A German Government-supported project promoting "research for future production" presented its findings on the SpriForm process for lightweight structural components at a closing event hosted recently by one of the project partners: KrausMaffei (Munich, Germany),
The focus was on lightweight structural components for electromobility and presentations from Audi AG, Bond-Laminates (Brilon, Germany), the Institute for Composite Materials (IVW; Kaiserslautern, Germany), the Jacob Plastics Group (Wilhelmsdorf, Germany), and Lanxess (Leverkusen, Germany) together with injection machine builder KraussMaffei were made to a 100-strong audience.
SpriForm process attracted considerable interest from the auto sector.
This production process combines the advantages of thermoplastic injection molding and thermoforming of continuous fiber-reinforced, semi-finished products (so-called organic sheets) for applications in structural lightweight components. The organic sheets are slab-like in shape and the reinforcing fiber is impregnated with a polyamide (PA) matrix. The sheet for an impact protection application is comprised of six 0.5-mm fiber layers and a PA6 matrix.
In the fully automated SpriForm production cell, individual sheets pre-heated by an infrared oven are robotically inserted into an injection mold where they are fixed in place by hydraulic needles. Simultaneously, a finished part on the other side of the mold is removed. The newly inserted sheet is then formed and back-injected with ribs and its edges are fully over-molded. Krauss Maffei has applied its injection molding compounder to the production cell so that the fiber content and length can be adjusted according to part requirements (up to 60% loading is possible).
"We were delighted with the large number of persons attending the closing event," said Nicolas Beyl, Director Technology at KraussMaffei. "The high attendance proved that we had found precisely the right topic." In addition to process development with material handling technology for the organic sheets and trim optimization for geometrically complex components, another focal point was simulation of the all-plastic hybrid components. Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG (Busslingen/Remetschwil, Switzerland) was responsible for constructing the molds.
Fiber composite technology is set to become a very important component in lightweight automotive construction and the proportion of plastics as an automotive material will continue to increase, concur project participants. The costs and unit numbers of each component must therefore be evaluated in regard to lightweight construction potential in order to select the most suitable options from the large number of materials and production solutions, they note.
"Due to our extensive experience in numerous production processes for lightweight fiber-reinforced components, we are a recognized partner along the entire process chain", says Beyl. "From the feasibility study through to post-mold processing and subsequent processing, manufacturers and suppliers appreciate our know-how and are increasingly asking us about interdisciplinary services." -[email protected]