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Thermoplastic-based Composites Make their Mark at JEC 2013

SpecialChem / Thibaud Deleger – Apr 30, 2013

A significant penetration of the composite industry has been witnessed over the past few years with the so-called thermoplastic-based composite compounds. Once a polymeric material has been chosen, one of the first questions product engineers and designers need to answer is whether to use a thermoplastic or a thermoset resin. The resulting manufacturing process will then be immediately differentiated. Whereas thermoplastic are melted under heat and thus can be formed to the desired shape (for the main processing techniques this is handled with a steel mold — injection; a die — extrusion; or an aluminum or composite tool — thermoforming), thermosets need an in-mold curing step.

As a direct consequence, thermosets require a longer cycle time than thermoplastics and further cannot be easily recycled due to the crosslinking throughout the molecular network. Re-using a thermoplastic is (almost) as easy as submitting the material to heat and forming it again. However, thermosets do offer other advantages such as much lower tooling costs versus thermoplastics. This makes thermosets much more competitive than thermoplastics when considering small to medium size series parts (e.g.: truck components and panels, small off-road vehicles, motorcycle parts, aeronautics, building & infrastructure, etc.).

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