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Keywords of this article:  automotive 
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The LFT pultrusion line is approx. 30 m long and was adapted to the space available at HCJH (photo: ProTec Polymer Processing).
The LFT pultrusion line is approx. 30 m long and was adapted to the space available at HCJH (photo: ProTec Polymer Processing).

Suzhou Hechang Polymer Materials Ltd. (HCJH), a Chinese manufacturer of polymer compounds, produces high quality long fiber reinforced plastics in pellet form for international automotive manufacturers. HCJH is using a long fiber reinforced thermoplastics (LFT) pultrusion line from ProTec, Germany, to mass produce the pellets.

HCJH is relying on dependable German technology to produce the high-quality LFT compounds: ProTec, the one-stop system supplier from Bensheim, supplied the most recent pultrusion line which was commissioned in March 2017.

This line approximately doubled HCJH's LFT production capacity. Up to 1,000 kg/h of pellets can be produced using any conventional thermoplastics as well as biopolymers such as PLA as the matrix and glass, steel, carbon, and aramid fibers as the reinforcement.

Lightweight components for automotive industry

Products manufactured using the LFT pellets that HCJH produces on the line include front-end modules. (photo: Suzhou Hechang Polymeric Materials Ltd.)HCJH is currently primarily using the line to produce polypropylene and glass fiber composites which are mainly delivered to automotive sector customers for producing moldings such as front-end modules, instrument panel carriers and sliding roof frames. Using LFT pellets means the moldings can combine light weight with high load capacity.

The length of the fibers corresponds to the pellet length which is usually 10 to 12 mm at HCJH. The pellets are easy to store and be injection molded into components with very good surface quality and excellent mechanical properties.

"We were looking for a line capable of combining high speed production with good pellet quality", said Vice General Manager Shi Yaoqi. "Top quality is crucial on the Chinese LFT market, in particular for our customers in the automotive and household appliance industries."

Standard and custom LFT lines

The line handles 64 strands and produces up to one metric ton of LFT pellets per hour which are supplied to customers from the automotive industry and other sectors (photo: ProTec Polymer Processing).As standard, a ProTec LFT line consists of a creel which holds and simultaneously unwinds a number of fiber bobbins, a chucking device with combs for guiding and tensioning the fiber strands and an extruder for melt preparation.

In addition, there is a die for impregnating the fibers with the polymer melt and a water bath for cooling the coated strands, while a puller as drive unit conveys the fiber strands. The strands are then chopped to length in a pelletizer.

A central control module with touch panel controls the individual components of the line, for example automatically coordinating them in the event of a variation in line speed or pellet chopping length.

The LFT line was adapted to local circumstances for HCJH, for example to the extruder provided by the customer and the dimensions of the production shop in Suzhou where the approx. 30 m long line was to be set up. The dosing unit was also mounted on the extruder using a special flange to save space.

Integrating extruder into fully automated operation

The extruder was additionally integrated into the line controller so enabling retrieval and direct adjustment of rotational speed and temperature via the touch panel.

"The controller also stores the extruder parameters for each formulation. This simplifies operation since all relevant line parameters can be retrieved by touch", explained Omar Metwaly, project manager at ProTec Polymer Processing in Bensheim. "Each unit can be individually controlled. So an operator can initially run the line in manual mode to adjust the individual components and then change over to automatic mode."

Test line in Bensheim

ProTec's technology center in Bensheim has a fully automated LFT line with peripherals on which potential customers can carry out extensive testing. The resultant pellets and sample components can immediately be analyzed in the adjacent laboratory.

In the case of HCJH, the new line was in particular required for producing pellets with glass fiber contents of 30, 40 and 50 weight per cent. Even fiber contents as high as 65 weight per cent are possible on ProTec's LFT line.


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