TenCate Advanced Composites BV (Almelo, The Netherlands) and BASF AG (Ludwigshafen, Germany) announced on Thursday, Oct. 25 that they have entered into a cooperative alliance to rapidly develop, manufacture and commercialize thermoplastic composite materials suitable for high-volume automotive production.
The main goal of this partnership is to offer car and light-truck parts manufacturers custom-engineered solutions for high-performance composite structures that will enable auto OEMs to further reduce weight (30 to 50 percent lighter than today's metal parts) and mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
TenCate Advanced Composites claims a leading market position in continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites with its trademarked TenCate Cetex product portfolio, currently used primarily in aircraft structures and aircraft cabin interiors. At present, newer aircraft programs, such as the Airbus (Toulouse, France) A380 and A350 XWB and The Boeing Co.'s (Chicago, Ill.) 787 Dreamliner are the main beneficiaries of such material. BASF, a leading chemical company, aready has a well-established and extensive network in the automotive industry. BASF and TenCate intend that their joint efforts will accelerate product devlopment cycles.
BASF reportedly will use its know-how in the formulation and production of thermoplastic resins to develop special variants of its trademarked Ultramid polyamide (PA), Ultradur polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and Ultrason polyethersulfone (PESU) product lines. TenCate Advanced Composites, for its part, intends to contribute expertise in composites manufacturing processes. Together both companies are dedicated to automotive composite materials (unidireactional (UD) tapes, prepregs and laminates) based on these specialty resin systems.
Thermoplastic laminates with continuous-fiber reinforcement are woven or nonwoven fabrics impregnated with resins and formed into sheets, which are extremely light yet very strong. UD tapes, another product class, make full use of the anisotropic nature of UD oriented impregnated fibers. In a second step, these semifinished products can be formed into more complex parts and overmolded by means of injection molding. This combination results in components that are enhanced by a high degree of functional integration.
"The next major advance in lightweight automotive constructions will not be possible without a dramatic reduction in processing costs. This can be accomplished by using continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites. The breakthrough for composites to mass production, however, has not yet been made. By working together with TenCate, we intend to jointly achieve this breakthrough," explains Melanie Maas-Brunner, successor to Willy Hoven-Nievelstein and new head of BASF's Engineering Plastics Europe business unit in Germany.
"TenCate Cetex laminates and prepregs have long been applied in commercial aircraft constructions, and are increasingly used in industrial manufacturing processes," says Frank Meurs, group director of TenCate Advanced Composites EMEA. "Now, TenCate intends to expand its activities in the automotive industry. We are looking forward to this joint effort in making new materials rapidly available for automotive mass production."
The partners say that the ease of thermoplastic processing will dramatically reduce production cycle times. In ddition, they have no limitations in shelf life, making mass prodcution more practical, and can be recycled. Target applications are semistructural parts as well as primary structures in car bodies and chassis.