Lightweight TP Composite Targets Rail Interiors

A low-density, low-pressure formable thermoplastic composite with good heat and flame resistance and low smoke emission is being introduced for use in large semi-structural panels for passenger train interiors.

A low-density, low-pressure formable thermoplastic composite with good heat and flame resistance and low smoke emission is being introduced for use in large semi-structural panels for passenger train interiors. New Rail-Lite composite from GE Advanced Materials, Pittsfield, Mass., is an outgrowth of the Azdel Superlite GMT (glass-mat thermoplastic) material used in a variety of auto interior and exterior components. Whereas Azdel Superlite is based on polypropylene and chopped glass fibers, new Azdel Rail-Lite uses GE’s Ultem PEI or PEI/PC blend together with 42% to 55% glass. The sheet contains air, which reduces its density to 0.3 to 0.8 g/cc and its basis weight to 600 to 2000 g/m2. Rail-Lite offers greater ductility than traditional thermoset composites, GE says.


The new composite can be pressure formed at only 40 to 60 psi in matched aluminum tools. Attachments and fixtures can be added to the part during forming, saving the cost of secondary operations. Azdel Rail-Lite does not require drying and its low coefficient of thermal expansion allows tooling to be designed for zero shrinkage.


Typical cycle time for parts 3 to 4 mm thick is 5 to 7 min. Applications include window masks, ceiling panels, seat backs, arm rests, tray tables, stow bins, and luggage racks.


The new composite is expected to receive widespread use in China. GE announced a joint development agreement with Beijing-based China Railway Long Dragon New Composite Materials Co. Ltd., China’s largest OEM supplier of train interior components.