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Big Area Additive Manufacturing Stars at IMTS

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. September 2014

At this year’s IMTS show in Chicago earlier this month, Cincinnati Inc., launched its prototype Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM), which resulted from the formation of the company’s partnership earlier this year with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop a large-scale additive manufacturing system. One that would be capable of printing polymer components up to 10 times larger than what is currently producible, and at speeds 200-500 times faster than existing machines.

 

The partnership’s aim is to introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. machine tool sector which supplies manufacturing technology to automotive, aerospace, appliance, and robotic industries. The prototype machine uses the chassis and drives of Cincinnati Inc.’s gantry-style laser cutting systems at the base, and incorporates a high-speed cutting tool, pellet feed mechanism, and control software.

 

Cincinnati Inc.’s market development manager Rick Neff explained to me how the company participated with Local Motors, Sabic, and ORNL to take on the challenge to 3D print a car during the IMTS trade show. “We started printing on Sunday morning at 7 am. We printed the main structure of the car including the frame, seats, cockpit, hood and tail in one 1000-lb piece by 6 am on Tuesday. We then took the rough part to a Thermwood Router where the surfaces that needed to be accurately machined smooth were routed smooth.”

On Wednesday through Saturday morning, the Local Motors crew attached a drive train, suspension, steering wheel, instruments, brakes and some trim to complete the car. The car, named Strati (Italian for layers), uses a drive train from Renault that is employed in the European Twizy City Car. “Right on schedule at 9 am Saturday, we fired up the Strati and drove it out of the show…the reaction from the crowd and the press was overwhelming,” says Neff.

 

Here is some key information Neff provided about BAAM:

 

• The machine extrudes hot thermoplastic to build parts layer-by-layer, similar to an FDM machine.

• BAAM’s extrusion rates are very high—in the neighborhood of 35 lb/hr, which is reportedly hundreds of times faster than typical rapid prototyping 3D printers.

• The material for Strati is ABS with carbon fiber reinforcement formulated right into the plastic. Carbon fiber reinforced ABS is readily available for about $7/lb.

• The layer thickness is 0.160”.

• The build envelope on the prototype BAAM is 2m x 4m x 0.87m.

• The extruder can use quite a variety of thermoplastics and fiber reinforced thermoplastics. Neff says they have used ABS, PPS, PEKK, and PEI. Carbon fiber and glass fiber reinforcements have been used to improve strength and thermal stability of the parts.

 

Although a production version of BAAM is not yet ready for delivery, Neff confirms that the company is considering selling a very few alpha level machines to laboratories or companies who would like to do some basic research on the technology right now. He says, they are also willing to take orders for beta level and production machines that will be available in 2015 for customers who want to be the first in their industry to be using BAAM. 

Bayer To Quit Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. September 2014

Bayer AG has announced that it plans to focus entirely on its Life Science businesses—HealthCare and CropScience—and intends to float MaterialScience on the stock market by 2016 at latest as a separate company. The BMS business, with North American headquarters in Pittsburgh, is comprised of polyurethane, TPUs, PC, inorganic chemicals and coatings & adhesives.

 

Bayer CEO Dr. Marijn Dekkers says the company intends to create two top global corporations: Bayer as a world-class innovation company in the Life Science businesses, and MaterialScience as a leading player in polymers. Subsequent to the intended spin-off, MaterialScience will be Europe’s fourth largest chemical company; it had global sales in 2013 of more than $14.2 billion (pro forma figure). The new company will have a new name and a separate identity and be headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. Employment levels are expected to remain stable over the next few years. It is planned that the new company will have a global workforce of about 16,800, including 6500 in Germany.

 

Dekkers noted that the company firmly believes that MaterialScience will use its separate status to deploy its existing strength even more rapidly, effectively and flexibly in the global competitive arena. A strategy and corporate culture aligned to technological and cost leadership, coupled with the ability to make its own investment and portfolio decisions, would give MaterialScience the best development prospects in a highly competitive market. That, according to Dekkers, includes direct capital market access so that that it would not have to compete with the Life Science businesses for investment funding in the future.

