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IFAM Release FRP Component Manufactured Using FlexPLAS

28 March 2012

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM), Germany, will present its work at JEC Europe at booth H64 this week.

According to IFAM, the focus at JEC will be on release agent free FRP manufactured using the newly developed FlexPLAS release film. In order to be able to manufacture large FRP components which are free of release agents, IFAM say researchers of Plasma Technology and Surfaces PLATO and experts in the Fraunhofer Project Group Joining and Assembly FFM at IFAM have developed a deep-drawable FlexPLAS release film. They explain that this is an elastic polymer film with a flexible plasma-polymer release layer that allows easy removal of components from moulds, even when stretched by 300 percent.

The film can be applied using a special deep-drawing process without alteration of the tool design, and is suitable for both female and male moulds. IFAM say the FlexPLAS release film has already been used to manufacture large carbon fibre reinforced plastic components on a 1:1 scale, without using release agents, via a prepreg process at 180°C in an autoclave. As The resulting large components can then be coated without further pre-treatment. IFAM explain that this is because of the use of the release film allowing clean removal from the mould without transfer of any residues.

IFAM claim that the FlexPLAS release film is not only suitable for use with prepreg technology but can also be used for other manufacturing processes such as (vacuum) infusion process or the wet layup process. They say the release properties of the flexible release film are not solely limited to carbon fibre and glass fibre matrix resins.

They explain that the new technology allows in-mould coating of fibre composite components, whereby the component is coated by applying a gel-coat to the film. The matt effect of the coated surface can be adjusted via the roughness of the FlexPLAS release film that is employed. The risk of coating defects is significantly reduced using this approach.

Besides obviating the need to apply release agent on the surfaces of moulds, IFAM claim that the productivity of various other steps in the process chain can also be increased by using FlexPLAS release film. They say the fibre composite component can be coated, without release agent residues having to first be removed.