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Hexcel to Present Products for Automotive, Wind Energy and Recreation at Composites Europe

  • Tuesday, 15th September 2015
  • Reading time: about 5 minutes

Hexcel will be promoting composite materials which offer performance and processing benefits to customers in the Automotive, Wind Energy and Recreation markets during Composites Europe.

Hexcel explains that it has developed a range of composite materials for the automotive sector, meeting requirements for structural performance, high temperature resistance, impact absorption, visual appeal and high production volumes.

Hexcel claims the fast curing prepreg HexPly M77 meets the needs for volume production with a 2-minute press-cure cycle at 150°C (80 bar pressure). The system is optimised for automated processing, with low tack enabling precise shapes to be cut by laser and allowing individual plies to be oriented, assembled and consolidated into a flat preform by robot. While curing in the mould the optimised gel time of HexPly M77 enables the resin to flow into the contours to achieve the precise geometries required for the finished part. The high Tg of 125°C allows cured parts to be demoulded whilst hot for a quick turnaround and faster production cycles.

Building on this technology, Hexcel says that it has developed and installed a fully automated preform manufacturing line at its facility in Neumarkt, Austria, capable of achieving production rates of less than 2 minutes per preform. The preform design is precisely tailored to the customer application and the process allows for full design flexibility regarding ply weights, orientation and contours. It also allows additional materials such as adhesive to be integrated into the process. To ensure the highest quality standards, camera based automated quality controls are implemented throughout the whole line.

According to Hexcel, the benefits of HexPly M77 epoxy resin are also available in the form of HexMC-i, a high performance carbon fibre/epoxy compound developed for compression moulding, which has a very high fibre volume content which it says assures excellent mechanical performance. HexMC-i is recommended for the series production of complex shapes with thickness variation, sharp angles or parts that require inserts such as screw threads to be integrated into the moulding process. It is an alternative to lightweight metals for structural applications, can be hybridised with metal and has superior mechanical properties to vinyl esters. Hexcel’s technical support team can provide advice on HexMC-i processing and mould design.

On Hexcel’s stand at Composites Europe there will be a number of automotive parts including CFRP reinforced BIW parts manufactured from HexPly M77 using Hexcel’s fully automated 2D preform production line. There will also be a demonstrator panel manufactured by Plastic Omnium using HexPly M77 demonstrating the 40% weight reduction achievable in trunk floors using this technology.

HiMax carbon fibre multiaxials are non-crimp fabrics, produced by Formax, a 50% joint venture with Hexcel. Hexcel describes HiMax fabrics as combining excellent structural properties, with good drape and handling characteristics and says they are used extensively within automotive components and in larger structures in the marine and infrastructure markets. The highly flexible format is available in a wide range of fabric styles with weight per ply from 50-1200 gsm, fibre orientations from 22.5° through to 90° in up to 4 layers and a wide range of fibre types from high performance fibres through to heavy tow materials.

HiMax fabrics are supplied in widths of 1270mm as standard and up to 1650mm wide on application. The “high drape” formats are suitable for complex curvatures and the ultra-lightweight stitching is ideal for applications that require class A surface finish. HiMax materials can be supplied with and without powder binder making them ideal for RTM and infusion processes.

Hexcel has added HexPly M79 to its prepreg range, providing a product that cures more quickly at low temperatures, with a very low exothermic reaction to meet the requirements for thick laminates such as wind blades and yacht masts. Where previous systems for thick laminates required a 10 hour cure at 80°C, HexPly M79 cures in 8-10 hours at 70°C or just 4-6 hours at 80°C and the system has a long 6 week outlife at room temperature. When HexPly M79 carbon fibre UD prepreg is used in conjunction with Hexcel’s patented grid technology a void content in the cured laminate of less than 1% is achievable, regardless of the part thickness.

Hexcel’s Polyspeed Pultruded Carbon Profiles are a newly launched technology for pre-cured, thick-ply carbon fibre elements that are ideal for structurally reinforcing wind turbine blades and for any other industrial application requiring load-carrying performance. Carbon fibre tows are impregnated with polyurethane resin and shaped and cured in a continuous pultrusion process resulting in perfect fibre alignment and a smooth surface. According to Hexcel, this method results in consistently higher structural properties than can be achieved with any other conventional manufacturing process.

The pultruded elements form production-ready components in a wide range of shapes (e.g. L-shaped, rectangular) and are fully compatible with Hexcel’s epoxy thermoset resin matrices. They can be used in combination with Hexcel prepregs including HexPly M79 and HexPly M77 and are compatible with many commercial thermoset infusion resins.

Also on display will be an ice hockey stick manufactured by Fischer using Hexcel’s HexPly carbon fibre/epoxy prepreg and Primetex gap-free reinforcements for a high performance, lightweight hockey stick with great visual appeal.

Hexcel explains it is launching its first iPhone and iPad app at Composites Europe, focusing specifically on HexPly prepregs for aerospace and industrial markets. The app allows users to select the best prepreg resin for their application based on market and application, cure temperature and maximum service temperature (Tg). The app also allows the user to view the full range of Hexcel’s prepreg resin data sheets. The new Hexcel app is available for download free of charge to all users through the Apple iTunes Store (search: ‘Hexcel Prepreg Selector’).

Hexcel will be exhibiting in Hall 5, Stand D34.

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