Research Project How to produce injection-moulded standard components with a reduced CO2 footprint
Germany — Instead of extremely light and expensive components the technology of tape laying creates standard components for cost-driven mass applications. With this technology, moulded parts could be created at competitive costs and with a significantly reduced CO2 footprint.
Tape Technology Transfer Hub (T3 Hub) is the title of a joint project just initiated by Aachen Centre for Integrative Lightweight Construction (AZL) and Institute for Plastics Processing (IKV) involving six partners and dealing with a paradigm shift: Instead of extremely light and expensive components, for example for aerospace technology, standard components for cost-driven mass applications are to be created through the technology of tape laying. Among other things, moulded parts for industrial applications, E+E, household appliances or the transport sector could be created at competitive costs and with a reduced CO2 footprint — instead of component weight, material savings are the top priority.
Tapes are semi-finished products that are a few tenths of a millimetre thick, between 5 and 25 mm wide and consist of unidirectionally oriented reinforcing fibres, mostly glass or carbon, embedded in a thermoplastic matrix. Conventionally, these are used as flat laminates for highly stressed structural components in aerospace and automotive engineering or are processed into pipes or containers by winding. Such components are very light, have excellent mechanical properties, but are expensive compared to injection moulded components and are limited in terms of quantities.
The T3 Hub is pursuing a new approach: bionic tape structures are to be specifically embedded in “traditional” injection moulded components to save costs and reduce the CO2 footprint in the production and use phase. Due to the reinforcing effect of the tapes, wall thicknesses can be reduced and ribbing can be eliminated. Further potential savings result from the fact that the high mechanical tape properties also open up new applications for alternative compounds with a lower CO2 footprint, recycled materials or even bio-based polymer and fibre materials. “Savings in material consumption are the strongest lever for reducing production costs in the injection moulding process and the CO2 footprint,” says Fabian Becker. “By integrating small amounts of tape into typical injection moulded components, the ecological footprint is expected to be reduced while being at least cost-neutral.”
The core idea behind the 30-month project, funded by the BMWi, is the transfer of niche technologies for high-performance components to the mass production of standard moulded parts through material reduction and substitution by means of load-oriented reinforcement inserts. With the objective of establishing lightweight construction technologies in mass applications, the research project fits perfectly into the lightweight construction strategy of the German government.
The project takes into account the entire development and production chain. As a result, all methods for the efficient identification of suitable products and their virtual development, know-how about production techniques and a platform for the pre-development of components are available to users. The digital development chain is implemented between Simcon, IKV and AZL on the basis of the Cadmould software. Conbility and IKV increase the efficiency of the production and processing of the tapes in laser-assisted tape laying, all production data are merged by Conbility into a digital twin of the components. At the Aachen Centre for Integrative Lightweight Construction (AZL) at RWTH Aachen University, a demonstration and development platform for the production of full-scale injection moulded components with tape reinforcement is being created. The Industrial Association for Reinforced Plastics (AVK) is also closely involved, supporting the consortium in the identification of application scenarios and technology assessment.
The project is the continuation of a market and technology analysis for tape integration in injection moulded components carried out with 20 companies. In addition to the development of the technological components, the project particularly pursues the goal of technology transfer into practice. Of high importance for this is the demonstration of the potential for cost-neutral improvement of the CO2 footprint and the applicability for the " conventional" injection moulding processor. In order to identify as many interesting applications as possible, the consortium offers interested companies the opportunity to analyse their components.