Plastic components from the microwave

Oct 20, 2006
Plastic components from the microwave
Fiber-reinforced plastic components have been used on ships for a long time. A new curing process will facilitate their production in future. © Elan

Manufacturing fiber-reinforced plastic components for ships, facades of buildings and wind power plants is a technically difficult process. Researchers are now developing a new, environment-friendly process that enables the curing process to be accurately controlled.

The shipbuilding, construction and wind power plant industries all require large components made of fiber-reinforced plastics. To produce them, the plastic is either poured into molds or applied manually layer by layer. Both methods have their pitfalls. If the casting mold is not completely filled, the component has to be discarded. The manual lamination process releases styrene, a volatile hydrocarbon that is harmful to health.

To complicate matters still further, the polyester resins mixed with the hardener and a catalyst will set at different rates depending on the ambient temperature. “The variable outside temperature during production has so far always made it impossible for us to reproduce the chemical process with any degree of accuracy,” states Dr. Rudolf Emmerich, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal.

Under his leadership, a team of research institutes and companies from Germany, Slovenia and Spain is about to revolutionize the production of large-scale fiber-reinforced plastic components. The European Union is investing one million euros, or roughly 50 percent of the cost, in the research project. Its goal is to achieve improved working conditions, lower pollution and higher quality.

The polyester resin mixture will in future be of low viscosity – so liquid, that is, that it will not set at normal ambient temperatures. Using this resin, the fibers – glass fiber or foam fabric – can be embedded properly while still leaving enough time to make adjustments. Not until the constituents are correctly positioned in the mold is the component finally cured – using microwaves.

The crucial factor is “that we heat up and thus cure the components uniformly, regardless of their geometry,” says Rudolf Emmerich, explaining the challenge facing the ICT researchers. Movable antennas will transmit the microwaves and distribute the energy as required. The technical structure, the intensity of the microwave radiation and the new chemical composition of the polyester resins have already been specified. The method is now being adapted for industrial-scale applications. A prototype plant has already been completed.

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Explore further: Stanford aims to bring player pianos back to life

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google Cardboard delivers fresh round of updates

9 hours ago

Remember all that loud talk back in June about the new Google Cardboard, an egalitarian virtual reality solution announced at I/O 2014? You can rest assured that Google is not about to put it on the shelf. Te ...

Recommended for you

EDAG car with textile skin set for Geneva show

14 hours ago

Making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show 2015 is the EDAG Light Cocoon. This is promoted as a new dimension for lightweight construction, a sportscar with a textile outer skin panel. The EDAG Light Cocoon ...

Stanford aims to bring player pianos back to life

Dec 17, 2014

(AP)—Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano, which brought recorded music into living rooms long before there were cassettes, compact discs or iPods.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.