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The new iPul system was unveiled at the KraussMaffei Competence Day Pultrusion.
The new iPul system was unveiled at the KraussMaffei Competence Day Pultrusion.
Photo: 12

At Composite Europe 2017, KraussMaffei will present cost-effective solutions for manufacturing fiber reinforced plastic components (FRP).

"The market for composites continues to develop very dynamically. Important drivers of innovation are automated processes that allow manufacturing that is ready for large series production. In light of this fact, we are continually optimizing our systems and processes while expanding our portfolio," said Erich Fries, Head of the Composites/Surfaces business unit with KraussMaffei.

Revolutionary iPul pultrusion system

The latest innovation is the iPul pultrusion system, the first complete system for continuous pultrusion of straight and curved profiles with a production speeds up to two times faster than the conventional tub or pull-through process.

In pultrusion, continuous fibers – usually of glass, carbon or aramide – are infiltrated with a reactive plastic matrix and formed to the desired profile in a heated mold. Grippers pull the cured profile continuously and feed it to a sawing unit.

The new iPul system by KraussMaffei encompasses this entire sequence and revolutionizes the technology, which has been common for a long time, in two respects.

It encapsulates the infiltration of the fibers, which so far mostly takes place in open vessels, in an injection box, which permits the use of fast-reacting systems (epoxy, polyurethane (PU), polyamide (PA) 6). And it increases the production speed from the usual 0.5-1.5m/min to approximately 3m/min.

Five different RTM processes

Apart from iPul, KraussMaffei offers five different resin transfer molding (RTM) processes. The HP-RTM (high pressure RTM) process allows the manufacture of light structural components, that also withstand requirements such as the load conditions that exist in a car crash.

In the C-RTM process (compression RTM), the addition of resin – usually epoxy resin or PU – is carried out in a slightly open mold. Fiber content of significantly over 50% is possible in both processes.

Surface RTM additionally yields a paintable surface flow-coated with polyurethane off-mold. In comparison to the process already mentioned, wet molding (also known as wet pressing) distinguishes itself through a simplified process chain – the preform process is completely omitted – and offers a cost-effective alternative for manufacturing new lightweight components, especially in vehicle manufacturing.

With the T-RTM process, KraussMaffei is going one step further: for the first time, processing thermoplastic matrix systems (caprolactam) is possible. Advantage: The components are recyclable at the end of the product life cycle and, unlike common thermoset plastics, can also be formed or welded in downstream process steps.

FiberForm ready for series production

The FiberForm process also deals with processing thermoplastic matrix systems. FiberForm is the thermoforming and over-molding of organic sheets, platen-shaped semi-finished products with continuous fibers made of glass, carbon or aramide that, for example, are embedded into a thermoplastic matrix made out of polyamide (PA) or polypropylene (PP).

In this process, these semi-finished products are first heated, reshaped in the injection mold and then back-injected with polymer, with or without fiber reinforcement.

"Since the market launch at the K 2010, we have consistently further developed the FiberForm technology, and today we offer our customers a series production solution," explained Stefan Fenske, FiberForm Technology Manager with KraussMaffei.

New for the KraussMaffei FiberForm system is, for example, the concept of automation. The heating of the composite sheet and the demolding of the finished component take place in parallel, and the individual process steps are thus decoupled from one another.

In addition, the infrared heating station required for heating up has been mounted directly above the mold parting line and as a result, the transfer time of the composite sheet into the injection mold is reduced to a minimum.

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