber PC composites is under development and will advance composite solutions for the automotive and transportation markets.  Continuous fiber PP composites offer designers and engineers high stiffness, impact strength, dimensional stability and class-A surface quality for first-surface and semi-structural applications.


Target automotive applications of door panels, body panels and seat backs have potential for over 40 percent weight reduction compared with aluminum. For commercial buses or heavy trucks where durability and lightweighting are valued, applications such as interior and exterior panels are also envisioned. Additionally, these new continuous fiber PC composites have potential to offer high yield rates and lower coating expense for a manufacturing cost advantage. Designing with thermoplastic composites brings unique challenges not typically seen with traditional metals or unfilled polymers. Designers must have a good understanding of the dimensional and aesthetic capabilities afforded by the continuous fiber PC composite structure.


To consider composites in any semi-structural application, design engineers must be able to accurately predict the part’s performance under static or dynamic structural loads. Manufacturing engineers must be able to anticipate limitations in part design, tooling and forming that may arise which impact the economical production of complex, three-dimensional, high-surface-quality components. Platte will discuss innovations in continuous fiber PC composites, and highlight the progress toward solutions that address the design and manufacturing considerations for application development.


A Healthy Diet for Automotive Materials: Lightweighting Through Green Thermoplastic Composites, Karen Stoeffler, National Research Council (NRC) Canada. Despite the drastic decrease of oil prices, automotive manufacturers are still under pressure to develop new technologies allowing for the reduction of emissions. Lighter materials, electrification, alternative fuels and vehicle autonomy are some of those technologies. In this presentation, NRC’s Stoeffler will show you how to design lighter and greener thermoplastic composites meeting automotive cost and performance requirements. The topics will include: Thermoplastic compounds based on renewable resources (biobased plastics or natural fibers) for injection molding applications; structural thermoplastic composites integrating higher aspect ratio natural reinforcements by D-LFT; and, how to formulate these materials and how to process them successfully to reach your requirements in terms of mechanical and thermal performance. Specific topics such as VOC control will also be addressed.


SigmaRF Carbon Thermoplastic Material in Medium-to-High Volume Automotive Applications, Brian Gardner, Sigmatex. The ease of processing a co-mingled carbon thermoplastic material known as SigmRF has been demonstrated in a Sigmatex-led UK Centric Automotive Lightweighting Excellence (LX) Program. Prototype door skins have been produced demonstrating SigmaRF’s capability for medium-to-high volume automotive applications and its tangible benefits of reduced weight, ease of processing, high- volume automotive TAKT time and enhanced mechanical performance over conventional aluminum. The presentation will give an overview of the LX program, the OEMs involved and the role of SignaRF in achieving the objectives. 


Ensuring a Package Is Recyclable AND Useful

By: Heather Caliendo 4. May 2016

Generally speaking, there’s a lot of doom and gloom talk in the recycling space at the moment, mostly thanks to low oil prices, but despite that consumers remain passionate about the topic.


It’s been reported that many customers are turning to virgin materials over recycled materials due to cost considerations. But during her keynote address at SPI’s first-ever ReFocus Recycling Summit & Expo (April 25-27; Orlando, Fla), Kelly Semrau, sr. v.p. global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability for SC Johnson, said that consumers are very much passionate about packaging that not only offers recyclability but is also made from recycled content.


“Recycled content is what consumers want to see on labels and packages—all over the world,” Semrau said.


She noted that her company has a goal to add a “please recycle” message onto its low-density polyethylene Ziploc bags. However, before that can be added, the company has to ensure that enough communities can accept the material. Because of its lightweight structure, those type of bags tend to get tangled in recycling equipment and Semrau said it will be an “uphill battle” as many MRF operators don’t want a new product added to their stream.


“One thing we know from consumer focus groups is that some people dislike a great brand like Ziploc because they don’t feel it’s environmental and now that we have issue with plastics in the oceans— we don’t want to be part of that,” she said. “We want to make sure we get our products recycled— it’s very tricky and we know this but we’re going after it. Consumers want recycled content, they want to know that they can throw all their products in the recycling bin, and we know we have to work to educate consumers and municipalities and need to debunk myths.”


