DSM, Dieffenbacher, Fraunhofer join forces for direct compounding technology

DSM Composite Resins, Dieffenbacher and Fraunhofer ICT have announced a breakthrough in direct compounding technology that reportedly will extend the production of thermoset composites into high-volume, complex and large parts.

Resins supplier DSM Composite Resins, machinery maker Dieffenbacher and industrial research institute Fraunhofer ICT on Oct. 30 announced a breakthrough in direct compounding technology – from raw materials to composites and parts — that reportedly will extend the production of thermoset composites into high-volume, complex and large parts and open up new market opportunities for composite applications that are not feasible with today’s thermoset processing technologies.

The technology, which entails both a new compounding process and new raw material developments, is the result of many years of research and development in direct compounding technology. For the new technology, DSM Composite Resins has contributed resin formulation expertise and know-how, including the development of a dedicated technology-enabling product portfolio of non-thickening resins. Dieffenbacher has developed the hardware systems and expertise, and ICT has provided dedicated research and development and commercial-scale pilot processing capabilities.

The new direct compounding technology is designed for the production of large structural parts and is set to open up new application opportunities for lightweight thermoset composites replacing conventional metal materials such as aluminium and steel. It is particularly suited for the production of geometrically complex large parts greater than 3 sq-m/32 sq-ft in volumes of approximately 700,000 units per annum.

The new thermoset direct compunding technology can produce mouded thermoset compound materials in a continuous and flexible extrusion process. Key features include a computerized dosing system that is said to yield consistent and reproducible fiber impregnation. The process, therefore, results in shorter cycle times through just-in-time production and eliminates a range of incremental steps such as paste mixing, thickening, storage and steps compared to conventional thermoset compounding processes.

“This expands the boundaries of traditional thermoset composite parts production,” said Wilfrid Gambade, business director Composite Resins Europe and Global Market, DSM Composite Resins. “And it will create opportunities for parts manufacturers in new application areas in key markets like automotive industry but also energy or Building and Infrastructure, producing high strength, lightweight and complex parts in high volumes, faster and more economically than before.”

Fraunhofer ICT deputy director, Prof. Frank Henning, added, “This has been an intense and highly productive research and development effort, and reflects the combined commitment and motivation of three industry leaders in DSM, Dieffenbacher and Fraunhofer ICT to remain at the forefront of composites innovation.”

The three partners are now preparing the first production line which is planed to be operational in the second quarter of 2010.