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World’s Lightest Sustainable Sandwich Panels Boast Quality Surface Finish

Smaller honeycomb cell sizes open up opportunities in aesthetic automotive and transportation applications.

Posted by Staff

March 13, 2023

2 Min Read
comparison of honeycomb cell sizes
Image courtesy of ThermHex Waben

ThermHex Waben, a fabricator of thermoplastic polypropylene (PP) honeycomb cores for lightweight sandwich panels and components, has debuted its latest range of sustainable panels. Honeycomb panels are increasingly replacing more traditional materials, such as plywood and thermoset panels, particularly in trucks, trailers, and cargo boxes. Other applications include wind and solar, logistics, building and construction, and furniture.

The thermoplastic composite panels combine mechanical performance with a surface quality not achievable with thermoplastic composite skins using conventional honeycomb technology, according to ThermHex Waben. Available in thicknesses of 6 to 20 mm and densities of 1,200 to 4,200 g/m2, the panels are produced economically using the patented EconCore process.

The honeycomb panels are fabricated in a continuous in-line process encompassing extrusion of a PP sheet, vacuum forming, and folding. Allowing for direct and automated lamination of thermoplastic composite skins, the integrated process effectively generates a honeycomb sandwich panel with outstanding performance poperties, according to ThermHex Waben.

In the past, high cost and the “telegraphic effect” have restricted the use of honeycombs in sandwich-panel applications requiring a high-quality surface finish. The smaller 5-mm cell size of the honeycomb versus the typical 8-mm cell size of honeycombs made in China reportedly enables exceptional surface quality even with very thin skin layers. By almost halving the cell size, ThermHex Waben said it has enabled new applications for the panels, not just because of their high strength-to-weight ratio, but also as a result of the surface finish.

In addition to mechanical strength and low density, the honeycomb panels are chemical and water resistant, making them suitable for transportation, solar energy, marine, and furniture applications. ThermHex’s PP honeycombs also are used in a range of automotive interior parts. The material’s light weight has enabled automotive OEMs to reduce the weight of their vehicles without compromising on rigidity and, thus, improving fuel efficiency.

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