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Lightweight automotive constructions essentially propel the evolution of thermoplastic composites. The generic aim is to cost-efficiently manufacture components with excellent mechanical properties at a low weight. Unidirectional tapes help to achieve this aim while expanding their area of application. But there is still room for improvement. Ticona, for example, is involved in a study exploring how a specially adapted manufacturing method may combine various semifinished products of glass fiber reinforced unidirectional tapes with a D-LFT composite material. One outcome is a mechanically optimized vehicle underbody evidencing an economically efficient manufacturing method that provides much freedom of design.
Strict emission limits and a demand for low fuel consumption at undiminished levels of safety, efficiency and aesthetics challenge the automotive industry for new solutions. Composite materials are key to facing this challenge. They enable the manufacture of lightweight high-quality components with excellent mechanical properties. But the mechanical properties hitherto available on the market still left much room for improvement. This is exactly what Ticona, global manufacturer of semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymers, dedicated a study to. The study explored new ways of cost-efficiently producing improved components of thermoplastic fiber reinforced composites. In its efforts, Ticona teamed with Oxeon AB (Borås, Sweden), a company specializing in braiding fibers and fiber reinforced composites, and Fiberforge (Glenwood Springs, CO, USA), who developed the patented method of preforming and laying unidirectional tapes. The project team was further assisted by Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (Fraunhofer ICT, Pfinztal, Germany).
What came out of this teamwork was a vehicle underbody very efficiently manufactured by means of the D-LFT method. Although chosen by the team, this method is but an example of others. Embedding semifinished products made of unidirectional tapes essentially improved the strength of the underbody by weaving in glass fiber reinforced prepreg tapes supplied by Ticona. This tape fabric provides a laminar reinforcement of the entire underbody. Ticona’s composite material used for the purpose is easy to process and adds extremely high strength and rigidity to the components. Another semifinished Celstran® composite product was applied to give certain areas of the underbody additional local strength and to provide options of mechanical integration. Local reinforcement was achieved by means of the patented Fiberforge method which consists of consolidating multiple layers of composite material and exposing them to heat for molding. It allows the fast manufacture of even highly complex three-dimensional shapes with varying thicknesses while maintaining a high quality of the product. Making the underbody was finished off by the use of impact extrusion to integrate the semifinished products in the component.
The vehicle underbody is the successful result of an efficient manufacturing process designed and dedicated to optimizing components made of polymer materials. Although chosen by the team, this method is but an example of others. Ticona’s continuous fiber reinforced composites provide different ways of improving the strength and rigidity of components while considerably reducing wall thicknesses and, thus, the component weight. All manufacturing methods deployed are also efficient state-of-the-art methods fit for series production.
About Ticona and Celanese Ticona, the engineering polymers business of Celanese Corporation, produces and markets a broad range of high performance products, and posted net sales of $1,298 million in fiscal 2011. Ticona employs more than 1,500 individuals at production, compounding and research facilities in the USA, Germany, Brazil and China.
Celanese Corporation is a global technology leader in the production of specialty materials and chemical products that are used in most major industries and consumer applications. Our products, essential to everyday living, are manufactured in North America, Europe and Asia. Known for operational excellence, sustainability and premier safety performance, Celanese delivers value to customers around the globe with best-in-class technologies. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company employs approximately 7,600 employees worldwide and had 2011 net sales of $6.8 billion, with approximately 73% generated outside of North America.
More information: www.ticona.com - www.celanese.com