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THEPLAC Conference Addresses Widespread use of Thermoplastics in EU

07 October 2005

The second International Workshop on Thermoplastic Matrix Composites (THEPLAC 2005) has just concluded in Lecce, Italy providing an exchange for looking at furthering the use of thermoplastics in Europe.

Organised by Consorzio CETMA, with the collaboration of SAMPE Italy Chapter and the University of Lecce and sponsored by Assocompositi, the Italian Composites Association.

The many features of thermoplastics (recyclability, manufacturing automation possibility, flexibility in the product geometries), together with the commercial availability of innovative preforms, are some of the factors that have led to an increasing interest in thermoplastic composites in Europe.

In one of the presentations, the Centre of Structure Technologies of Zürich showed work on the impregnation process of carbon fibres with Polyphthalamide oligomer powder, where low density facilitates the fibres impregnation. Prof. Verpoest’s group from Lueven University presented the results of a study on RTM impregnation of basalt fibres with CBT, the cyclic PBT precursor; the matrix brittleness consequence on the low cooling speed has been pointed out. In the field of high performance composites, the speech of Mr Costa, from Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica, showed the relationship between thermal moulding cycles, and the PPS matrix morphology in a carbon fibre composite.

Prof. Verpoest’s group also presented a work on the impact properties of the CURV (a composite with both matrix and fibres made of PP).

In what is becoming a trend in the European composites conferences, a whole session was dedicated to nanocomposites. The results of characterisation on fibre-reinforced polymers filled with nanoparticles was shown in two presentations. Both the studies agree on the limited mechanical properties improvement in the final composite, obtained with nanoparticles. Prof. Nicolais’ group, from the Institute of Composite and Biomedical Materials (IMCB-CNR),suggested that the using nanocomposite matrixes is an interesting solution, as some nanocomposite functional properties (barrier properties and HDT improvement) can be transferred to the final composite. Eng. Dell’Anno, from Advanced Materials Department of Cranfield University, pointed out the positive synergic effect of nanoparticles and glass fibres on mechanical properties, if a maleated polypropylene is used. Prof. Iannace’s group, from University of Naples, presented an original method for thermoplastic foam morphology control, by the use of nanoparticles.

Biocomposites was also a popular feature of the conference. The “Meccaniche Moderne”, working in the field of polymer extrusion, presented an innovative production process for wood fibre reinforced polymers. The Gorgan University of Agriculture Science and Natural Recourses showed the effect of interfacial treatment agent on the mechanical properties, morphology and processability of a wheat straw composite, manufactured by extrusion. The Austrian industries Wood K plus and Fasalex GmbH, in collaboration with University of Vienna, presented a wood fibres composite, Fasalex, obtained by extrusion. The Department of Applied Physics and Mechanical Engineering, of Luleå University of Technology, provided detailed data on flax/PP composite viscoelasticity.

Consorzio CETMA, together with FIAT Research Centre (CRF), presented a prototype of a flexible seat pan, produced using a continuous fibre composite with PP matrix, manufactured by vacuum moulding.

In another work by Consorzio CETMA, and in collaboration with Prof. Maffezzoli’s group from University of Lecce, an innovative manufacturing method for hollow components with continuous fibre reinforced polymer was presented.

The above is just a snapshot of the conference which attracted just under a hundred delegates from Italian and European universities and industries, working in the field of composite materials.





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