Dow Automotive Systems (Horgen, Switzerland) made big news at JEC Europe 2014 with the introduction of VORAFORCE, its low-viscosity, fast-cure epoxy for automotive molding. Since, then, says Peter Cate, global strategic marketing manager, composite structures, the company has made much progress evaluating processing of the material.
Particularly promising, says Cate, is the wet compression molding process, whereby a dry fiber reinforcement is placed in a mold, resin is applied atop the fiber, the mold is transferred to a compression machine, and then the resin is infused into the fabric via the compression process. Working with KraussMaffei (Munich, Germany) and Cannon (Peschiera, Italy), Cate says Dow has developed a process that takes 15-20 seconds for resin application and 30 seconds for cure, for a total manufacturing time of less than 60 seconds. Further, says Cate, use of multiple molds in coordination with one machine would allow resin to be dispensed onto one mold while the other is in the press. This would increase throughput considerably.
A limiting factor of the technology, Cate says, is part complexity. It's most suitable for relatively flat or lightly contured parts. Complex parts, Cate says, may not provide a tooling service suitable for containment of the applied resin. In such cases, Cate says, RTM is the next best alternative.
Dow is working with DowAksa (Istanbul, Turkey) fabrics and hopes, says Cate, to implement the technology for a Tier 1 automaker before 2020.