The trend towards weight saving in the automotive sector is relentless and is becoming increasingly important as the year 2020 approaches—this is when the fleet CO 2 emissions of European automobile manufacturers must comply with significantly more stringent requirements.
Thermoplastic materials, with both short- and long-fiber reinforcement, have made a major contribution to lightweighting today, because with their help innumerable metal production components were replaced by equally capable plastic counterparts according to resin supplier BASF SE (Ludwigshafen, Germany). Simultaneously, these plastic components and materials are starting to reach their fundamental limits. The next big advance in metal substitution in vehicle construction will succeed only with a technological leap, namely, using continuous-fiber reinforcement of injection molded structures, i.e., with thermoplastic composites, adds BASF.
|Laminates based on woven fabrics and unidirectional (UD) tapes combined with glass fiber reinforced compounds offer further opportunities for plastics in automotive applications.|
For this reason, BASF is now expanding its activities in the field of engineering plastics to include a completely new approach called Ultracom. This is essentially a package of three components: continuous-fiber reinforced semifinished products; adapted overmolding compounds; and complementary engineering support.
The key innovations in this new approach are laminates based on woven fabrics and unidirectional (UD) tapes that are fully impregnated with Ultramid polyamide (PA) or Ultradur polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) materials from BASF. These thermoplastic composites are being enhanced in a development cooperation together with fiber-reinforced composites manufacturer TenCate and glass fiber supplier Owens Corning.
The second component of the Ultracom package consists of overmolding materials that have been developed specifically for use with these laminates. These materials are also from the Ultramid and Ultradur product lines, this time in the form of compounds. By using them in combination with the laminates and tapes, it is possible to injection mold complex parts that have very high mechanical reinforcement by use of continuous fibers at precisely defined locations while simultaneously incorporating specific functions as the result of overmolding.
At the upcoming K 2013 show in Germany, BASF will already be able to offer its first commercial Ultracom product packages. For projects requiring parts with high stiffness, the package consists of an Ultralaminate based on PA 6 (or an Ultratape if highly directed reinforcements are needed) in combination with Ultramid G12 COM with 60% glass fiber reinforcement as the overmolding compound.
For crash loaded applications with a special need for impact strength, BASF offers a package which is optimized for high energy absorption. This package consists of Ultralaminate and Ultramid ZG7 COM. In this case the Ultratape tape version is available for local reinforcement, for example as required in seat structures. It can be overmolded with the same Ultramid ZG7 COM. For the time being, the orthotropic Twill-2/2 structure commonly employed in technical textiles and PA 6 will be used for the laminates. The first pre-production parts realized by Ultracom will be displayed at the K-Show 2013.
Importance of engineering support
The third component of the Ultracom package is reportedly of great importance for developers of parts made from composites, according to BASF: It covers the