The process was developed at Engel’s Centre for Lightweight Composites Technology and optimized for commercial-scale production. Engel has supplied two well-known tier suppliers with an integrated system. This technology is of particular interest to the automotive industry according to Engel due to the use of thermoplastics, which significantly simplifies the recycling of production waste as well as end-of-life components.
|Use of thin gage thermoplastic fabrics is growing, but this also requires special heating technology. Consequently, Engel now offers a vertical version of its IR ovens. Vertical ovens can be installed directly above the clamping unit of the injection machine.|
Both of the recently delivered systems clearly exhibit two distinct trends, one being the integration of insert technology. In one of the applications, a large number of metal inserts are overmolded directly in the organomelt process.
Secondly, the process involves thin-walled thermoplastic fabric with wall thicknesses of only 0.5-0.6 mm. This places different demands on the process than thicker materials. The heated semi-finished products must be processed very quickly so that they do not cool too much before forming.
To enable this, Engel developed a vertical IR oven especially for this process. It is located directly above the clamping unit of the injection-molding machine. The machine builder covers the entire range of requirements for processing thermoplastic fabric by offering both vertical and horizontal IR ovens in various sizes. Both oven types were originally developed and manufactured by Engel and, just like Engel robots, they can therefore be fully integrated with the CC300 control unit of the injection-molding machine or press. This means that users can centrally monitor and control the entire processing method from the machine control unit, and the machine, robot and IR oven can automatically coordinate their work processes to achieve maximum efficiency.
Thermoplastic fabric has long been available, but thermoplastic tapes reinforced with glass fiber or carbon fiber are gaining importance. Usually, the tapes are only 0.14-0.3 mm thick, which when used in a single layer makes them suitable for very few applications. As a result, layups consisting of up to 20 tape layers are produced and their design is part of the component structure.
Engel has designed its own layup cell for tape layups, i.e. building layups directly upstream of the injection-molding process. Based on the pick-and-place principle, it works in sync with the injection-molding process.
The company also uses the layup technology in the production of robots from its e-pic series, which employ a lightweight carbon arm produced at the Engel robot factory in Dietach, Austria. By using this innovative manufacturing technology, it was possible to reduce the weight of the robot rotational axis by 37%. This imparts the robot with significantly higher dynamics and raises energy efficiency.
The organomelt process will be on display at Composites Europe 2017, which takes place this year in Stuttgart from September 19 to 21, and Engel’s booth in Hall 4 (stand D24).