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Today’s SMC/BMC industry produces more than 270,000 tons of compound in Western Europe, and significant applications for these materials are to be found in many market sectors. Material and process quality is the key to success and further growth. New high-performance SMC materials are opening up new horizons for this interesting class of composite materials.
(Published on December 2005 – JEC Magazine #21)
BY PETER STACHEL, DIRECTOR, MARKETING AND R&D, MENZOLIT-FIBRON COMPOUNDS DIVISION
SMC and BMC production has grown from a cottage industry to a full-blown one. SMC and BMC are now highly diversified materials that serve in the electrical industry, for all kinds of vehicles in the transportation industry, and in harsh and brutal environments like offshore or desert climates. Today’s industrial volume requires lean and reliable manufacturing processes, and materials development is concentrating on higher properties.
Process and new materials
Over the past years, the transportation industry has been the driving force for SMC product and process improvements.
Typically, an automotive project requires high volumes and high product consistency. Achieving the necessary surface quality and overall parts precision requires a material as consistent and reliable as possible.
Process improvements have focused on improving raw-materials mixing and on optimising compounding procedures, through new investments in machinery and computerised process control.
Moulders have also invested in presses with improved parallelism and process control and in new, upgraded painting facilities.
A perfect example of this type of new facility is a new SMC moulding plant at Inapal Plasticos’ new site on the AutoEuropa grounds, close to Lisbon. At this new site, Menzolit SMC 0400 is being moulded into Class A body panels for a new convertible that should be ready for showrooms by the end of this year. The plant’s fully automated SMC moulding process uses a unique new SMC package called the JumboRoll, which holds about 1.5 tons of material. The larger rolls allow longer production runs before stopping to exchange and incur less downtime, as well.
The supply specifications for the material are very tight to ensure trouble-free processing.
A material’s properties are an important element in its quality. For automotive applications, especially, paintability and first-run capability are of decisive importance. Surface quality is a key to success. Today’s Class A SMCs, e.g. Menzolit’s SMC 0400, SMC 0410 and SMC 0420, are made to meet the most stringent requirements for high-class luxury cars such as DaimlerChrysler’s Maybach, or the Mercedes McLaren SLR model. Besides surface quality and consistency, low carbon emissions for While we continue to upgrade our current and core products, we also work on totally new products based on SMC technology.
While we continue to upgrade our current and core products, we also work on totally new products based on SMC technology. We have designed new SMC products, like the unique Menzolit AdvancedSMC 0400 and 1300, by changing glass fibre reinforcement for higher-performance carbon fibre.
For AdvancedSMC 0400, we have focused on surface quality at the lowest weight and for AdvancedSMC 1300, on structural performance. The first commercial application for this new type of material is the scuttle panel on the new Mercedes McLaren SLR.
SMC and BMC are just two of many composite compounding technologies.
Both processes date back to the early 1970s and, so far, have been based mostly on glass-fibre reinforcement, mineral fillers and polyester resins.
But this is not the end of the story, and material other than glass fibres or polyester resins may be used for SMC or BMC. A whole new world of SMC products can open up if product designers start using different materials like carbon or natural fibres, or different resins. AdvancedSMC is just a peek into a possible future!
Another example is “Bio-BMC” a compound using extensively renewable raw materials. Bio-BMC uses up to 90% natural and renewable raw materials to make a BMC for injection or compression moulding.
The Menzolit booth at this year’s JEC Show in Paris exhibited experimental products and our initial laboratory results. Lifting a secret from our R&D laboratories, we even predict the possibility of making base materials for fibre-reinforced ceramics. This type of materials technology may clear new roads for SMC on the way to the highperformance engineered materials of tomorrow.