The project “Lite2Duro – Lightweight design through resource- and CO2-efficient balanced injection molding of thermoset molding compounds”, which was launched in August, is researching increasing sustainability and energy efficiency in the processing of thermoset plastics. In a broad consortium, three important process-related obstacles are being investigated, simulation methods are being further developed, and the solutions are being demonstrated in two industry-related applications.
New developments compared with the state of the art
In the first step, an active cavity balancing system is being developed which enables the simultaneous production of several identical precision components made of thermoset molding compounds in a process-safe, economical and resource-saving manner. The second focus is the development of an injection molding machine capable of increasing the processable plastic volume per cycle. This will result in more economical and energy-efficient large-scale production overall. As a third factor, a recycling strategy is being developed for the sprue distributer based on granulation of the cured plastic and direct recycling as a reinforcing material in the injection molding process.
Automated manufacturing cell for processing thermoset molding compounds in injection molding processes. Image source: KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH and Baumgarten automotive technics GmbH.
Transfer to industry
The transfer to industrial applications takes place on the one hand based on a function-integrated overmolding design for transponders for time measurement at sports events. On the other hand, the direct-cooled electric motor with integral lightweight housing DEmiL, which has received several awards for its innovative power, is being further developed into an electric motor-gearbox unit. The increased degree of functional integration is intended to further increase the power-to-weight ratio.
Weight, cost, and high-volume advantages of thermoset plastics
Injection molding of filled and fiber-reinforced plastics is a key technology for the high-volume, cost-effective production of lightweight structures. “Compared to thermoplastics, thermoset plastics offer advantageous thermomechanical properties and are very well suited for the production of geometrically complex components with high requirements on dimensional stability as well as a high degree of functionalization,” says project engineer Robert Maertens from Fraunhofer ICT. These advantages of the thermoset plastics are used in Lite2Duro to increase the lightweight design of the two applications and to reduce CO2 emissions over the entire product life cycle.
Sectional view of the Lite2Duro electric motor-gearbox unit. The transfer of research within the Lite2Duro project to industrial application is demonstrated by the development of an electric motor-gearbox unit.
The project consortium is formed by industry and research partners along the entire value chain for thermoset plastics. As a system supplier of machines for plastics processing, KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH will further develop the processing technology for thermoset injection molding. Baumgarten automotive technics GmbH will contribute its experience as a provider of complete solutions in the large-scale production of thermoset injection molded components to Lite2Duro. On the process side, the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT is driving forward the development of active cavity balancing and sprue recycling. On the product side, Fraunhofer ICT is also developing the Lite2Duro electric motor-gearbox unit. The company GHD-Präzisions-Formenbau GmbH & Co. KG will investigate the integration of the new balancing technology to be developed in injection molds. The company gwk Gesellschaft Wärme Kältetechnik GmbH is pursuing the superior work objective of developing an active cavity balancing system for injection molding processing as a component for injection molds of thermoset molding compound. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) – Institute for Vehicle System Technology FAST (KIT-FAST) is further developing existing manufacturing simulation approaches for thermoset injection molding compounds to sharpen the prediction accuracy. The goal of Race Result AG is to increase the functional integration for a timekeeping transponder through direct overmolding within the framework of Lite2Duro. SIMUTENCE GmbH will contribute its expertise as a provider of customized and highly specialized simulation solutions in the field of fiber-reinforced composite components to the project and will take care of the industrialization of the developed simulation approaches. The consortium is supported by the associated partner Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd. which contributes material expertise to the project as a material partner.
The Lite2Duro project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) over three years as part of the Lightweight Construction Technology Transfer Program.
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