During Refocus, I talked with Alan DiUmberto, sales manager for the recycling division at American Starlinger-Sahm, about the overall consumer demand for recyclable packaging, and he brought up a very interesting point.


“What happens in its next life?” he asked. Meaning there’s a lot of focus on making sure a package is recycled, but what happens after that?


“I would like to see the words ‘recyclable and useful’ on a package,” he said. 


So for consumers when they see ‘recyclable and useful,’ they would know that they can recycle the package, and when they do recycle it, it will be made into something useful. Those three words could truly help to express the recycling value chain to the consumer.


Alan is on to something with that idea—maybe marketers of consumer packaged companies should take note. 

Rethinking the Injection Screw: Is It a Trend?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 4. May 2016

Renowned screw designer Robert F. Dray wrote to me recently, lamenting that injection molding screw design has not received the kind of attention that the extrusion industry has paid to perfecting this fundamental processing component.


“It is unfortunate that the injection molding industry has not placed the emphasis that is should on screw design and the advantages of lower melt temperatures with advanced screw design,” Dray said.


Things may be changing. In fact, it seems to be growing almost fashionable to question the very foundations of injection screw design that have been accepted for the past 60 years.


Item: Spiral Logic Ltd. of Hong Kong has developed a zero-compression screw that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Melting the resin is accomplished entirely by conductive heating from the heater bands, not by frictional shear. This is said to cure numerous ills: inconsistent melt temperature, pressure, density, and viscosity, as well as resin degradation and resulting “black specks.” One precision molder of medical parts, Makuta Technics, Shelbyville, Ind., swears by the SL screw. It and its associated molding company in Japan have equipped more than 100 machines with this technology. Makuta uses Sumitomo (SHI) Demag all-electric machines (Strongsville, Ohio), which are available with the SL screw. (Learn more about the SL screw here and about Makuta here.)


Item: A somewhat similar conclusion was reached by Xtrude2Fill in Loveland, Colo., which also exclusively uses conductive heating rather than frictional shear to melt the resin in the barrel. This is only one unusual aspect of an unconventional machine design that uses a fixed screw to extrude into the mold—essentially taking the injection out of injection molding. The concept was presented at our Molding 2016 Conference in March (see here for a report).


Item: Bob Dray’s firm, R. Dray Mfg., Hamilton, Tex., has addressed what it sees as the deficiencies of conventional injection screw design with the new All-Purpose Screw (APS). Dray says this special mixing screw (see photo), which can be easily modified to process a wide range of resin types and melt viscosities, offers the flexibility promised, but not delivered, by the so-called “general-purpose” injection screw, which Dray calls the “no-purpose” screw. (An exclusive in-depth report will appear in our June issue.)

R. Dray Manufacturing all-purpose screw

You Call That World Class?

By: Tony Deligio 4. May 2016

Back in January, we published the results of comprehensive industry-wide survey, naming 25 processors as World Class, and your reaction might have been, “That’s world class?”


The survey looked at all aspects of a plastics processing operation and on the basis of 11 metrics, we singled out 25 operations as the very best. If you saw the results and thought, ‘Our mold/product changes are faster than that,’ or ‘We have a better scrap rate,’ now’s your chance to prove it and get your company’s name on the 2016 list.


Can you beat a 5% scrap rate? How about sales growth of 36% or total open shop hours of 4827? The survey, and your opportunity to beat out your fellow processors, will close on May 31.


Take the online survey today and take your place among plastics processing’s elite.

Recycling of Plastic Auto Parts Gains Attention Even As It Remains In its Relative Infancy

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. May 2016

SPI launches automotive recycling report; separation process key to German start-up’s patented recycling technology.


There is a buzz about automotive plastics recycling these days, and I’ll bet that in the not-so-distant future we will hear about some of the advances being made. Last week I blogged about MBA Polymers starting up what appears to be the first production of PC/ABS pellets derived from shredded WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment).


