A breakthrough in engineering thermoplastics for high aesthetic structural components has been delivered by 3B-the fibreglass company together with Lati, one of the most important independent European compounders. This breakthrough will open many doors to engineers and designers who can now achieve both goals of high structural performance and high gloss finishes directly from the forming tools.
Replacing metal has long been the challenge of glass fibre reinforced composites to reduce cost, complexity and weight. With the objective to deliver superior performance on these attributes as well as enabling opportunities on the aesthetic front, Lati together with 3B has developed a 50% and 60% glass fibre reinforced Polyamide 66 called Latigloss™ 66 H2 G50 & 60.
The product not only delivers outstanding mechanical performance in the form of stiffness in PA66, but also has excellent wet-ability which allows a very homogeneous dispersion at high glass fibre loadings of up to 60%. The result is a 3B chopped strand solution made from Advantex® glass with a unique, optimum fibre/matrix interaction.
This innovative formulation has been successfully used to replace cast metal in many different structural applications, e.g. the vertical opening door hinges for high-end kitchen furniture. To meet the demanding challenges of this very sophisticated system, Lati worked closely with the design group Effegi Brevetti, in order to optimize the geometry of the individual components that are tailored to the capabilities and benefits of reinforced PA. This resulted in a complete re-engineering of the hinge system based on finite element analysis, leading to an overall improvement of the geometry of the different parts. The influence of processing parameters on the molded parts has been carried out as well, leading to satisfactory results from both the structural and aesthetic points of view.
“Metal replacement continues to be a key theme in many industries as a contribution to reducing weight, CO2 emissions and cost. Glass fibre reinforced thermoplastic composites have risen to the challenge to meet these demands while at the same time continuing to extend the boundaries of mechanical performance, long term durability and surface appearance. As the gap between composites and metals gets closer, more industries and applications are benefiting from the advantages of low weight, design flexibility, corrosion resistance, colour and surface appearance”, stated Dr Ir Eric Martin, Thermoplastic Product Manager of 3B. “Within 3B, we are dedicated to developing sustainable and durable glass fibre reinforcement solutions for thermoplastic compounds. Working together with a partner of equal expertise, like Lati, has delivered a solution that once again offers designers and engineers greater flexibility and helps reduce component cost. This solution delivers superior performance while minimizing our impact on the environment”. Ir. Luca Posca, Technical Support and Marketing Manager of Lati Industria Termoplastici SpA, based in Vedano Olona, Italy stated: “Our key challenge was to guarantee outstanding mechanical properties and dimensional stability as well as unparalleled surface finish in complex geometries. The performance of the 3B Advantex® reinforcement solution has allowed us to maintain PA 66 as the base polymer which is particularly suited to highly engineered components as well as being process friendly and price competitive. Latigloss™ will undoubtedly find a large application base in many markets such as automotive and household appliances”.
In conclusion Eric Martin stated: “Our sizing technology and process, in combination with Advantex® glass, has allowed us to turn a chopped strand product into a truly value added contributor to an engineering solution”.