Bioplastics in Valencia

image_thumb[4]The demand of materials from renewable resources will be doubled from 2014 to 2019 to reach 1.4 million hectares for their production, without competing with the surface for food, nearing 1,240 million hectares, according to Constance Ißbrücker, from European Bioplastics, in a presentation during the International Seminar on Biopolymers and Sustainable Composites, held in Valencia, Spain, on 1 and 2 March.
Organised by AIMPLAS, the international seminar brought together more than 170 professionals to update the information about the use of biopolymers in food packaging, sport and automotive applications. Innovative materials from renewable sources such as castor-oil plant, sugar cane, corn and milk whey are already present in demanding applications such as surfboards and snowboards, in the automotive and construction sectors and in high-barrier and heat-resistant food packaging. BASF showed the new biodegradable coffee capsules developed for Cafés Novellimage_thumb[2] and Renault talked about its circular economy policies and the role that biocomposites play. New developments of biopolymers for 3D printing were also launched, as well as cords for the agriculture sector and nets for the fishing sector, thanks to API INSTITUTE. AIMPLAS also presented the results of the project OSIRYS, focused on biocomposites for façades and partitions to improve the air quality.
The second day began with a review of the current standards that regulate the use of biopolymers at industrial level and then there was a space for biotechnology and production of biopolymers from natural processes, such as fermentation or from microorganisms.

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FRIMO and Huntsman cooperation for automotive PU composites

FRIMO and Huntsman Polyurethanes have signed a cooperation agreement to develop fiber composite solutions for the automotive industry. FRIMO offers a portfolio of tooling and equipment for polyurethane processing, as well as  Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) processing technology.  Huntsman Polyurethanes is a manufacturer of polyurethanes systems with many years of experience in the automotive industry. Huntsman has purchased a FRIMO pilot production unit at their technical center in Everberg, Belgium.  This equipment, specifically designed for PU systems allows Huntsman to expand its tailor-made testing and validation capabilities for a new range of matrix resins for automotive fiber composites, under the tradename VITROX®.

KraussMaffei received large order from BMW

KraussMaffei has received an order from BMW to supply a large number of injection molding, reaction process and automation machines and systems. The machines will be used, for example, to produce and finish components made of thermoplastics and reactive resins in the interior and exterior, as well as for load-bearing structures. Parts for the vehicle body will be produced on a total of 9 high pressure resin-transfer molding machines at the BMW plants in Landshut and Leipzig.image_thumb[3] The main characteristics of the machines are constant and reproducible process guidance, as well as high filling pressures for maximum fiber wetting. The self-cleaning mixing heads do not require any cleaning cycles whatsoever and ensure a highly automated production process with great potential for shortening the cycle time. Post-mold finishing of the components is carried out based on modern trimming solutions from KraussMaffei. The order includes the material supply system.

As part of the order, the BMW plant in Wackersdorf will acquire another large MX 4000-24500 injection molding machine to produce stable mold carriers for the instrument panel in the 1 and 3 Series using the so-called injection molding structural foam process. In this process components are produced with a compact outer skin and a foam structure inside. Two integrated industrial robots from KraussMaffei perform the necessary assembly and follow-up steps. At the BMW plant in Leipzig two 4000-tonne MX 4000-17200/12000/750 WL double swivel-plate machines will produce components with an outer skin and a thermoplastic substructure. In this case the outer skin and substructure will each first be separately injection molded, joined together as the two swivel plates rotate and tightly connected with a third plastic component. A ready-to-use component is therefore produced at every mold opening. The machine is fully automated with two IR industrial robots. Intelligent mold tempering with impulse cooling is used for energy-efficient management of the mold’s heat balance.   

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GreenMotion: "green" materials for automotive applications

image[3]The GreenMotion Project seeks to promote the use of "green" materials for automotive applications and to create a network of companies from Galicia and north of Portugal interested in the same objective.  The project is based on a consortium formed by CTAG (the Galician Automotive Technological Centre), CIS-Madeira (Galician Information and Service Centre for the wood sector) and PIEP (Pole for Innovation in Polymer Engineering, Portugal), with UE co-funding ( ERDF funds, POCTEP Programme).

The main objective is the creation of a virtual platform to provide enterprises from the Galician-North of Portugal Eurorregion all the information about ecological materials that may be used in automobile in a close and easy way, promoting their integration in vehicles.

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Crash-safe battery protection for electric cars

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Everyone is talking about electric drives, and the scientists from Fraunhofer are also working on them. Engineers have replaced a battery box for lithium-ion batteries with a lightweight component. Not only does the housing save weight and sustain no damage in an accident – for the first time ever, it can also be mass-produced.