 

It is possible that a similar action might be taken by DuPont, according to a Sept. 17 Forbes article. Activist investor Nelson Peltz sent a note to DuPont’s board this past Tuesday, which said Peltz’s hedge fund, Trian Partners, is urging the company to break itself up. According to Forbes, Trian is one of DuPont’s largest shareholders and discussions have been underway for the past year as Trian feels that it can “no longer be silent as DuPont continues to struggle to execute” what Trian believes is a flawed business plan.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

Thermoplastic Composites Prominent At SPE's ACCE

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 17. September 2014

Last week in Novi, Mich., I attended SPE’s Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) and was impressed by the daily panel discussions, including one on lightweighting and the multi-material car. Moderated by president and CEO Jay Baron of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), it featured panelists from Ford, GM, Magna, Gurit Automotive, and EDAG Engineering AG.

            Among the highlights of the discussion:

• Lightweighting in automotive is an enabling tool to deliver fuel economy and performance, and not something consumers care about.

• The greatest advantage of plastic composites currently is also their greatest disadvantage: that they are so infinitely tailorable.

• The composites industry would do well to take cues from the steel industry which has aligned itself with the automotive industry and identified the development of new materials.

• The steel industry seems to reinvent itself every 10 years and the third generation steel grades allow for making low-cost parts with tenfold the strength of previous generations. As such, we can expect a rather stable presence of low-cost, high-performance steel in automotive, even in the most composite-intensive vehicles.

• Ford’s new aluminum-intensive F-150 truck will demonstrate a significant step in weight reduction, but this can be achieved by other materials.

• There is great potential for carbon fiber reinforced plastics as new materials are developed, the cost is dropped, and parts are designed for these materials.

• By the same token, we are not likely to see high-volume, composite-intensive vehicles on the road for a while.

Also impressive was the broad range of presentations on developments in both thermoset and thermoplastic composites. A “star” emerging in the thermoplastics composites arena is long fiber thermoplastics (LFT). Advances with LFT were discussed by suppliers of materials like Invista and DuPont, suppliers of glass fiber reinforcements Owens-Corning and PPG, carbon fiber supplier Zoltec, as well injection molding machine maker Arburg, and the Fraunhofer Institute. In the exhibit hall, compounder PlastiComp, which specializes in LFT, showcased a semitruck fender liner made of LFT-PP, which outperformed a failed short glass fiber part and replaced metal, resulting in mass reduction and increased durability (see photo).

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in PT on these and other interesting developments in thermoplastic composites. These include  advances in thermoplastics reinforced with carbon nanotubes (CNTs), high-impact nylons reinforced with a new nanoadditive that are promising for use with FDM additive manufacturing technology, and new generation boron nitride nanotube continuous fibers that show potential to surpass in mechanical properties CNTs and possibly graphite fibers.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 


 

Plastic Pallets Manufacturer Gets Grant To Further Expansion Into Thermoplastic Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 28. August 2014

Indiana-based Jeco Plastics Products recently received a research grant from Purdue University under the IN-Mac program to study how thermoplastic composites with continuous internal fibers in either single or multiple directions develop wrinkles when being molded with multiple cavity thermoforming tools. The aim is to compete with thermoset composites used in applications such as aerospace and defense components. “Thermoplastic composites are lighter weight, less expensive and have fewer design limitations” says Jeco president and CEO Craig Carson.

 

Jeco was the first to receive a grant under this program which is tailored to assist companies extend existing technology. In Jeco’s case, the grant focuses on the company ability to design sophisticated multiple cavity thermoforming tools for molding complex structures that cannot be manufactured using other processing technologies. In fact, Carson points out that critical to his company’s selection for the grant is its unique thermoforming capabilities, which were recently used to develop a thermoformed door liner for a cryogenic container to be used by NASA on the International Space Station. In a recent interview, Carson told me that this cryogenic container is formed from a PP composite reinforced with continuous PP fibers which boasts significant durability even in thin gages at cryogenic temperatures of -195˚C (-319˚F).

