Henkel installing high-pressure resin transfer molding system

Henkel will use the HP-RTM system at its North American headquarters in Madison Heights, Mich., USA, to support development of its Loctite MAX Series polyurethane resin for use with carbon fiber and glass fiber composites.

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Henkel (Madison Heights, Mich., USA) announced on April 8 at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, Mich., that it is installing a high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) system at the company's North American automotive headquarters in Madison Heights. The unit, which is expected to be fully operational this quarter, is intended to support Henkel's Loctite MAX Series polyurethane material and will focus on carbon fiber and glass fiber composites.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first high-pressure RTM system for a two-component polyurethane in the United States," says Kevin Roslinski, Henkel senior application engineer, Adhesive Technologies, North America. "Traditionally, most automotive suppliers' systems are designed for two-component epoxy, not polyurethane, which seems better suited for mass production."

As the automotive industry continues to lightweight its vehicles to meet 2025 CAFE standards for improved fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions, automakers and suppliers will now have the ability to shoot and test polyurethane in the U.S.

"We invite automotive OEMs and suppliers to come visit us at our Madison Heights facility, so they can quickly – and at no cost – qualify polyurethane properties to see if their composite material is a viable option for future applications," Roslinski says. "They can come to us with different ideas of orientations of fibers and different weaves they've developed and test them out before wasting time and spending money on expensive molds."

Henkel's RTM unit has the capability to shoot a two-dimensional, 8-by-11-inch plaque with a 4-mm thickness. In the future, the system will have the capability to provide various thicknesses and use different inserts for creating Class-A surfaces.

Henkel's Loctite MAX composite resin solutions are designed for RTM with glass or carbon fibers, and enable shorter cycle times suitable for automotive mass production. Henkel says Loctite MAX 2 and Loctite MAX 3 offer a polyurethane-based composite matrix resin that cures faster than the epoxy products usually employed for the RTM process. Due to its low viscosity, the polyurethane resin penetrates and impregnates the fiber material more easily and less harshly, thus enabling shorter injection times to be applied.

Loctite MAX 3 not only contains the resin and hardener, but also a high-performance release agent. With the internal release agent ensuring easy detachment of the component from its mold, the resultant surface is said to be of sufficiently high quality to allow immediate painting and bonding. This accelerates the production process and enables manufacture of external and visible components of outstanding surface quality.