Metal-replacing CFR thermoplastic composites for electronic devices


Covestro has recently developed metal-replacing high-tech composite technology for the efficient manufacturing of housings and other components of electronic devices. The demands consumers place on electronic devices are growing all the time. They want their notebooks, tablets, TVs and smartphones to be ever faster, thinner and lighter, yet also increasingly robust. Devices should combine a sophisticated and fashionable design with a cool and authentic feel, but also are made from sustainable materials. Metals and conventional composites rapidly reach their limits when faced with such demands. 
Covestro has recognized this trend and developed a completely new composite technology for the efficient manufacture of housings and other components, which is based on thermoplastics and carbon fibers and meets these requirements. Covestro uses them for the manufacture of continuous fiber-reinforced films and sheets, for further processing by customers.

David Hartmann, who is heading the area of thermoplastic composites at Covestro, together with Dr. Michael Schmidt, said: “They provide the best strength-to-weight ratio of all standard composites on the market and also outperform metals in this respect, which means they’re ideal for making parts for IT devices that are impressively robust despite their thin-walled, lightweight design”.  They also fulfill the high standard of Underwriters Laboratories’ UL94 V-0 flammability rating. 

  • The composites are based on films of endless unidirectional carbon fibers (UD films). 
  • Several layers of these films are positioned one on top of the other, cut and then laminated. 
  • This produces extremely stiff and lightweight composite sheets with no distortion or shrinkage. 
  • The number, direction and sequence of layers can be optimized for the relevant application. 

The external appearance of the sheet blanks is different from typical semi-finished plastic materials. They have an “organic” grain pattern, feel cool thanks to their excellent thermal conductivity and sound like metals on impact.  The composites give product designers an unprecedented degree of design freedom. Different combinations of resin and fibers can be used to create specific visual effects and textures – in the mold or using sandblasting, CNC milling or laser cutting, for example. Coating and various printing/embossing processes open up further possibilities. Openings and functions can also be integrated into the components themselves. It is possible to vary the wall thickness or to incorporate windows that allow RF (radiofrequency) radiation to pass through them. 

These CFRTP solutions also offer new design options for components used in the automotive and transport industry. These include door trim, bodywork parts and backrests for automobiles. The materials’ lightweight design helps reduce both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. In buses, trucks and railroad cars, the composites could be used for applications such as interior and exterior paneling. 

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