Fiber-reinforced composites are increasingly being used for lightweight construction applications in vehicles, aircraft and mechanical engineering. In particular continuous fiber-reinforced plastics based on thermoplastics are growing in popularity. Some resins, however, require high processing temperatures that may be beyond the capabilities of conventional processing equipment. Further, the heating of reinforcing structures such as fabrics made from thermoplastic pre-impregnated uni-directional fiber-reinforced UD (unidirectional) tape requires a high level of process control and reproducibility.
Press manufacturing company Wickert Maschinenbau GmbH (Landau/Pfalz, Germany) says it has come up with flexible system for tackling such high temperature challenges. The equipment was designed based on process engineering technology developed by the Fraunhofer Institute For Chemical Technology (ICT, Pfinztal, Germany) to consolidate UD tape supports.
The system has already entered trial operation. At the end of 2014, Wickert delivered a high-temperature contact heating table that can achieve processing temperatures of up to 425oC. This is being used at Fraunhofer ICT by the thermoplastics processing (TP) working group, part of the Polymer Engineering Department. One of the research focuses of the TP working group is local continuous fiber reinforcement, which also covers the processing of continuous fiber-reinforced semi-finished products such as UD tapes.