DSM Engineering Plastics (Singapore) has launched a custom-made solution for structural and semi-structural applications, incorporating various types of continuous fiber reinforcements embedded in its advanced polyamides. Together with several industry partners, DSM has developed advanced thermoplastic composites, which are initially aimed at the automotive industry.
"Car makers around the world continue to improve the fuel efficiency and sustainability of their products," says Rein Borggreve, Global Research and Technology Director at DSM. "Over the years, thermoplastics have provided various solutions, in the form of lightweight components and systems in the passenger compartment, in bodywork, and under the hood. DSM materials have proven important in making this trend to replace metal by plastics possible, in such applications as the air bag system and the oil sump. Now it's time for the next step, with advanced thermoplastic composites."
Composites containing carbon fibers, based on DSM's EcoPaXX polyamide 410, Akulon polyamide 6 and Stanyl polyamide 46, will reportedly facilitate significant weight reduction in automobile body and chassis parts, while glass fiber reinforced composites will be targeted at reducing the weight of semi-structural components. In all cases, the lightweighting will result in increased vehicle fuel efficiency and reduced emissions of carbon dioxide.
DSM is a partner in the four-year Enlight project, which also includes car companies Jaguar Cars, Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo. Part of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme, Enlight aims to accelerate the technological development of a portfolio of materials, which together offer a strong potential to reduce weight and overall carbon footprint in medium-to-high volume electric vehicles (EVs) that could reach the market between 2020 and 2025.
Enlight will act as an open innovation platform, through the collaboration of EUCAR (the European Council for Automotive R&D), CLEPA (the European Association of Automotive Suppliers) and EARPA (the European Automotive Research Partners Association), integrating valuable insights from other EU research projects with a holistic design approach.
DSM is also showing its strong commitment to the development of advanced thermoplastic composites by being one of the founding partners in AZL, the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production. DSM is one of the 33 companies supporting AZL, along with suppliers such as Ashland and TenCate, and car manufacturers Opel and Toyota. The aim of AZL is to develop automated production of load‐ and cost‐optimized lightweight components, suitable for mass production and versatile process chains in composite and multi‐material design.
At K 2013, DSM showcased two applications in advanced thermoplastic composites. The first was a Type IV full engineering plastic pressure vessel based on a liner in Akulon Fuel Lock polyamide and a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic wound tape based on Akulon polyamide. This development exhibits significantly reduced weight compared with metal pressure vessels, as well as extremely low permeation.
The second application at K 2013 was a concept in-mold-formed housing cover, made in a combination of a continuous glass reinforced EcoPaXX PA 410-based composite and an injection molded EcoPaXX PA 410 compound. Together with one of its processing partners, DSM is exploring applications produced using a hybrid process combining composite thermoforming and injection molding.
Separately, DSM has formed a partnership agreement with PlastiComp, Inc. (Winona, MN) to develop new innovative bio-based long fiber thermoplastic (LFT) composite materials for the automotive and other performance-driven markets. Central to this partnership is DSM's commitment to sustainability-in this case with its EcoPaXX polyamide 410, 70% derived from renewable resources-and PlastiComp's expertise in LFT composites design and manufacturing. Initial compounding, molding and testing of carbon-fiber reinforced EcoPaXX was successful in establishing benchmark composites for high-temperature (up to 200°C) and structural applications.
The LFT composites DSM is co-developing with PlastiComp-which include compounds reinforced with glass fiber as well as carbon fiber-boast an much improved life cycle analysis (LCA) score, thanks to the carbon neutral cradle-to-gate footprint of the EcoPaXX polymer. These composites are well suited to weight optimization efforts in the automotive industry for fuel savings and lowered emissions.
The two partner companies will also collaborate with potential customers to design injection-molded composite parts. They will employ computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools to ensure optimized fiber architecture to meet stringent requirements for dimensional tolerances, surface finish and high-temperature properties.
While the principal focus of the partnership is on automotive applications, composites that DSM and PlastiComp are developing are also attractive in other metal-replacement applications. Grades can, for example, leverage material characteristics such as electro-magnetic interference (EMI) shielding for electronics, and radiolucency in X-Ray applications, thereby enhancing the value of light-weight, high performance, metal substitutions.