Compression molding is a high-volume process that employs expensive but very durable metal dies. It is an appropriate choice when production quantities exceed 10,000 parts. As many as 200,000 parts can be turned out on a set of forged steel dies, using sheet molding compound (SMC), a composite sheet material made by sandwiching chopped fiberglass between two layers of thick resin paste. To form the sheet, the resin paste transfers from a metering device onto a moving film carrier. Chopped glass fibers drop onto the paste, and a second film carrier places another layer of resin on top of the glass. Rollers compact the sheet to saturate the glass with resin and squeeze out entrapped air. The resin paste initially is the consistency of molasses (between 20,000 cps and 40,000 cps); over the next three to five days, its viscosity increases and the sheet becomes leather-like (about 25 million cps), ideal for molding.
Often identified with automotive body applications, sheet molding compound shows growing promise in a variety of other temperature- and weather-resistant applications.
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