Trio of Headlines in Lightweight Composites for Automotive & More

Injection overmolding in automotive; HP-RTM of hollow composite parts; and development of specialized equipment for UD tape stacking and consolidation.

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Engel Austria has made three recent announcements in lightweight structural composites for automotive and other applications. First, the world’s first large-scale application for Engel organomelt technology—injection overmolding of reinforced organosheets or tapes—has been launched in the U.S. Valeo Front End Modules USA in Smyrna, Tenn., is producing a glass-reinforced PP front-end carrier with integrated air ducts for a 2018 model Mercedes-Benz. The part won the Structural Component category in the SPE Central Europe Automative Awards last July. The component is molded as two half shells in the same mold. The material is Tepex Dynalite PP/glass organosheets from Bond Laminates (a unit of Lanxess), which are preheated, shaped in the mold, and overmolded with additional PP/glass compound. Engel supplied the entire cell, comprising an Engel duo two-platen injection machine of 1700 metric tons; three easix articulated robots that place several metal inserts and handle the organosheet; a viper 90 linear robot; and a size 5 IR oven.

Second, Engel is working with KTM Technologies in Austria, part of major motorcycle producer KTM Group, to develop KTM’s CAVUS technology for industrial use. CAVUS is a form of HP-RTM process for making hollow composite parts. HP-RTM can use PUR, epoxy, or in-situ polymerization of nylon from caprolactam. The CAVUS process starts with a core of sand and a water-soluble binder, which is overlaid with braided carbon fibers to produce a preform. The preform is automatically inserted into a mold, and the reactive resin system is injected. Curing takes 125 sec, and then the sand core is rinsed out with water. The process uses an Engel elast machine and a Hennecke two-component metering system. One of the first sample parts is a motorcycle license-plate holder molded with liquid PUR and weighing just 265 g. The part was previously injection molded with a shot weight of 765 g. The hollow version has the advantage of protecting the wires for indicator lights and license-plate illumination.

Third, Engel has developed two new machinery systems for the organomelt process using unidirectional (UD) reinforced thermoplastic tapes. One is a pick-and-place tape-stacking cell with high-resolution camera technology to ensure accuracy of tape positioning. Tapes can be deposited and spot welded together at 3-sec intervals. Engel is already using this system to produce the carbon-fiber arm of its e-pic robot. Engel also developed a consolidation press for the tape stacks. It has separate heating and cooling presses.