Cygnet Texkimp unveils first commercial, high-volume thermoplastic tape line

Appears in Print as: 'Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Line create high-grade thermoplastic prepregs on an industrial scale'

Cygnet Texkimp’s Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Line is designed to produce thermpolastic tapes for automotive, industrial and aerospace applications.


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Cygnet Texkimp Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Line

Cygnet Texkimp Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Line. Photo Credit: Cygnet Texkimp

British machine builder and fiber converting specialist Cygnet Texkimp (Northwich, Cheshire, U.K.) has unveiled a production-ready thermoplastic line to manufacture thermoplastic tapes in large volumes.

Cygnet Texkimp says its Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Line (DMITL) is believed to be the world’s first commercially available thermoplastic manufacturing line capable of using standard polymers, from polypropylene (PP) to polyetheretherketone (PEEK), to create high-grade thermoplastic prepregs on an industrial scale.

Andy Whitham, technical manager at Cygnet Texkimp, says the DMITL, as currently configured, can operate at speeds up to 20 meters/minute producing tape in widths ranging from a single tow (towpreg) up to 600 millimeters. Further, he says, the system can be configured to produce tapes wider than 600 millimeters.

Whitham adds that Cygnet Texkimp, to date, has worked primarily with UD carbon fiber on the DMITL, but expects similar results with glass fiber, based on limited trialing performed with that fiber type. Although Cygnet Texkimp has only processed PP and PEEK on the DMITL, Whitham says the company expects the system can process any thermoplastic with a melt temperature of 200-400°C, with the caveat that the viscosity of the melt does affect the ability of the polymer to impregnate the fiber bundle

Fiber volume fraction (FVF) control and tolerancing, says Whitham, can be held at or near 60%. Further, he notes, “Other challenges are even distribution of polymer throughout the filaments, and void content. Getting the right amount of polymer on the sheet is relatively straightforward. One of the aspects we are most pleased with is proper impregnation with reasonable FVFs.”

Although the DMITL is suitable for the production of tapes for aerospace applications, Whitham says, the highly niche position of thermoplastics in aerospace, combined with qualification challenges, has compelled Cygnet Texkimp to initially targeting the automotive and industrial markets with this system. Thermoplastic filament winding, for example says Whitham, is deemed more easily accessible by this technology.

“For the first time, we are offering the mainstream industrial markets, including automotive and construction, a workable way of manufacturing thermoplastics efficiently and in high volumes using standard raw materials and secure supply routes,” explains Whitham.

Cygnet Texkimp Direct Melt Impregnation Thermoplastic Line tape closeup

Tape from Cygnet Texkimp thermoplastic tape line. Photo Credit: Cygnet Texkimp

“Thermoplastics are attractive because they are light, strong, chemically stable, sustainable and recyclable,” Whitham adds. “However, the cost and availability of specialist raw materials used to make them and the complexity of existing manufacturing processes have so far prevented all but the highest-end applications — namely air and spacecraft, sports cars, golf clubs and wind turbines — from adopting them. We’ve developed a simpler, cleaner, faster, more cost-effective way of manufacturing thermoplastic composites in high volumes. By using standard polymer in pellet form we have significantly simplified and shortened the process without compromising the quality and performance of the end product. We’ve created a compact machine that can easily be accommodated within a relatively small manufacturing facility and doesn’t require any particular specialist knowledge to operate.”