THERMHEX plastic honeycomb expands production

Lower cost single-step THERMHEX process supported by German state of Saxony-Anhalt as part of emphasis on composites and lightweight construction.

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THERMHEX WABEN GmbH (Halle, Germany) produces plastic honeycomb cores for lightweight panels and components via a unique and continuous process. Traditionally, manufacture of plastic honeycomb required many individual steps which increased cost. Each layer of the honeycomb had to be manufactured individually and then joined together to form panels. THERMHEX WABEN integrates these operations into a single step.  

The internationally patented THERMHEX process extrudes rolls of polypropylene foil and continuously thermally reshapes the plastic film with a vacuum roller. This allows the production of honeycomb cores 3 to 30 mm thick, with individual lengths of up to 6 m and at speeds of up to 10 m/min. Customers process the cores into sandwich panels according to application requirements with corresponding surfaces such as aluminum, steel, wood, acrylic, textiles and carbon fiber laminates. A special nonwoven fabric surface on the honeycomb core ensures optimum bonding to all types of facings.

Because fiber composites and lightweight construction are key technologies in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, the German government has promoted the establishment of THERMHEX WABEN at its location in Halle, contributing 50% of the €1.4 million investment. A second production facility of roughly 4,000 m2 is being added, doubling staff from 10 to 20.

THERMHEX applications include truck and bus panels, walls for pre-fabricated bathrooms, bodies for trailers, and interior and structural components for vehicles or yachts. Even components with complex shapes such as nacelle covers for wind turbines are possible. Due to the low thicknesses possible with THERMEX honeycomb cores, even thin fiber composite panels and components can be replaced with sandwich panels, enabling a weight reduction of up to 50% compared to conventional monolithic fiber composite panels of the same rigidity and flexibility. This production also focuses on sustainability: all production scrap is immediately fed back into the manufacturing process. The polypropylene raw materials are sourced from nearby Leuna, Germany to minimize transport and costs.

"We have managed to unify maximum cost savings and weight reduction at a minimal amount of material usage in one product and one continuous production line", says THERMHEX WABEN business manager Jochen Pflug, who has worked with honeycomb core since his studies as an aerospace engineer. Pflug is also the business manager of ECONCORE (Leuven, Belgium), a lightweight construction R&D firm and parent of the wholly-owned subsidiary, THERMHEX WABEN.  

Saxony-Anhalt is exhibiting at JEC Europe 2015 (March 10-12, Paris, France) in Hall 7.3, Stand L71.

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