ThermHex Waben develop One-Step Production Process for Sandwich Materials

10 March 2015

ThermHex Waben has produced a continuous production process for plastic honeycomb cores.

The cores, intended for light-weight panels and components, have until now, required diverse individual steps during production, which made the products more expensive. Each layer of the honeycomb had to be manufactured individually and subsequently joined together to form panels.

"So far, these honeycomb cores were relatively expensive, complex and had to be produced in a lot of individual steps. They could not meet the combination of cost and weight saving that so many customers require today" explains Jochen Pflug, Business Manager of ThermHex Waben.

According to ThermHex, its internationally patented process involves extruding a roll of polypropylene foil and continually thermally reshaping it with a vacuum roller. Afterwards this roll is immediately unrolled. This process allows the production of honeycomb cores 3 to 30 mm thick, with individual lengths of up to 6 metres and at speeds of up to 10 metres per minute.

Thermhex explains that its customers each process the honeycomb cores into sandwich panels according to application and requirements with corresponding surfaces. From aluminium or steel to wood, acrylic, textiles to carbon fibre – a special non-woven fabric surface of the honeycomb core makes sure that all cover layers hold together. Application possibilities are broad and include: panels for lorries and busses, bathroom walls, bodies for lorry trailers, fibre compound components as well interior and structure components for vehicles or yachts. ThermHex explains that even components with complex shapes such as nacelle covers for wind turbines are possible. Due to the very thin ThermHex honeycomb core of only 3.5 mm, even thin fibre composite panels and components can be replaced through sandwich panels. This allows a weight reduction of up to 50 percent compared to homogenous conventional fibre composite panels of the same rigidity and flexibility. Through the automated production, the quality control could also be automated and completely guaranteed.

"We have managed to unify maximum cost savings, maximum weight reduction at a minimal amount of material usage in one product and one continuous production line", says Pflug.

Thermhex claims that fibre composites and light-weight construction are key technologies in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, the federal state promoted the business set-up at the Halle site with 50 percent of the 1.4 million Euro investment amount. The second production facility should soon spring up on around 4,000 square metres and the number of staff members double from 10 to 20. All of the remains left by the production are immediately and completely fed back into the production cycle. The polypropylene raw materials are sourced from the nearby Leuna chemical site to minimise logistic expenses.

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