But the company’s claim-to-fame is its now five-year-old Workshop, U.K. plant, which is reportedly the world’s largest (annual production capacity of up to 176 million lb) and most advanced facility for recovering plastics and rubber from automotive shredder residue. Its proprietary processes reportedly use less than 20% of the energy needed to produce virgin resins.


In a bit of serendipity, other news on this front emerged last week:


 • SPI released its new report, Automotive Recycling: Devalued is now Revalued, which highlights innovative use of recycled content and achievements in zero waste in manufacturing, as well as promoting increased recycling of plastic automotive parts. At the same time, SPI noted the while automotive recycling is leading other industries—with 95% of automobiles recycled at the end of their practical life, the recycling of plastic materials in automobiles, is in its infancy.


SPI sees abundant opportunities for recycled plastic in cars. Each year in the U.S., about 12-15 million vehicles are scrapped with more and more plastic components and parts comprising an ever increasing amount of those vehicles. “There is an opportunity for recycled plastics in the automotive sector, and we are hoping to merge key learnings from all members of the supply chain together to learn how we can best promote and grow plastics recycling in the automotive industry,” said Kim Holmes, SPI’s senior director of recycling and diversion.


To help close the loop in automotive plastics, SPI has two projects underway. First, is the Zero Net Waste (ZNW) recognition program, which assists the plastics industry in managing waste in manufacturing by offering specific tools to evaluate waste reduction opportunities and maximize landfill diversion.


Second, in a separate recovery effort, SPI members have begun a collaborative research project to explore the viability of collecting and recycling auto plastics from end-of-life vehicles and build a basic recovery model for whole parts before shredding. The review will help determine the feasibility of recovery today pared against material performance and demand for recycled PP and TPO. If successful, the project will serve as a launching point to explore the opportunity to recover additional plastics, both through whole-parts recovery and eventually auto shredder residue (ASR).


• The engineering and technical center PulverMetallurgische Kompetenz-Centrum Thale (PMC), located in the German federal state Saxony-Anhalt and globally respected for its expertise in powder metallurgy, is expanding its work to encompass the recycling of automotive plastic waste into high-quality material.  Each month, Volkswagen which is among PMC’s development partners, has been bringing two to three containers of plastic waste to the PMC, according to Thomas Kock, PMC’s managing director. He adds that there is great industrial demand for production processes that save energy and material, especially in the automotive and aviation industries. Pointing out that automotive plastic waste is costly and adversely affects the environment, Kock notes:  “from our experimental factory, visions take shape and set off out into the world.”


Today, at PMC’s “experimental factory”, you can find sacks filled with granulate derived from shredded and ground plastic automotive waste. Kock says, the technology involved is ground-breaking, noting that this granulate can be used again without a decrease in quality, compared to most plastics which are thermally recycled or recycled in an inferior way which causes a drop in the material’s quality.


A team led by inventor Jorg Beckmann developed new processing procedures at the PMC with which it is reportedly possible for the first time to add prepared plastic wastes to fresh mixtures that are almost 100% new. Last year, this patented invention was awarded the Hugo Junkers Prize for Research and Innovation from Saxony-Anhalt. Chemical lab assistant Nicole Mahnke and chemical engineer Jurgen Deinert are key to this project, and are now part of  the recently founded start-up company Seco Thale GmbH, which is one of PMC’s tenants.  “Our tests are now going beyond the standard for laboratories,” says Deinert, noting that the internally developed processing line in the experimental factory acts as a technical center for further optimizing processes and end products.


It turns out that the heart of this invention is the separating process. Whether it be dashboards, surrounds or ventilator blades—different plastics are always processed. So far, PP, PUR and PVC have been separated from each other by means of the new technology.


The granules are of different color—black, white, blue, depending on the initial product or they are colored before they are made into new injection molded parts, according to Mahnke. In addition to the patented separation technology, new testing and measuring systems have advanced this research by confirming the high quality of the resultant recycled automotive plastics. 


SECO Thale Plastics Recycling

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