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A polyurethane based system to improve production of components from composite materials

News International-French

6 Jan 2016

Evonik launches Vestanat PP, a technology for automated production that enables simple process management and saves costs and materials in production.

High-strength and lightweight: glass and carbon fibers offer enormous potential in lightweight construction, and are therefore of particular interest in automotive and aircraft construction. It has so far not been possible to exploit such fibers to their full potential, however, because the production process for the composite material is complex and cost intensive. In Vestanat PP Evonik has now developed a technology that simplifies process management and also saves material and costs. Several projects have already been initiated with large car makers wishing to use the technology for production of their future models.

Klaus Engel, Chairman of the Executive Board of Evonik Industries, recently recognized the development with the company’s Innovation Award for new products/new system solutions. “Innovations require our employees’ creativity, commitment and courage,” Engel noted. “The success of Vestanat PP illustrates that trust in an idea, perseverance, and the right amount of risk-taking and technological expertise pay off,” Engel continued, referencing the significance of innovation as a strategic cornerstone for growth at Evonik. The specialty chemicals company plans to invest over €4 billion in research and development over the next decade. The focus of Evonik’s strategic innovation will be on composite materials, membranes, animal nutrition, and medical technology.

One commonly used process for production of composite materials for lightweight construction is resin transfer molding (RTM), but this allows only batchwise, and not continuous, production of components. Production using prepregs, which are fibers pre-impregnated with resin and crosslinker, is continuous but not altogether simple. “Common prepregs have disadvantages—they can be stored only at -20 degrees Celsius and are very tacky,” says Guido Streukens, senior manager of Business Development Crosslinkers at Evonik.

These disadvantages are eliminated with Vestanat PP: “Compared with other common matrix systems used in the production of composite materials from fibers, Vestanat PP makes subsequent production steps significantly simpler,” says Streukens. This behavior is the result of a chemical trick—a special combination of catalysts. The formulation ensures that prepregs are no longer tacky, and at the same time influences the cross-linking process of the material. At normal temperatures, it is dry and storage-stable; above 80 degrees Celsius it becomes thermoplastically formable but does not crosslink; and only at temperatures exceeding 140 degrees Celsius does crosslinking commence.

Other advantages of the technology include the good mechanical properties of the matrix system; these allow generation of the same component properties as with other systems, but with the use of less material.

In this way, the use of Vestanat PP can greatly simplify the production process from glass or carbon fibers to the finished component. It can also reduce costs, and ultimately contributes to more effective industrial utilization of the potential of the fibers.

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