CFRT (continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite) is a newly developed composite material of high strength, high stiffness, and high toughness that is widely used in automobiles, aerospace, military, and electronics. Its reinforcement material is the continuous fiber that includes glass fiber, carbon fiber, aramid fiber, plant fiber, and basalt fiber. It takes thermoplastic resin as its matrix, such as PP, PE, PA6, PA66, PC, PET, TPU, PPS, PEEK, etc. According to different property and molding methods, the reinforcement material can be either UD (unidirectional) tapes or fabrics. The two types of UD tapes are both available in TOPOLO T-UD series.
Although long and short fibers are still taking priority in the thermoplastic composite market, continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRT) keeps growing rapidly in recent worldwide business. International industry magnates have already listed CFRT composite and its related corporations on the objectives of their first development. The acquisition of Bond-Laminates in Germany by Lanxess, QPC by Mitsubishi, and Tencate in the Netherland by Toray, together with the newly launched CFRT composite by Hanwha, BASF, Covestro, Ineos, and other giants in chemical industries also witnessed the ascendence of CFRT.
The Impregnation Technology of CFRT Composite
There are mainly two ways for the integration of thermoplastic resin and continuous reinforced fiber. One is prepreg while the other is called premix, and prepreg is further divided into solvent impregnation and melt impregnation.
Through the flow of liquid resin, every stick of fiber is fully infused and the semi product is called prepreg.
Dissolve the resin into a suitable solution to form the solvent impregnated fiber.
Volatilize the solution and get the prepregs. (complete volatilization for solid premix or half volatilization for viscous and overlayable prepregs)
It overcomes the high viscosity of the infused thermoplastic resin for the complete impregnation of fibers.
High recycle cost, pollution, comparatively low solvent resistance
The residual solution may cause crafters in the composite material.
It may be hard to find suitable solutions for some kinds of thermoplastic resins.
The fibers are pulled through the melted resin and thus impregnated.
It is the most direct and popular way to process thermoplastic prepregs.
The viscosity is usually too high for the fibers to be impregnated.
★Low discharge, recyclable
★A wide range of suitable materials for thermoplastic resins, much wider than thermosetting resins, for different requirements.
★Easy to store, long storage time
★High fatigue resistance, impact resistance, and erosion resistance
★Low density, high specific strength, and specific stiffness
★Fast molding and multiple molding methods
★Easy to weld
CFRT Molding Methods
CFRT prepreg should be further processed for final products. Thermoplastic prepreg performed better than thermo-setting prepreg during the molding process. The whole process has no chemical changes and can be molded rapidly.
- Cut the CFRT prepregs into the mold size.
- Heat the CFRT thermoplastic composite sheets in a furnace to a temperature higher than the resin’s melting point.
The process can be finished between dozens of seconds and several minutes. It is a significant CFRT process for its cost saving, energy saving and high efficiency.
- Heat and soften the CFRT prepregs of several layers continuously by far infrared or electric heating.
- Forge the CFRT sheets through heating rolls and cooling rolls.
It is also used in metal forming, which is continuous, efficient and unlimited in product length.
- Preheat the prepregs.
- Forge the CFRT tapes through one or several molds into specific shapes.
It is usually for CFRT tapes or fiber bundles to form products in relatively regular geometric shapes such as rods, grooves, beams, etc..
- Cut the CFRT sheets into required sizes.
- Preheat the sheets and move them onto the metal molds.
- Seal the outer periphery of the sheets and the mold, then apply vacuum in the cavity to lay the sheet on the mold.
- Release the mold after cooling and get the desired shapes.
Vacuum molding is also suitable for CFRT thermoplastic composite sheets.
The advantages of CFRT are more than its disadvantages. The continuous fiber reinforced composites of carbon fiber and aramid fiber have become a special material indispensable for aircraft and aerospace. Besides, continuous glass fiber reinforced composites are also used in automobiles, electronics, architecture, and logistics. Continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites are especially concerned by vehicle industries. Core components (bumper, engine dumboard, seat framework, front lamp, fans, radiator barrier, dashboard carrier, etc.) made of CFRT have appeared in Japanese and Euramerican markets. In China, Beijing Jeep also began to use continuous glass fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite sheets (GMT) in the seat plate.
For commercial vehicles:
Lightweight solutions for commercial vehicles mainly focus on the panels of cargo vans and the structural components of passenger cars. The replacement of traditional glass steel and metal panels by continuous fiber reinforced PP honeycomb sandwich panels greatly reduced the total weight of vehicles. Statistics show that every 100kg reduction of weight saves 0.6L oil consumption, removes 10% rolling resistance and brings 6%-8% fuel efficiency and 3% combustion efficiency.
Take 9.6m cargo vans for example. Out panels of carriages made by continuous fiber reinforced PP composites are 1000kg lighter than metal carriages, 800kg lighter than wooden sandwich panel carriages and 500kg lighter than glass steel carriages. It’s experienced that every 1000kg weight reduction can save oil consumption 3-6L per 100km. It’s also estimated that every set of PP honeycomb panel car can save oil cost RMB52000 per year (200000km/year).
For passenger cars:
Continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites are currently adopted more by international enterprises. The compression molding and injection technology used in fiber reinforced thermoplastic sandwich panels make the products more cost-efficient, more lightweight and more strengthened.
For railway transportation:
The fire retardant PP UD tape laminated with glass fiber is often used in the inner panels of carriages as the replacement of traditional bamboo plywood. It is more protectable to the carriage, more lightweight and more energy saving.
Core technologies of CFRT UD tapes, 0/90° thermoplastic composite sheets, and honeycomb sandwich panels have been mastered in China, and in TOPOLO, our products T-UD series CFRT tapes, T-PC series CFRT sheet and T-SP series sandwich panels are also undoubtedly competitive both in price and in quality.
With the growing requirements of lightweight and recyclable composite materials, CFRT will certainly become more and more popular in future markets.
CFRT in Transportation
- Rail & Subway: Floor, lining and roof;
- Automotive & Ship: Automotive interior & exterior; ship decorative panels, truck cargoes, trailer containers
CFRT in Sports Tools
- Sports Tools: Snowboards, sleds, surfboards, diving boards, oars;
CFRT in Pipes, Military, and Aerospace
- Pipes: Used in the pipe structural ply, to make pipes even stronger and more durable by the winding process of extra reinforcement.
- Military: CFRT can be made into laminated sheets and panels to produce ballistic panels, bulletproof armors, missile storage boxes, etc..
- Aerospace: Products and components where light weight and strength are both highly required, such as Unit Load Devices (ULD)
CFRT in Construction
- Movable Units: stalls, stands in movable areas, temporary sheds, mobile shops, promotional tables, shelves, newsstands, playhouse, temporary shelters, portable and removable shower rooms, etc.
- Furniture/ office: partitions panels, doors, floors, countertops, cabinets, (movable) furniture, etc.