Partners establish project for lightweight design

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From the drawing board to the shop floor

In order to provide the general framework for basic analyses, test series and component development, the shop said it and the partners have constructed a specially designed flexible manufacturing cell in Busslingen. In addition to an injection moulding machine with larger mounting plates (1920 x 1980 mm) and a clamping force of 4,200kN, its core equipment comprises an infrared heating station (1500 x 1250 mm) as well as a 6-axis robot with a weight capacity of 90 kg. The company noted that, depending on the respective development project, the manufacturing cell can be modified and expanded as needed, for example by means of a component-specific gripper system. Other equipment includes extensive sensor technology to keep track of all the parameters relevant to the process.

Market forces drive decision to start project

The main factor for setting up an independent lightweight construction development centre is the growing demand for highly stressable lightweight components with a thermoplastic matrix, the mould maker said, noting that the range for potential application is quite diverse. The company pointed out that demand is being reported in virtually all business sectors. “First and foremost by the automobile and transportation as well as the aerospace industry.” But numerous other companies such as manufacturers of household and consumer goods, sports articles and healthcare systems are said to be also showing increasing interest. The company explained that as a non-industry specific facility, the LIPA Development Center is available to interested processors, users and material manufacturers for testing – even with their own tools – as well as for development projects.

Plastic-fabric combinations outperform metals

Lightweight components made of thermoplastic semi-finished stitched and woven fabric-reinforced products excel versus comparable metal parts in terms of mechanical strength and reduced weight, which can be up to 25%. This is true for a wide range of fibre materials.

The production sequence, in short, is seen as follows: Defined preheated and thus soft and instable mats or organic sheets are placed and fixed accurately and reproducibly into the tool. When the tool closes, the reshaping process begins, whereby it is important that the hot organic sheet reforms as defined and without damage. When the reshaping process is finished, the tool closes and a regular injection process starts for integrating functional and stiffening elements into the organic sheet.