Extra-large polycarbonate film formats can now also be produced by the high-pressure forming (HPF) process thanks to an innovative development from Bayer MaterialScience and Niebling-Junior Kunststoffverarbeitung - Werkzeugbau e.K. from Germany. Together they have developed a machine that can form polycarbonate film, e.g. of the Makrofol HF range in a size of 500 x 1,000 mm with absolute precision. Until now, the process has been used for film sizes up to around DIN A3 format. "Our innovation is an answer to the recent heavy increase in demand for larger printed film formats where a high level of accuracy is specified. Now, it is also possible to manufacture large-area 3D components such as car body parts, center consoles and decorative trim as one-part components based on HPF-formed polycarbonate films," explains Dirk Pophusen, head of Business Development in the Functional Films unit of Bayer MaterialScience.
With high-pressure forming, the film is formed with compressed air (20 to 150 bar). The process is used primarily when polycarbonate film needs to be formed gently and in such a way that printed symbols and characters can be positioned with 100 percent accuracy. This is not possible with other technologies like the thermoforming process. High-pressure forming also has advantages in the processing of matte and textured films, because, with thermoforming, the texture is spoiled in case of a too severe thermal impact and matte areas of the film become glossy again. Typical HPF components are display elements such as heating/ventilation facings, 3D speedometers and dials. "The new technology allows us to also exploit the advantages of the HPF process with large parts based on polycarbonate films," says Pophusen.