EconCore, a leader in thermoplastic honeycomb production technology, will be exhibiting at the Plastics Extrusion World Expo in Cleveland (Ohio, USA) on May 8 and 9. EconCore is highlighting its worldwide patented and widely implemented production technology that allows companies in North America, Europe, and Asia to produce performance to weight optimized products for packaging, automotive, commercial transportation and building materials.
The extrusion fed technology of EconCore converts thermoplastics to technical honeycomb core structures and with in line lamination of skins produces lightweight sandwich panels. Exploiting the so-called sandwich effect, users of the technology are able to transform commodity thermoplastic materials to high value honeycomb products having high mechanical performance at much lower weight compared to solid extruded materials while at the same time saving on material costs. The true honeycomb structure also outperforms other low-density cores such as fluted or cup-shaped structures sometimes used in packaging and automotive applications.
EconCores continuous honeycomb panel production technology consists of feeding (by direction extrusion or pre-extruded flat film/sheet), vacuum forming of the film/sheet to a half-hexagonal “half honeycomb” pattern, folding of the pattern to a technical honeycomb core structure, and bonding of skin materials onto the honeycomb core to make sandwich panels. Using the high speed in line process, the user is able to realize products at minimal cost, minimal weight, and minimal environmental impact.
Founded in 2005 in Belgium, EconCore began with the invention of an aerospace engineer who on one hand recognized the value of the honeycomb structure widely used for decades in aerospace and on the other hand applied the high speed, automatic production concepts used in the packaging industry. Since these beginnings EconCore has licensed its “ThermHex technology” to leading companies across the globe including among others “Karton S.p.A.“ from Italy and “Gifu Plastics Industriey” from Japan for packaging, “Renolit SE from Germany and “Fynotej” from Mexico for automotive, “Wabash National” from the US for transportation, and “Tata Steel” from the UK for building. “EconCore brought the honeycomb structure once reserved for high end less cost sensitive domains to the higher volume mass markets and by doing so have furthered the efficient use of natures finite resources”, says Tomasz Czarnecki EconCore COO, “for users of the technology and products it is the cost efficiency of the process and the weight savings offered by the honeycomb structure that are the main drivers of success”.
As packaging and automotive are the two largest sectors making up the licensing footprint today, EconCore will emphasize the use of its technology in these areas at the Plastics Extrusion World Expo. Licensees in packaging and automotive typically extrude polypropylene to make technical honeycomb cores followed by in line bonding of polypropylene skins to make sandwich panels. Finishing steps are often integrated in line including corona treatment for ink printing and bonding of textiles to the skin surface for automotive interior applications.
A leading example of the success with true honeycomb core-based products is in reusable packaging with collapsible sleeve packs which are very popular among automotive OEMs for inter/intra site logistics. Sleeve packs made using EconCore technology are setting new performance standards in terms of maximum load and this no doubt is a key reason for market share growth over the last 3 years to level upwards of 20 percent of the European OEM market. “With reusable packaging set to grow in North America the time is ripe for a new user to leap-frog and take the lead with EconCore for resuable packaging in the region”, says John Sewell responsible for business development at EconCore.
Moreover, the excellent thermoformability of the thermoplastic honeycomb sandwich panels is very much desired especially in automotive applications. Also, the still air within the honeycomb cells enhances thermal insulation and the honeycomb structure serves to improve acoustic absorption.
The versatility of the technology allows for wide range of core materials in addition to polyolefins (PP and PE). Thermoplastics including PET, PVC, ABS, PVC, PMMA, bio-based PLA, and engineering and high-performance polymers such as PC, PA, PPS, PEI are proven for the process. The versatility extends to skin materials ranging from thermoplastics to thermoplastic composites reinforced with glass, carbon, or natural fibers and metals including steel and aluminum.