3M and TenCate expand composite tooling agreement

The partnership is expected to bring "next-generation" composite tooling materials to the market.

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On Oct. 18, 2012, St. Paul, Minn.-based 3M Advanced Composites and TenCate Advanced Composites USA Inc. (Fairfield, Calif.) annouced a "strengthening" of their relationship in the composite tooling industry. Building on their prior relationship, 3M and TenCate say they will now jointly develop, market and sell a comprehensive portfolio of tooling resins and prepregs.

“As we further develop our relationship with TenCate, we’re essentially joining forces to deliver a superior performing portfolio of tooling materials to our customers,” said Vic Genco, general manager and director of 3M Advanced Composites.

An initial product, trademarked 3M Fortified Tooling Prepreg 140, will be launched at the SAMPE Tech Conference this week (Oct. 22-25, Charleston, S.C.). Subsequent products will include a high-temperature bismaleimide (BMI) tooling prepreg developed by 3M, and a high-temperature BMI Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) resin developed by TenCate. The products will all feature 3M Matrix Resin, a proprietary, trademarked resin technology, which reportedly enables the production of stronger and more durable tooling composites.

“There are a limited range of composite tooling material options in the market right now, but with 3M’s innovative resin technology combined with TenCate’s market reach and world-class manufacturing capabilities, we have an opportunity to accelerate the product pipeline and deliver more value and benefit to customers,” said Joe Morris, president, TenCate Advanced Composites USA Inc.

“3M’s new tooling prepreg is a very versatile product. The weave is easy to manipulate into place, it’s nice and tacky, and it drapes really well,” said Quan Pham, the R&D manager at Applied Aerospace Structures Corp. (Stockton, Calif.), who endorsed the product for the 3M press release.  “Our initial evaluation after 200 cycles, with many excursions to 400°F, indicated to us [that] it’s a very stable material for high-temperature applications.”

The first product to be launched is 3M Fortified Tooling Prepreg 140, featuring an enhanced epoxy matrix resin for laminate tool manufacturing. 3M says its exceptionally high durability, hardness and dimensional stability offers benefits for a wide variety of applications, including tooling for aerospace, space structures, military, boat hulls, sporting goods and wind turbine blades.

“We are excited to introduce this product, which has appeal for such a broad number of markets,” said Janet Kirkman, marketing manager, 3M Advanced Composites. “Almost any tooling designer or manufacturer can benefit from increased tool life, design flexibility and manufacturing efficiencies.”

Fortified Tooling Prepreg 140 is created with a patented resin formulation that is formulated to increase both the fracture toughness and the hardness of carbon fiber composite tools, while lowering thermal expansion and reportedly almost eliminating exotherm as a design limitation. Made with more than 40 percent (by weight) silica nanoparticles that are infused and distributed throughout the matrix, the material reportedly delivers features unobtainable from other systems, helping manufacturers create composite tools with greater resistance to microcracking and scratching. While continuous exposure to extreme temperatures often leads to microcracking and edge delamination with other materials, the new resin is said to improves fracture-resistance and interlaminar shear strength and maintains a high-quality surface finish, significantly extending the life of composite tools and decreasing manufacturing costs.

According to the partners, tools made with the material can be expected to demonstrate less springback, shrinkage and thermal expansion, making them more accurate right off the master. Less scuffing and scratching means that tools need less rework, helping them stay in production. Furthermore, the product is formulated to enable greater design flexibility, allowing the creation of tools with sharper angles and tighter dimensional tolerances. Additional manufacturing flexibility is added by the material’s ability to be cured under either vacuum or autoclave pressure.

For more information, visit http://www.3M.com/compositetooling.

Additionally, 3M has authorized the following manufacturer representative agencies for the 3M Fortified Tooling Prepreg 140 products: Advanced West, (714) 543-7824; Technology Marketing, Inc., (801) 265-0111.