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Reinforced PP making headway in cars

Reinforced PP making headway in cars

G MT FEATURE U R e i n f o r c e d PP m a k i n g h e a d w a y in cars On t h e d a y A m a n d a W e a v e r v i s i t e d Elastogran Kunststoff...

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R e i n f o r c e d PP m a k i n g h e a d w a y in cars On t h e d a y A m a n d a W e a v e r v i s i t e d Elastogran Kunststoff-Technik in Worms, Germany, the company had j u s t p r o d u c e d its 500 0 0 0 GMT s e a t s h e l l f o r t h e 3 S e r i e s BMW. B u t it is a n o t h e r a p p l i c a t i o n w h i c h is behind much of the current interest in glass mat reinforced polypropyl e n e -- t h e t e c h n i c a l f r o n t e n d o f t h e n e w VW Golf.

lass m a t t h e r m o p l a s t i c s look set for s u b s t a n t i a l g r o w t h in E u r o p e . The Golf f r o n t e n d a l o n e will a c c o u n t for s o m e 5000 t o n n e s / y e a r of m a t e r i a l . Total E u r o p e a n c o n s u m p t i o n of GMT will rise c o n s i d e r a b l y over t h e n e x t few years, say p r o d u c e r s of t h e m a t e r i a l . However, estim a t e s of m a r k e t size v a r y considerably. Greg G a l l a g h e r of Azdel says t h e m a r k e t will d o u b l e to 20 000 t o n n e s / y e a r by 1993. M a n f r e d S c h m a h l of E l a s t o g r a n KunststoffT e c h n i k (EKT) is m o r e conservative, "curr e n t c o n s u m p t i o n is a r o u n d 13 000 t o n n e s / y e a r a n d this will rise to nearly 20 000 t o n n e s / y e a r by 1995", he says (Table 1). Schmahl estimates that current European p r o d u c t i o n of GMT is in t h e region of 23 00025 000 t o n n e s / y e a r -- c o n s i d e r a b l y h i g h e r t h a n even t h e m o s t o p t i m i s t i c v a l u e s p u t on c u r r e n t c o n s u m p t i o n . On t o p of this GE Plastics h a s a n n o u n c e d t h a t a n e w p l a n t in B e r g e n - o p - Z o o m will c o m e on s t r e a m l a t e r this y e a r w i t h t h e c a p a c i t y to p r o d u c e 10 000 t o n n e s a y e a r of r e i n f o r c e d t h e r m o p l a s t i c s including GMT. EKT, w h i c h is p a r t of BASF, c u r r e n t l y p r o d u c e s a r o u n d 6000 t o n n e s / y e a r of GMT at its p l a n t in Lotte, Germany. C a p a c i t y will be i n c r e a s e d to 10 000 t o n n e s by t h e e n d of 1992. A c c o r d i n g t o S c h m a h l , EKT h a s a r o u n d 40% of t h e E u r o p e a n m a r k e t for GMT, w i t h

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a n o t h e r 40% b e i n g a c c o u n t e d for by Symalit of Switzerland, a s u b s i d i a r y of Shell I n t e r n a t i o n a l Chemicals. EKT is also a m a j o r p r o d u c e r o f GMT p a r t s at its W o r m s plant. The f a c t o r y w a s set u p p a r t l y as a d e m o n s t r a t i o n facility for using GMT m a t e r i a l s . H o w e v e r , it is a l s o a c o m m e r c i a l m o u l d e r w i t h an a n n u a l t u r n o v e r of DM70 million. Noise shields for Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Opel a n d MAN t r u c k s h a v e b e e n p r o d u c e d . Driver a n d p a s s e n g e r s e a t s h e l l s f o r t h e BMW 3 S e r i e s a r e p r o d u c e d at a r a t e of 3000/day. A r o u n d 200 p e o p l e are e m p l o y e d on GMT c o m p o n e n t p r o d u c t i o n at W o r m s a n d t h e factory w a s E u r o p e ' s l a r g e s t c o n s u m e r of GMT (2600 t o n n e s ) in 1991. In 1992 P r e s s w e r k Kongen a n d its sister c o m p a n y Peiner Kunststofft e c h n i k will a s s u m e this position. Since Reinforced Plastics' visit to Worms, BASF h a s a n n o u n c e d its i n t e n t i o n to sell t h e plant. "The d i s p o s a l of t h e W o r m s facility is in line w i t h its s t a t e d policy of c o n c e n t r a t i n g on c o r e b u s i n e s s " , s a y s BASF. M a n f r e d S c h m a h l told Reinforced Plastics t h a t t h e W o r m s f a c t o r y h a s d e c i d e d to c o n t i n u e in t h e GMT b u s i n e s s a n d to i n c r e a s e its activities.

