BASF, SGL seek carbon fiber/polyamide match for T-RTM, RIM

The SGL/BASF polyamide/carbon fiber composite material is intended for use in thermoplastic resin transfer molding (T-RTM) as well as reactive injection molding (RIM) to manufacture parts for automotive structures.

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BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) and the SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) will jointly develop a composite material based on a reactive polyamide and carbon fibers in pursuit of faster, more cost-effective production of carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastics. The material system, intended for use in the relatively new thermoplastic resin transfer molding (T-RTM) process and in reaction injection molding (RIM) processes, is expected to permit considerably shorter processing cycles than are possible in conventional thermoset RTM. The key challenge for BASF and SGL is adjusting the material system to these faster processing techniques. That research effort is said to hold the key that will permit entry of lightweight, high-strength carbon composite structural components into automotive mass production.

“To achieve good wetting of the fiber and short cycle times in T-RTM or reactive injection molding, we start from low-viscosity highly reactive caprolactam formulations,” explains Dr. Martin Jung, head of structural materials research for BASF Research. The research effort will seek a means to attain optimal bonding at the matrix/fiber interface. The new polyamide will require development of a “custom-formulated sizing” for the fiber, says Dr. Hubert Jäger, SGL’s head of technology and innovation, that will optimize fiber-resin adhesion and, thus, the composite’s strength and stiffness.