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New method combines two traditional production techniques: compression molding and pultrusion; reduces costs by up to 60 percent compared to RIM and other conventional processes.

Stephen Moore

January 24, 2017

2 Min Read
Evonik develops new technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

The automotive industry is increasingly looking to composite materials as a way of reducing vehicle weight and CO2 emissions. Up to now, however, these materials have mostly been used in luxury-class vehicles, as established methods are expensive and complex. With Evonik’s newly developed PulPress method, however, things are apparently different: now manufacturers can mass-produce complex molded parts at a reasonable price, taking the technology from the high-end market to large-scale production. The new method combines two traditional production techniques: compression molding and pultrusion. Combined, they make automated, continuous production of composite parts possible.

A composite part made by the PulPress method from a structural foam core Rohacell woven around with fibers is about 75 percent lighter than traditional steel structures.

The most important raw material in the process is Rohacell, a polymethacrylimide-based structural foam core from Evonik that has already proven its merit as a lightweight yet rigid material—one that retains its shape particularly well and is temperature resistant. Fibers are woven around the core before being impregnated with resin. The complete system is then compressed into the desired shape at high temperature and pressure. The method even allows manufacturers to produce complex geometries and integrate recessed areas for threaded components or other fixtures.

Particularly impressive aspects of the new manufacturing process include its design flexibility and cost efficiency, and the crash behavior of the resulting composite parts—parts that are around 75 percent lighter than traditional steel structures. Plus, the PulPress method also reduces costs by up to 60 percent compared to composite parts manufactured using established methods such as resin injection.

The automotive supply chain has a new rendezvous. UBM America’s newest design and manufacturing trade show and conference debuts in Cleveland, OH, on March 29 and 30, 2017. On one show floor, Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Cleveland showcases five zones—packaging, automation and robotics, design and manufacturing, plastics and medical manufacturing. Hundreds of suppliers and numerous conference sessions offer sourcing and educational opportunities targeted to the automotive and other key industry sectors. Go to the ADM Cleveland website to learn more and to register to attend.

“These advantages have already won over many customers in the European automotive industry,” says Sivakumara Krishnamoorthy, manager for new applications in Evonik’s Resource Efficiency Segment. “Molded parts made using PulPress will soon be going into mass production.”

The process is also of interest to manufacturers outside of the auto industry. It could conceivably be applied in aircraft construction as a cost-effective method for producing large numbers of carry-over parts. Finally, lightweight sandwich cores are also becoming more and more important in sports equipment.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

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