 

Jeco’s mainstay has been the design and manufacture of  rotationallymolded, highly durable pallets and containers made of LLDPE and reinforced with steel or tension members for the worldwide printing and automotive industries, along with other industries handling heavy product that needs damage protection.

 

However, this forward-thinking company has developed capabilities that include the ability to produce large plastic structural components made with continuous carbon, fiberglass and PP fibers in a variety of thermoplastics including PP, nylons, PEEK, PEKK, and polysulfones. Carson told me they also have integrated custom woven cloth of various metals and other fibers into laminated thermoplastic structures to create materials with unique properties. “The IN-Mac grant has allowed us to discover how to predict the wrinkling of the fabric and optimize our tool design to minimize this problem.” He also notes that controlling the amount of wrinkling taking place is very difficult, as the necessary sheet control is too limited in existing thermoforming equipment. “It was necessary to develop and fabricate extensive modifications to address this shortcoming”, he notes. He also adds that tooling software currently available does not take into account the within the sheet. “So, after much trial and error, as well as simulation modification and validation, we are now capable of producing, for example, structural components with PEEK and PEKK with unidirectional carbon fibers and PP with bidirectional PP fibers.”  Be on the lookout for more extensive coverage on this innovator in an upcoming PT issue.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

Exploring The Processing Of HDPE-Exfoliated Graphene Nanocomposites For Fuel Tanks

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. August 2014

There were three best paper award winners just announced by the organizing committee of the SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) for its

fourteenth-annual show coming up Sept. 9-11, in Novi, Mich. I will be attending this event and, judging from the roster of papers to be presented, expect to further report on emerging developments, particularly in the thermoplastic composites arena.

 

One of the three winning papers, “Processing Methods of High Density Polyethylene-Exfoliated Graphene Nanoplatelet Nanocomposites for Automotive Fuel Tank Applications, is based on a study jointly conducted by the Composite Materials and Structures Center at Michigan State University and the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center. Lead author Keith Honaker, a graduate student at Michigan State University and a 2013-2014 SPE ACCEE graduate scholarship award winner, will discuss how HDPE-exfoliated graphene (GnP) nanoplatelet composites were synthesized and tested.

 

In order to further enhance the mechanical and barrier properties of the composite, different processing techniques were explored including microlayer coextrusion and solution mixing with sonication followed by extrusion. The researchers investigated multiple modifications to the nanocomposite constituents including cryo-milling of the HDPE pellets and coating the platelets with a wax or polyolefin elastomer before extrusion.

 

Among the key results: simple melt mixing of HDPE and GnP resulted in an increase in stiffness, a decrease in Izod impact resistance, and a 50% decrease to both oxygen and fuel permeation with 5% wt. GnP. Meanwhile, microlayer coextrusion yielded a high alignement of the nanoplatelets in the direction of the flow and resulted in improved permeation resistance at low GnP concentrations, but did not result in improvement of barrier properties at concentrations above 5% wt.

 

In contrast, cryo-milling the HDPE pellets into a powder resulted in a minor decrease in mechanical properties and a 35% decrease in oxygen permeation. A wax coating on the platelets before melt extrusion resulted in an increase in both Izod impact resistance and barrier properties, but a decrease in flexural modulus. A polyolefin elastomeric coating on the GnP resulted in retaining the flexural modulus properties with only a slight improvement to Izod impact resistance and barrier properties.

 

Overall, the researchers concluded that obtaining outstanding barrier properties without affecting the mechanical properties of HDPE-GnP nanocomposites using melt mixing, extrusion and injection molding processes is very challenging. For this reason, the focus of their current research is on combining a few of these methods to create synergistic effects.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 




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