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Continental Structural Plastics perfects carbon fiber RTM process, launches production programs

Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) has fine-tuned its carbon fiber RTM (resin transfer molding) (CF-RTM) process to the point that a premium automaker will be using the technology for closures on future vehicle platforms. These doors will feature both inner and outer panels as well as structural reinforcements molded using CSP’s advanced CF-RTM process.

An RTM process injects a liquid thermoset resin into a closed mold into which a reinforcing material—in this case, carbon fiber—has been placed.

When CSP set up its Center of Excellence for Lightweight Technologies and Carbon Fiber Processes in Pouancé, France, in 2013, the goal was to develop processes to make the use of carbon fiber in high volume applications affordable and feasible. Since then, the CSP team in Europe has been working on developing a high-performance CF-RTM process that would result in high-strength, ultra-light-weight components to help OEMs address stringent CO2 emissions regulations. Specifically, the team has been focused on improving cycle time, utilizing automated preforming and lowering the cost of the carbon fiber materials.

We have been targeting a 3-minute cycle time using 100 percent recycled carbon fiber. With our multi-material decklid concept, we demonstrated this was totally possible. Now we are proud to say we have collaborated with major OEMs in the United States and Europe on carbon fiber RTM programs and will see the first commercial applications of this technology very soon.

—Marc Philippe Toitgans, director, Research & Development CSP Europe

CAE analysis, flow simulation, preform process, mold design and full automation, CSP has built best-in-class expertise to support major structural and Class A CF-RTM programs for closures and other BIW applications. CSP’s key differentiators are based on:

  • 100 bars of injection pressure, and up to 1,500 tons of pressure for closure applications

  • High fiber content (greater than 50%) for structural applications

  • 20-second injection time

  • Management of variable thicknesses

  • Weight savings of up to 30% when compared to aluminum

To support several carbon fiber RTM programs that will begin as soon as the end of 2020, CSP and parent company Teijin are investing in a dedicated CF-RTM production line in Palmela, Portugal. The initial investment of €5.5 million will include the installation of compression presses, RTM injection units and a bonding cell.

CF_RTM_Press_PT

The new carbon fiber RTM press installed at the CSP facility in Palmela, Portugal, will soon be running the company’s first commercial applications of this technology.


In addition to reducing component weight and cycle times, the CSP team in Europe has been pursuing a number of methodologies that will result in more sustainable manufacturing processes. Working toward a net zero emission target, CSP Europe is working on tomorrow’s CF-RTM process with a primary focus on natural or recycled fibers, thermoplastic/bio-sources, advanced resins, and reduced scrap and waste.

Continental Structural Plastics, a Teijin Group company, has provided leading-edge technologies in lightweight composite solutions for the automotive, heavy truck, HVAC and construction industries for 50 years. Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, CSP provides full-service engineering support, and holds multiple patents covering materials development and manufacturing processes. The company has operations on three continents and more than 4,300 employees.

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