Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recyclable alternative for composite car parts

Recyclable alternative for composite car parts

PFINZTAL, GERMANY (Sept. 7, 12:45 p.m. ET) -- Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (FICT) in Pfinztal have developed a new method for producing thermoplastic fiber-reinforced composite materials designed for large-scale vehicle construction.

Once these materials have reached end of life, according to FICT, they can be shredded, melted down and reused to produce new high-quality parts. Researchers also claim the materials can perform significantly better in crashes than current materials — they say thermoplastic components reinforced with textile structures absorb the forces generated in a collision through viscoelastic deformation of the matrix material without splintering.

Automakers have traditionally constructed such parts from composites using a thermoset matrix. However, according to FICT, as well as being difficult to implement efficiently under mass production, this process is potentially hazardous since thermoset composites tend to delaminate into sharp-edged splinters in a collision. A further issue is that thermosets are harder to recycle.

Through thermoplastic resin-transfer molding, FICT engineers say they can manufacture up to 100,000 parts per year, with the composite is formed in a single step.

As a demonstration, FICT engineers fabricated a luggage boot liner for the Porsche Carrera 4, which they say weighs up to 50 percent less than the original aluminum part.

To improve the crash behavior of the vehicle’s overall structure, FICT engineers also calculated the optimum fiber placement.

According to FICT, the cost of the thermoplastic matrix material and the cost of T-RTM processing are both up to 50 percent lower than the equivalent costs for thermoset structures.