Production of structural lightweight components made of thermoplastic composite materials and hybrid plastic-metal materials for electromobility
Landau/Pfalz, February 13, 2017. A Wickert composite press, with a press force of 25,000 kN that builds up within one second, was purchased by the Institute for Lightweight Structures (IST) at the Mechanical Engineering Faculty of the Technical University of Chemnitz. Directed by Prof. Lothar Kroll, the faculty researches new processing technologies for thermoplastic composite material as well as hybrid materials made of fiber-plastics composite and metal. The objective is to develop mass production processes for manufacturing light-weight components for electromobility.
At this time, automotive structural components in particular are being produced on the WKP 25000 S type press. It was engineered for laboratory operation for a period of many years, making it is suitable not only for use in a wide variety of applications, but also as an automation solution. The fast build-up of the press force is an important prerequisite for its ability to process a variety of materials, for example for glass-mat-reinforced thermoplastics (GMT). This is because the mats, which are heated to 230 ºC in a preheating station, must be processed in the press immediately at a temperature of 190 ºC.
Fast press force build-up, high closing speed, high precision
The WKP 25000 S is a four-column type upper piston composite press with fully hydraulic closing system and active parallel control. It has a 1,500 x 2,000 mm clamping plate and is characterized by its highly dynamic opening and closing speed of 300 mm/s, a press speed of 10 mm/s and an opening force of 360 kN. The press is impressive not only due to its high speed, but also because of its high precision: Thanks to an active hydraulic parallel positioning, the configured deviation to the parallel position during the pressing process is a mere 0.05 mm.
Not only did TU Chemnitz require a fast pressure build-up, it particularly specified the build-up without press basement. Moreover, only minimal dynamic forces were to act upon the hall floor. In addition, the new press was to be accessible from three sides and be fully controllable from two sides. Due to their limited accessibility, frame presses were out of the question. Here as well, Wickert was able to score big with its four-column press that can be set up on a flat surface and is accessible from all sides.
Close-to-production development of structural automotive components
IST required a new composite press due to the size of the structural automotive components that had to be produced. "In the past, we had to have the prototypes manufactured elsewhere. However, for close-to-production development of components and for a successful collaboration with industrial partners, it is absolutely critical to be able to monitor and control all production processes of close-to-application 1:1 components", explains Prof. Wolfgang Nendel, Deputy Director of the Lightweight Structures & Polymer Technology professorship.
All Wickert presses are custom designed
Wickert was awarded the contract after a European-wide tendering process. In addition to the composite press, the contract also included the integrated peripherals with preheating oven, plasticizer for manufacturing compounds plus four temperature conditioning units.
Just like all Wickert presses, the WKP 25000 S is also configured as a custom design. All machines are made specifically to order and consist of high-quality components based on a modular system made in Germany. This manufacturing process makes it possible to implement all of the TU Chemnitz requirements, despite the extremely short lead time. The researchers placed special value in keeping the applicability flexible with interfaces for an RTM injector, a PU unit and an injection unit as well as ensuring compliance with highest safety standards, even under laboratory conditions.
Institute for Lightweight Structures plays a leading role in research
The Institute for Lightweight Structures is an international leader in research with regard to lightweight plastic components. The top performer is represented at the first and only Federal Excellence Cluster of the German Research Association, a nationwide event held on the topic of lightweight construction, "Technology Fusion for Multi-functional Lightweight Structures - MERGE" and at "MERGE Europe", the corresponding globalization concept. In addition, IST is a member of the European Alliance for Lightweight Construction and Prof. Kroll is in charge of the STEX project group at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Chemnitz.
Excellently positioned within the Federal Excellence Cluster with the Wickert press
Prof. Lothar Kroll, director of the professorship for Lightweight Structures & Polymer Technology is very happy with the composite press and the collaboration with Wickert. "In research, we depend on high precision and in allowing the press to have the greatest amount of latitude, which is why only very few machines were even considered. With the Wickert composite press, we are excellently positioned within the Federal Excellence Cluster."
About Wickert Maschinenbau GmbH
Wickert Maschinenbau GmbH develops and manufactures hydraulic press and fully automatic press systems. All machines and equipment are modularly constructed, available with press forces between 20 and 100,000 kN and are each designed based on customer specifications. They are used to process elastomer, composites, polymers and powder materials, in the production of brake and clutch linings as well as grinding wheels, as fixture hardening units and in labs for research and science.
Partners and executive directors Hans-Joachim Wickert and Stefan Herzinger manage the family-operated company that was founded in 1901, which manufactures exclusively in Landau/Pfalz and supplies its customers from there to locations in Europe, the Americas and Asia. In 2016, its staff of 150 employees generated revenue of close to € 30 million.
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