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BASF Establishes Lightweight Composites Team for Automotive Industry

20 September 2011

BASF has established a lightweight composites team to focus on the development of marketable materials and technologies that are suitable for manufacturing high-performance fibre-reinforced parts for automotive applications.

According to BASF, they were able to investigate three different plastic matrix systems simultaneously and it is their intension to develop tailor-made formulations in close cooperation with customers. "We can build here on BASF’s know-how in the areas of epoxy, polyurethane and polyamide chemistry, want to exploit the synergies in the team and will be making a double-digit million euro investment in development in the coming years", explained Willy Hoven-Nievelstein, BASF’s Head of the Engineering Plastics Europe Business Unit.

 BASF explain that the processing technology behind the new materials is "Resin Transfer Moulding" (RTM), which can be used to produce large and complex composite components in a single press-form operation. This involves placing multilayer fibre structures in a heated mould that is mounted in a press. A liquid resin is then injected into the mould, wetting the fibres completely and then curing in a controlled manner. In the newly established RTM laboratory in Ludwigshafen and at polyurethane research in Lemförde, BASF say they are working on the chemical and technical challenges posed by the new matrix solutions. The automobile components to be produced from these materials in the future will be able to withstand high loads despite their light weight.

BASF say the overall system consisting of plastic matrix and fibre reinforcement must be processable on a reliable basis and readily adoptable for high-volume production. They explain that compared to conventional metal components, they will contribute to a weight reduction of about 50%. In addition, endless fibre-reinforced skin layers can be combined with lightweight foam cores to yield high-quality sandwich structures with good specific part stiffness and good insulating characteristics in combination with low weight. The PU foam systems developed for such parts that they developed are designed to have high compressive strength and temperature resistance in conjunction with a low density. "Without such multimaterial systems, the next major advance in lightweight automotive applications will not be possible", states Volker Warzelhan, Head of Thermoplastics Research at BASF.





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