New composite materials under development
After acquiring Bond-Laminates, LANXESS is now pursuing a leading global position as a supplier of high-tech thermoplastic materials for lightweight design to serve the green mobility market. “We are one of few thermoplastics manufacturers worldwide capable of providing both practice-proven compounds and performance composite materials, as well as customized applications know-how for mass production. We want to exploit this unique combination to grow our business. In line with market trends, we also are working on high-performance alternatives to carbon fiber-reinforced thermosets for lightweight design,” says Hartwig Meier, head of Global Product and Applications Development in LANXESS' High Performance Materials Business Unit (HPM).
With its TEPEX product family, Bond-Laminates GmbH, in Brilon, Germany, is a leading manufacturer of continuous fiber-reinforced performance composites made of thermoplastics (nylon composite sheets). The material already is demonstrating its advantages in volume production, for instance in automotive and aircraft manufacturing, in athletic equipment and electronics. “We are capable on a commercial scale of producing semi-finished composites that are free of air inclusions and fully impregnated. That sets us apart from a lot of competitors, and results in components with reproducible, high-quality properties,” explains Dr. Christian Obermann, general manager of Bond-Laminates.
All materials from a one-stop supplier
LANXESS now encompasses the entire value chain for manufacturing fiber-reinforced composite materials for lightweight design. Bond-Laminates contributes expertise in fibers, fabrics and the production of TEPEX. LANXESS HPM has access to custom polyamides and is backward integrated in their strategically important precursors, which means greater supply reliability for customers. “Furthermore, we are globally positioned in product and applications development as well as sales and marketing, meaning we can engineer and market our innovations worldwide,” explains Martin Klocke, Business Development manager for lightweight design in HPM.
HiAnt Custom service for intelligent lightweight design
HPM's special advantage is its comprehensive expertise in the areas of concept development, CAE, process and industrial engineering and component testing. This know-how is pooled for customer service under the brand name HiAnt. For example, to perform integrative simulation of composite hybrid components, a tool and corresponding material model were developed to precisely simulate the shaping process for semi-finished products made from thermoplastic composites reinforced with continuous fibers. As a result, LANXESS can reliably model and optimize the production process for these components, and conduct subsequent mechanical simulations, even for high stressing rates. LANXESS is the leader in this field. The company has a wide range of testing systems for automotive parts made of plastic, such as for drop tests or aging tests that take into account the influence of various media and climate conditions.
Numerous lightweight construction components soon to enter volume production
Bond-Laminates and LANXESS currently are working on numerous projects for developing composite lightweight design solutions for motor vehicles, including concepts for parts in the seats, doors, tailgates, hatches and hoods. “Several are poised for launch into volume production,” Klocke says. The two companies have collaborated successfully in the past. “Good examples, aside from the front end of the Audi A8 and production-ready prototypes of hybrid airbag housings and brake pedals, include a mass-produced seat shell of hybrid design made with TEPEX for a sport coupe from a German auto-maker, and an engine compartment shield for a compact sports car,” Klocke says.
New composite semi-finished products with new properties
Both companies at present are developing new materials for composite semi-finished products reinforced with continuous fibers that display high flame retardance, thermal stability or impact resistance. “We are drawing on our extensive experience in compounding polyamide and other materials here,” adds Klocke. In addition, special stress-oriented TEPEX material grades are under development to further enhance potentials in lightweight design.
LANXESS (lanxess.com) is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of EUR 8.8 billion in 2011 and currently around 17,100 employees in 31 countries. The company is currently represented at 48 production sites worldwide. The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals. LANXESS is a member of the leading sustainable indices Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) World and FTSE4Good as well as the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI).