DSM launches continuous fiber-reinforced polyamides for structural/semistructural auto parts

The Singapore-based branch of the materials manufacturer and its ENLIGHT program partners are focusing on custom-designed thermoplastic composite solutions for automotive lightweighting efforts.

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DSM Engineering Plastics (Singapore) is launching custom-made solutions for structural and semistructural applications, incorporating various types of continuous-fiber reinforcements impregnated with its advanced polyamides. Together with several industry partners, DSM has developed advanced thermoplastic composites, which are initially aimed at the automotive industry.

“Car makers around the world continue to improve the fuel-efficiency and sustainability of their products,” says Rein Borggreve, DSM's global research and technology director. “Over the years, thermoplastics have provided various solutions, in the form of lightweight components and systems in the passenger compartment, in bodywork, and under the hood. DSM materials have proven important in making this trend to replace metal by plastics possible, in such applications as the air-bag system and the oil sump. Now it’s time for the next step, with advanced thermoplastic composites.”

The composites contain carbon fibers and matrices based on DSM’s trademarked resins: EcoPaXX polyamide 4.10, Akulon polyamide 6 and Stanyl polyamide 4.6. the new products are expected to facilitate significant weight reduction in automobile body and chassis parts, while glass fiber-reinforced composites will be targeted at reducing the weight of semistructural components. In all cases, the lightweighting efforts are aimed at increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

DSM's announcement is the fruit of its partnership in the four-year ENLIGHT project, which also includes car companies Jaguar Cars, Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo. Part of the European Union’s (EU) 7th Framework Programme, ENLIGHT aims to accelerate the technological development of a portfolio of materials that, together, offer a strong potential to reduce weight and overall carbon footprint in medium- to high-volume electric vehicles (EVs) that could reach the market between 2020 and 2025.

ENLIGHT will act as an open innovation platform, through the collaboration of EUCAR (the European Council for Automotive R&D), CLEPA (the European Association of Automotive Suppliers) and EARPA (the European Automotive Research Partners Assn.), integrating valuable insights from other EU research projects with a holistic design approach.

DSM is a founding partner in another thermoplastic composites research effort, AZL, the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production. DSM is one of the 33 companies supporting AZL, along with other suppliers, such as Ashland Performance Materials (Dublin, Ohio) and TenCate Advnaced Composies (Nijverdal, The Netherlands), and car manufacturers Opel and Toyota. The aim of AZL is to develop automated production of load‐ and cost‐optimized lightweight components, suitable for mass production and versatile process chains in composite and multimaterial design.

“DSM has made a strong commitment to sustainability, and we believe that together with our technology partners, we have the means to put fine words into practice,” says Borggreve.

At the K 2013 trade fair, Oct. 16-23, in Dusseldorf, Germany, DSM will showcase two applications in advanced thermoplastic composites. The first is a Type IV full engineering plastic pressure vessel, based on a liner in Akulon Fuel Lock and a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic wound tape based on Akulon. This development reportedly exhibits significantly reduced weight compared with metal pressure vessels, as well as extremely low permeation.

The second application on the K 2013 stand will be a concept in-mold-formed housing cover, made in a combination of a continuous glass-reinforced EcoPaXX-based composite and an injection molded EcoPaXX compound. Together with one of its processing partners, DSM is exploring applications produced using a hybrid process combining composite thermoforming and injection molding.

More information can be found at www.dsm.com/automotive.