[ i P r o d u c t i o n at W o r m s E u r o p e ' s first c o m p l e t e l y a u t o m a t e d p r o d u c tion line for GMT w e n t into o p e r a t i o n at W o r m s in A u g u s t 1990. It p r o d u c e s all t h e f r o n t s e a t shells for t h e BMW 3 Series. T h e r e a r e two different designs of p a r t s -- driver a n d p a s s e n g e r -- e a c h in five t r i m colours, t h e first high v o l u m e p r o d u c t i o n of p a i n t e d GMT p o l y p r o p y l e n e p a r t s . All GMT u s e d a t W o r m s is p r o d u c e d by EKT in Lotte. It is delivered daily as s h e e t s p r e c u t to t h e r e q u i r e d d i m e n s i o n s . T h r e e s e p a r a t e p r o d u c t i o n lines r u n t h e length of t h e plant. B e c a u s e of t h e p l a n t ' s d e m o n s t r a tion function a v a r i e t y of p r o c e s s i n g equipm e n t h a s b e e n u s e d to s h o w f a b r i c a t o r s t h e

0034-3617/92/$3.50 :IC) 1992, Elsevier Science Publishers Ltd.

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o p t i o n s available, says Schmahl. The p r e c u t GMT s h e e t s are s t a c k e d into m a g a z i n e s w h i c h p a s s into t h e p r e h e a t i n g oven on a belt. P r e h e a t i n g t a k e s place at 220230~C a n d gives t h e m a t a t e m p e r a t u r e of 190-220~C j u s t p r i o r to its e n t r y into the press. Some of t h e ovens are h o t air heated, o t h e r s use infrared. P r e h e a t i n g takes between t h r e e a n d five minutes. After leaving t h e oven the m a t s e n t e r a rest station where the temperature is c h e c k e d . The d a t a is fed to t h e l i n e ' s a u t o m a t i c c o n t r o l l e r a n d the b l a n k is n o w r e a d y for moulding. Any o u t of t o l e r a n c e blanks are rejected a n d recycled. Presses at the W o r m s facility are in the 1500-2500 t o n n e r a n g e from m a n u f a c t u r e r s such as Mfiller a n d H o e s c h MFD. C o m p a c tion p r e s s u r e d e p e n d s on the size of p a r t being p r o d u c e d , says EKT. Part size a n d s h a p e also d e t e r m i n e s w h e t h e r p a r t s are p r e s s e d singly or in pairs. The press tooling runs at 4 0 - 7 0 : C so the m a t is cooled down d u r i n g the p r e s s i n g process. S c h m a h l says t h a t EI£I' o p e r a t e s with a p r e s s cycle time of a b o u t one minute. After ejection from the press s o m e parts, for i n s t a n c e b u m p e r s , are p u t in f r a m e to cool. The f r a m e e n s u r e s t h a t the p r e s s e d s h a p e is m a i n t a i n e d . Finally checking a n d t r i m m i n g is carried out. A r o b o t carries out the deflashing o p e r a t i o n with g r e a t precision.

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FIGURE 1: Bumper carrier for S Class Mercedes.

The BMW seat shells, 500 (),DO of which have now been m a d e at Worms, are p r o d u c e d on t h e MFD line. An average of 1500 sets a d a y are p r o d u c e d -- 350 000 a year. The daily p r o d u c t i o n rate for Mercedes S-Class b u m p e r carriers is a b o u t 400, giving ;an a n n u a l total of s o m e 92 000.

FIGURE 2: Engine compartment capsules for the Audi 100.

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GMT front ends will grow to about 8000 t o n n e s / y e a r in 1995 according to Schmahl's estimates. But he says t h a t sheet moulding c o m p o u n d (SMC) front ends will also be used, the construction of the car body is the determining factor. Rear seat backs are already an established application. GMT is lighter t h a n metal and offers t he opport uni t y for parts consolidation. An additional advantage is the ability combine a textile cover with the GMT p a rt in one step. The automotive m a rk e t is seen by EKT as a c c o u n t i n g for the majority (more t h a n 90%) of GMT c o n s u m p t i o n . O th e r applications are pallets, electrical goods and the building industry.

Recycling

TABLE 1: GMT applications in Western Europe (tonnes).

Applications The first E u r o p e a n application for GMT was as u n d e r body engine shields in the early 1980s. These shields cut down road noise, help keep the engine clean and reduce air resistance. Although they will account for about 300 tonnes of material in 1992 they willnot be be a major application for GMT in the future, Schmahl believes. GMT has been u s e d w i del y for b u m p e r s in t h e USA, however, bum pe rs on E u r o p e a n cars are different and the material seems unlikely to be used much in this application.

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GMT's ot her major attraction, in addition to its mechanical properties and lightweight, is its recyclability. EKT says t h a t it h a s developed two techniques for reusing the material. Parts can simply h e a te d up in an oven and remoulded to a new p a r t of the same weight. This can be done three or four times without any significant reduction in properties. The second, preferred, m e t h o d involves shredding used GMT p a rts and using the shredded material in new GMT. Up to 25% of shredded GMT can be used without any significant detriment to properties, claims EKT. GMT's rapid take-up by automotive manufacturers combined with its 'green credentials' indicate t h a t the material will see substantial growth in E ur o p e in the 1990s.