If an electric car wants to be environmentally friendly it must weigh as little as possible, because when the light turns green every additional pound/kilogram must be accelerated with considerable energy expenditure. And the lighter the electric vehicle, the longer it can be on the road without having to be plugged back into a power outlet. To advance the symbiosis between electromobility and lightweight construction, engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal, Germany, are developing manufacturing concepts that have one goal – they want to gradually replace individual components in the vehicle with lightweight ones. “However, this cannot affect the stability or the safety of the passenger,“ said Manfred Reif, project manager in the joint project ”Fraunhofer System Research for Electromobility.”

The fact that this is possible is proven by the researchers with the Artega GT, a sports car that was modified into a prototype with an electric drive, where the electric motor is located in the rear. The experts, along with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Mechanics of Materials IWM, for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF and for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach Institut EMI, have developed a mass-production-ready, crash-safe battery housing that meets strict requirements. The battery housing that surrounds the battery that weighs 340 kilograms (749.57 lbs.) only weighs 35 kilograms (77.16 lbs.). “Traditional solutions made of steel weigh up to 25 percent more,“ said Reif. “The battery housing can withstand a crash, assuming a ten-fold gravitational acceleration.“ And even if a sharp object collides with the housing at 60 km/h (45mph), the highly sensitive battery on the inside remains intact. In addition, the 16 lithium-ion modules are protected from humidity, and a semi-permeable membrane to equalize pressure also guarantees that the batteries are able to “breathe.“

What make the new battery protection so special are the new fiber-reinforced composite materials. Currently, steel components are welded together to make these boxes. “However, it must be possible to mass-produce the lightweight components,“ explained Reif. “Up to now, this has not been possible in this form.“ Fiber composites have been used for a long time in the manufacturing of airplanes; however, only a few hundred are built every year. But as far as cars are concerned, this number could be several thousand daily, and mass production involves completely different requirements as far as materials are concerned. For this reason, the scientists have developed a special process chain with cycle times that make the production of high unit counts possible. “The process chain is designed so that many steps can be run simultaneously,“ said Reif. For example, the plastic is heated up parallel to the production step, and elements are prepared that ensure load and tensile strength or the attachment to the storage in the rear of the Artega. This includes, for example, directionally oriented fiberglass structures or custom-made metal inserts. All the individual components are then assembled and pressed together in a “one-shot process.“
Currently, the battery box must still be secured with transverse attachments in the rear of the Artega; however, the experts working with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Frank Henning are already looking at a lightweight replacement for that.

Complex hollow parts in a single step

image As the competitive pressure increases, the European injection moulders need more competitive solutions. There is a growing demand for highly integrated and automated system solutions. A good example is the manufacturing of complex hollow parts, which will be demonstrated live at "FIP solution plastique" exhibition (Lyon, France, from 24 to 27 May). ENGEL (Austria) will show a compact, tie-bar-less ENGEL victory 1050H/500W/200 combi machine, with a Multitube mould system from Pernoud (Oyonnax, France), to produce a 3-component hollow application such as intake manifolds for 3 cylinder engines,  with complex geometry, in a single step. This is achieved by means of a multiple stage injection process that integrates picking & placing and over-moulding in a single cycle. First threaded bushings are insert-placed into the mould and then over-moulded. The pre-moulded part for injection of the second component will be turned in the mould by a Stäubli six-arm robot before the third component, a TPE seal, is applied. To support multiple component injection moulding the victory machine is equipped with a piggyback unit and a third injection unit by Babyplast. The finished component is taken off by a multiple axis robot and deposited on an integrated conveyor belt. The robot control unit is fully integrated with the CC 200 control unit of the injection moulding machine. Because the robot works inside the extended safety guarding, the production cell only needs a small footprint.
The benefit of the plant’s high degree of integration is that the hollow parts are produced in a single process step that removes the need for finishing, for example, a welding process. Compared with legacy gas injection technology, the Multitube concept also ensures enhanced quality of the interior surfaces and consistent wall thicknesses.

PlasCork-Automotive – the best of two worlds

A “consortium” formed by Simoldes Plásticos, , Amorim Cork Composites and PIEP launched the PlasCork-Automotive project  aimed to add specific properties of cork – the natural and unique material from cork oak trees – to plastic automotive components, whose work has been developed since 2009 and is expected to be completed by the end of year 2011.  Three cork applications will be studied and investigated:

1) cork as an element for impact energy absorption (padding), substituting the current solutions based on synthetic materials;

2) cork as an acoustic insulation element, substituting current solutions based on synthetic materials;

3) cork as a decorative element with high added-value for the design of new car interiors.

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