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Covestro starts commercial production of composites

News International-French

12 Mar 2018

Covestro begins commercial production of a novel lightweight, high-strength and aesthetically strong material. The continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composite material can be produced efficiently and is attracting interest from many customers and industries.

To leverage this market potential, Covestro has expanded its production capacity and developed the Franconian town of Markt Bibart into a location for high-tech materials. It is located in the vicinity of renowned universities that conduct intensive research into the further development of composite materials. Covestro now employs 50 people in Markt Bibart, and further expansion is planned. Overall, the company has invested a mid-double-digit million euro sum.

Increasing demand for composite materials
The demand for strong and light materials is growing worldwide. Composite materials made of fiber-reinforced thermoplastics play an important role. They contribute to climate protection and resource conservation, by that reducing energy consumption and offering powerful sustainability opportunities.

"Covestro develops material solutions and technologies for the major challenges facing mankind, such as climate protection, population growth, urbanization and increasing mobility. Composite materials are playing an increasingly important role in this", said CEO Patrick Thomas to journalists. 

Sustainability is the driving force

Patrick Thomas added: "The driving force behind all these developments is sustainability: We want to benefit society and improve people's quality of life, but minimize the impact on the environment. We have also developed a polyurethane resin that, in combination with reinforcing glass fibers and a special manufacturing process, enables the cost-efficient production of rotor blades for wind turbines. In this way, we promote the further expansion of renewable energies." 

"Our polycarbonates have already proven themselves in many applications that require strength, low weight and beauty, and have replaced conventional materials such as metal and glass,” said Michelle Jou, who heads Covestro's global polycarbonate business from Shanghai. "They can be found in applications such as laptop housings, car interiors, headlights and panoramic roofs, and medical devices, just to name a few."

The demands are increasing

“However, the electronics industry and other industries want even stronger and lighter materials that can be used to produce thinner parts and integrated functionality," explained Michelle Jou. "In addition, there is a desire for more efficient production. With our new high-tech material, we're closing this gap." 

The composite material of the future is based on continuous carbon or glass fibers impregnated with polycarbonate, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or other thermoplastic resins. From this, Covestro produces uni-directional reinforced tapes and sheets for further processing by customers. These products can be tuned to infinite combinations, giving designers completely new creative opportunities. Another special feature of CFRTPs is that they feel and sound like metal, but offer the design freedom of plastics.

Films and sheets made from continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRTP) can be combined in a very variable way, giving designers completely new creative freedom.

Global interest from many sectors
CFRTPs are attracting interest in such diverse segments as the electrical and electronics industry, the automotive business, household appliance manufacturers and furniture producers, medical technology, sports goods manufacturers, shoe producers and the luggage industry. The tapes and sheets products are delivered to customers all over the world for further processing. 

As the demand for new materials increases, value chains are quickly adopting the skills and know-how required to work with composite materials. The Covestro composite team works across this broad range of industries and helps to transfer knowledge from one industry to another, for enabling faster growth in this exciting sector. Dr. Michael Schmidt and David Hartmann are leading the CFRTP business of Covestro as Co-CEOs.

Last year, the European PlasticsEurope association and the Society of Plastic Engineers (SPE) presented a European Plastics Innovation Award to a laptop A Cover made of CFRTP composite material – an important example for the work Covestro is doing to leverage the possibilities of CFRTPs for this industry.

It all began with a start-up company
The history of CFRTP composites began with the foundation of Thermoplast Composite GmbH in 2007 in Langenfeld in the Rhineland. The start-up company, including technology and intellectual property, was acquired by Bayer MaterialScience, the predecessor of Covestro, in March 2015 and shortly afterwards moved to Markt Bibart. This is where the construction and expansion to today's production site began. During 2018, Covestro is planning to announce many more customer projects.