Carver Non-Woven adds laminator for GMT manufacture

Indiana-based Carver will use its new double-belt laminator to make preconsolidated, continuous nonwovens and precut sheets.

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Carver Non-Woven Technologies LLC (Freemont, IN, US), a supplier of single- and multi-layer/material nonwoven products, reports that it will shortly begin commercial production of preimpregnated, preconsolidated glass-mat thermoplastic (GMT)-type composite products using its nonwoven mat technology.

The company is finishing installation of a new double-belt laminator/press from Sandvik TPS Composite Solutions division of Sandvik AB (Sandviken, Sweden) at its production facilities in Freemont. The new equipment will begin commercial production in mid-August and will enable Carver to supply preconsolidated continuous roll goods and precut sheets to the half of its customer base using infrared (IR) heaters prior to molding nonwovens with thermoplastic matrices into 3D shapes.

Double-belt laminators are used to produce prepregs and unidirectional tapes with fiberglass or carbon fiber reinforcement. Such equipment also is used to consolidate glass fiber and carbon fiber mats, webs or crossply reinforcements (including fabrics and nonwovens using commingled polymer-based fibers) with thermoplastic or thermoset matrices.

Carver notes that conventional nonwovens feature fiber layers that are needle-punched to mechanically intertwine and interlock fibers, resulting in a fluffy, air-filled mat that is hard to heat efficiently. Carver’s twin-belt lamination line will initially start with the ability to combine up to six layers of different fibers into a single resin-impregnated, preconsolidated sheet where all layers are thermally and chemically interlocked and ready to be molded (the preferred method for interior trim panels, headliners, and underbody shields in the automotive market) or cut and used as is (the preferred method for sidewalls, flooring, and roofing systems in the recreational vehicle (RV) market).

Carver  says it expects to focus a significant amount of production of these new materials on the RV market, where GMT-type composites are an excellent alternative to wood-fiber products since they are much lighter and more damage tolerant, and will not absorb moisture or rot. Furthermore, unlike wood-fiber products, Carver’s preconsolidated composites are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and free of formaldehyde, and unlike sheet molding compound (SMC) composites, they contain no styrene.

“Our decision to start offering preconsolidated nonwovens means that molders can use our high-quality Carver products without having to make the capital investment to add contact heaters,” explains Mark Glidden, president, R3 Composites and Carver Non-Woven. “By broadening our offering, no matter which heating mechanism a molder is using, we now have a product that should work in that facility. The new system we’re installing will give us high throughput while also providing very accurate control of temperature and pressure. That way, there aren’t a lot of residual mechanical or thermal stresses on the material, so we maintain excellent product quality and consistency.”

The Sandvik system Carver has installed will allow the company to produce roll goods or flat sheet products as thin as 0.6 mm and in five blank widths as wide as 3.2m with a 2.92m post-trim finish. Sheet stock can be supplied in custom lengths to 17m; for product that is flexible enough to roll, cut lengths can extend to 183m.