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Growing demand for lightweight composites in North America and Europe has prompted Hanwha Azdel to increase capacity for its Azdel SuperLite lightweight reinforced thermoplastic (LWRT) composite product at its Virginia, US, production facility.
Hanwha Azdel explains that the company is adding more space at the plant, plus an entirely new production line that is due to come on stream in the second quarter 2015. Growing demand from customers in the recreational-vehicle (RV), automotive, commercial truck, building & construction, office furniture, and industrial market segments prompted the move to add capacity to support sales efforts in North America and Europe.
It says that LWRT composites are lower density forms of traditional glass-mat thermoplastic (GMT) composites with a higher fibre-volume fraction (ratio of reinforcement to resin). These sheet-form composites are moulded into a variety of parts using thermoforming (a low-pressure variant of compression moulding) or used in sandwich panel constructions to create panels, which are usually faced with fabric, wallpaper, laminate, or film skins. The lightweight composite will not rust, corrode or rot, significantly reduces panel or part weight, lowers sound transmission (provides acoustical damping), and offers thermal insulation. Further, it claims that third-party product testing to ASTM E 1333-96 standards by an ISO 17025 accredited testing laboratory has verified that the material contains no detectable levels of formaldehyde.
According to Sean Campbell, Director-Global Marketing, Hanwha Azdel, “If you look at key industry trends in the transportation industry, particularly the RV segment, they’re really fueling rapid growth of Azdel SuperLite composites. With legislative mandates for improved fuel economy or lower greenhouse-gas emissions in many parts of the globe, transportation OEMs need to reduce vehicle mass significantly. While those mandates don’t impact RV manufacturers directly, lighter RVs use less fuel and can be pulled or powered by engines with lower towing capacities. Since our materials are half the weight of plywood, they have a strong value proposition. They also are far more impact and puncture resistant than plywood.” Hanwha Azdel says that the RV industry is the fastest growing market segment for its Azdel SuperLite and also is where the material can offer the strongest value proposition (halving weight and eliminating water-related issues).
Hanwha Azdel comments that investment in the new North American production line is another milestone in its goal of fully globalising Azdel SuperLite LWRT, a patented technology that Azdel introduced in 1999, which has revolutionised how transportation OEMs produce composite panels ranging from headliners to underbody shields to wall systems. These tough but light composite materials offer sustainable-mobility solutions and remain an important element of Hanwha Azdel’s global business strategy. The capacity expansion will support North American and European customers by providing a more consistent regional supply of lightweight thermoplastic composite materials, whose global demand is projected to rise at more than 10% annually through the year 2020.
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