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The new Fraunhofer Project Centre for Composites Research at The University of Western Ontario, North America’s newest and largest university-based facility for applied composites research, has exclusively chosen a compression moulding press and compounding lines from Dieffenbacher Group (Eppingen, Germany) for industrial-scale product development and prove-out of tools and composite parts for automotive and other ground transportation, machines and equipment supply, renewable energy, construction materials, and aviation markets.
When the centre is fully operational next July, the Dieffenbacher equipment will be used to mould long-fibre and direct-long-fibre thermoplastics (LFT, D-LFT) as well as for standard and new direct-sheet moulding compound (SMC and D-SMC); the centre will also house equipment for high-pressure resin-transfer moulding (HP-RTM). Dieffenbacher equipment was selected for the new centre owing to the company’s long reputation for quality, innovation, speed, and value in developing machinery for low cost, rapid manufacturing of composite parts.
The new Fraunhofer Project Centre for Composites Research at The University of Western Ontario (FPC@Western, London, Ontario) is a joint collaboration between the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (Fraunhofer ICT, Pfinztal, Germany, part of the Fraunhofer Society, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization) and The University of Western Ontario (Western, London, Ont., renowned for its research in materials and surfaces). D-SMC and HP-RTM are two new hybrid moulding processes that were co-developed by Dieffenbacher in separate consortia: D-SMC was developed in collaboration with Fraunhofer ICT and DSM Resins; while HP-RTM was co-invented with Fraunhofer and Krauss Maffei. Dieffenbacher was also one of the original developers of the direct-LFT process a decade ago. Now fairly common in thermoplastics processing, direct compounding is a new process advancement for sheet-form thermoset composites like SMC. It by-passes the cost-intensive steps of custom compounding, shipping, and storage that previously were required with both fibre reinforced thermoplastics and SMC preforms. In the case of SMC, which normally must be stored under refrigeration and has shelf-life restrictions, compounding at the press just prior to moulding reduces energy consumption, lowers storage requirements, improves surface aesthetics, and ensures that no out-of-date material is ever used.
In 2012, the FPC@Western will be a state-of-the-art equipped press centre for full industrial-scale prove-out of tools, parts, and processes. The main focus of the centre will be to help accelerate adoption of high-volume, rapid-processing, fibre-reinforced composites (in both thermoplastic and thermoset matrices) for lightweight components in numerous market segments, especially automotive and building materials. London, Ontario, FPC@Western’s home, is located in the heart of the Canadian automotive corridor, which stretches from Toronto to Windsor and is close to Detroit. Although the facility will be available to public and private clients globally, the primary goal of the FPC@Western is to offer an independent, neutral research centre for customers throughout North America.
“Western’s decision to equip the new FPC@Western centre with industrial- rather than research-scale equipment was done quite deliberately,” notes Christian Fais, manager- General Sales & Projects, Dieffenbacher North America. “OEMs can schedule time on the centre’s 2,500 tonne hydraulic compression press and any of the compounding lines and be sure that if their part or tool works at the centre, then it should process equally well in their plants. This way we take the guesswork out of program scale-up and help speed prove-out of new part designs, processes, and technologies.”
“We’re very proud that Dieffenbacher equipment was exclusively selected for the new FPC@Western centre,” adds Paul Dugsin, manager-Strategic Sales at Dieffenbacher North America. “This represents a major opportunity for Dieffenbacher to demonstrate its quality, innovation, speed, and value to organizations throughout the continent who wish to try out the latest in composites processing equipment. Whether they wish to test Class A SMC body panels for heavy truck or prototype carbon composites for a new wind turbine or automotive component, industry’s most innovative technology for rapid production of composite parts will be available to them at the facility.”
At the heart of the centre will be a 2,500-tonne Compress Plus® hydraulic compression-moulding press. The press will be able to form parts compounded via long-fibre and direct-long-fibre thermoplastics (LFT and D-LFT) as well as standard and direct-sheet moulding compound (SMC and D-SMC) – two processes that Dieffenbacher helped co-develop. The Dieffenbacher press and compounding lines were selected for the new centre owing to the company’s long history for quality, innovation, speed, and value developing machinery for low cost, rapid manufacturing of composite parts.
Direct compounding of sheet-form thermoset composites is a relatively new technology that bypasses the cost-intensive steps of custom compounding, shipping, and storage that previously were required with both glass-reinforced thermoplastics and SMC preforms, helping improve surface aesthetics as well as reduce production costs for fibre-reinforced composites. Dieffenbacher has been a leader in helping invent and develop commercial equipment for direct compounding of both thermoplastic and thermoset composites.
About DieffenbacherAn international collection of companies active on five continents, Dieffenbacher Group develops and manufactures compression presses and complete automated production lines to compound and mould composites for the automotive, building materials and components markets. As a systems supplier, the group is vertically integrated, developing and supplying equipment and expertise from within, and rounding out the scope of its knowhow with strategic partnerships and participation in numerous research consortia. With over 750 active patents worldwide, the group has long been known for offering its customers high-quality, flexible, innovative, and comprehensive systems to produce market desirable products in a cost-effective manner that facilitates a rapid return on investment (ROI). The company is also known for providing excellent service and support before, during, and after purchase. Headquartered in Eppingen, Germany, with a full-scale manufacturing facility and service centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the company operates at the highest quality standards, as certified by quality directives DIN EN ISO 9001 and VDA 6.4, and also works to safeguard the environment in all its activities. Founded by Jakob Dieffenbacher in 1873, Dieffenbacher is a privately owned family firm with more than 130 years of experience and is a market leader in the segments within which it participates. In 2010, it supported a workforce of close to 1,700 employees globally and had sales of € 330 million.
More information: www.dieffenbacher.de