Japan’s DIC Corp. and its local partners have developed a fast-curing carbon-fiber-reinforced prepreg sheet that reportedly boasts the world’s fastest curing time and can be stored at room temperature.
DIC Seiren Co. Ltd. and the Industrial Technology Center of Fukui Prefecture recently completed a research project aimed at commercializing fast-curing prepreg made with carbon-fiber composites for automotive applications. It was chosen as a major research project by the New Energy and Industrial Development Organization (NEDO) and subsidized for three years from July 2018 to June 2021. The three entities also developed a mass-production process and began providing samples in July using a demonstration plant operated by Seiren.
Carbon-fiber-reinforced prepreg sheet is an intermediate material made by processing bundles of carbon fibers into flat sheets and impregnating the sheets with resin. Thanks to its light weight and exceptional strength, carbon-fiber-reinforced prepreg sheet is finding increasing applications in aircraft, spacecraft, and automobiles to improve fuel economy and reduce body weight, underscoring positive expectations for further demand growth in the years ahead. Molding and processing carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite materials, including prepreg sheets, typically have been time-consuming, and technologies that shorten molding times are seen as crucial to their wider use.
The research project brought together DIC’s radiation-curable resin; a high-speed tow spreading technology owned by the Industrial Technology Center of Fukui Prefecture; and Seiren’s high-precision impregnation technologies, which capitalize on its resin film-forming and coating capabilities to realize a carbon-fiber-reinforced prepreg sheet with a world-leading minimum curing time of 30 seconds. Moreover, unlike conventional epoxy prepreg sheets, this new offering can be stored at room temperature, eliminating the need for frozen or refrigerated storage facilities and, thus, reducing storage costs.
Going forward, DIC and Seiren will continue working together to encourage adoption of this carbon-fiber-reinforced prepreg sheet by manufacturers in multiple industries, including automakers. By improving molding and processing productivity, the companies look forward to further advancing the popularity of CFRP composite materials. In so doing, they will help lower weight, improve fuel economy, and reduce energy consumption of end-use products.