Into the future, with new technologies – Processing thermoplastic materials for even more test possibilities
When it comes to processing and testing fibre-reinforced plastics, we are difficult to beat. The experience we have built up over many decades – in the manufacture of thermoset plastic samples, made of epoxy and polyester resins, for example, in testing from A to Z and in evaluating the results – has made us specialists in testing.
The fields of application of these thermoset plastics range from wind turbine rotor blades through to interior and exterior components in the automotive industry and applications in the aerospace sector. However, this group of plastics is also associated with long and complex production processes and recycling is only possible to a very limited extent.
And this is precisely where the potential of “fibre-reinforced thermoplastics” comes into play. As a material of the future, they represent the “composites of the next generation”. The developments in the market leave no room for doubt: thermoplastic composites will become increasingly important in numerous industrial sectors over the next years.
As an accredited provider of testing services, we – IMA Dresden – have been making intensive preparations for this new course with its associated test requirements for some time now. And we are running at full speed in this respect. In 2018, the initial prerequisites for processing fibre-reinforced thermoplastics were implemented with the expansion of our FRP cutting centre. But there is more: in the next step, we wanted to be able to process the materials ourselves at IMA Dresden.
Things came to fruition in June this year, when the thermoplastic press, which was developed according to our specifications, was delivered and put into operation. The new press has expanded IMA Dresden’s manufacturing capacity to include technologies for processing fibre-reinforced thermoplastic tape. The challenge here was to achieve the high processing temperatures of up to 450 °C and reliably meet the strict requirements for precise temperature control. This is important since, in the same way as for metals, the hardening process is used to give the thermoplastics special properties.
But what makes the “thermoplastic fibre composite” so special? Compared to thermosets, it has several decisive advantages. Not only is the production time significantly reduced, but it can also be warmed up after hardening and then reshaped. In contrast to thermosets, it is also weldable which thereby allows a whole range of new processing and connection technologies to be used. And thanks to its good recycling properties, it more than meets the growing requirement for consistent sustainability. No wonder, then, that thermoplastic composites are increasingly becoming the focus of the entire industry.
With the completion of its latest infrastructure measures, IMA Dresden is now ready to start its own in-house thermoplastic production according to customer requirements. Join us on our technological journey into the future of “thermoplastics”.