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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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There is an increasing use of thin thermoplastic fabric, but this also requires special heating technology. As a result, Engel now offers a vertical version of its IR ovens.
There is an increasing use of thin thermoplastic fabric, but this also requires special heating technology. As a result, Engel now offers a vertical version of its IR ovens.
Photo: 1234

At Composites Europe 2017, Engel Austria will present its latest solutions for fiber reinforced plastics (FRP). The technologies range from HP-RTM and SMC, through the processing of semi-finished thermoplastic products to reactive thermoplastic processes.

One highlight being presented is the processing and functionalization of continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic semi-finished products (thermoplastic fabric) using the Engel organomelt process.

It was developed at Engel's Centre for Lightweight Composites Technology and optimized for series production. Engel supplied two well-known tier suppliers with an integrated system. The first major series applications of this technology in the automotive industry will be launched shortly, according to the company.

Both of the recently delivered systems clearly show two distinct trends. Firstly, the additional integration of insert technology. In one of the applications, a large quantity of metal inserts is overmolded directly in the organomelt process.

Secondly, the process involves thin-walled thermoplastic fabric with wall thicknesses of only 0.5-0.6mm. This places different demands on the process than thicker materials. The heated semi-finished products must be processed very quickly so that they do not cool too much before shaping.

Engel developed a vertical IR oven especially for this process. It is located directly above the clamping unit of the injection molding machine.

Thermoplastic fabric has long been available, but thermoplastic tapes reinforced with glass fiber or carbon fiber are gaining importance. Usually tapes are only 0.14-0.3 mm thick, which is suitable for very few applications. As a result, layups consisting of up to 20 tape layers are produced and their design is part of the component structure.

Engel has designed its own layup cell for tape layups, i.e. building layups directly upstream of the injection molding process. Based on the pick-and-place principle, it works in sync with the injection molding process.

The robots of its e-pic series have a lightweight carbon arm which is produced at the Engel robot factory in Dietach, Austria using this new process. By using this innovative manufacturing technology, it was possible to reduce the weight of the robot rotational axis by 37%. This gives the robot significantly higher dynamics and raises energy efficiency.

Engel is also one of the pioneers in the field of reactive processing where the aim is to increase the use of thermoplastic matrix materials. In 2012, the first integrated concept is presented for the in-situ polymerization of ε-Caprolactam into polyamide (PA) directly in the mold in which a dry fiber preform is placed.

The cell combines in-situ polymerization (T-RTM) with the downstream functionalization of the FRP support structure in the injection molding process. "The automotive industry has shown great interest in this highly-integrated thermoplastic-based process," reported Peter Egger, Division Manager of Engel's Centre for Lightweight Composite Technologies. "We are now prepared to collaborate with the industry to start component development."

The integrated, highly automated system concept is based on a v-duo press which Engel developed specifically for fiber reinforced composition applications as well as multi-component processes with fiber preforms.

The v-duo series has been used by leading auto makers in Europe. For example, BMW uses a v-duo 3600 at its Landshut factory to produce large structural components from fiber reinforced plastics using the HP-RTM process. The Engel machine has a clamping force of 36,000kN.

A v-duo 2300 is installed at Audi for the production of B-pillars. A v-duo 3600 was also supplied to the Open Hybrid LabFactory in Wolfsburg, Germany, to research functionally integrated composite technologies.

Composites Europe 2017 will be held in Stuttgart, Germany from September 19-21.

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