Material (Thermoplastic Composites)

The main material used by AS Composite for its line of products is Thermoplastic Composite, which is mostly glass fiber reinforced polypropylene (Glass/PP).

What is a composite material?

Composites are materials resulting from a mixture of two or more components. This mixture produces a product with properties superior to those of the individual materials. Advanced polymer composites are comprised of two parts:

  • The reinforcement component (the fibers)
  • The polymer component (the matrix)

Several materials can be used as Reinforcements, ranging from fibers, to fabrics, to particles embedded into the matrix. The most popular fibers used in composites are Glass, Kevlar and Carbon. These fibers have high mechanical properties which control the strength of the final composite material.

The polymer matrix components are the materials that cover the reinforcements. The matrix, with reinforcements in place, distributes the load among the reinforcements. Since reinforcements are usually stiffer than the matrix material, they are the primary load-carrying component within the composite.

There are two primary types of polymer matrix:

  • Thermosets such as epoxy, polyester, and vinylester, which cannot be reheated or reused
  • Thermoplastics such as Polyethylene, PVC, and Polypropylene, which can be reheated and reused several times

Advantages of Thermoplastics vs. Thermosets

  • Thermoplastic composites need shorter cycle time to process, which results in greater production volume
  • Thermoplastics are reformable and weldable: All thermoplastic parts can be reshaped or reprocessed into a new product. New reliable techniques exist to weld Thermoplastic parts together
  • Thermoplastic material can be 100% recycled
  • Contrary to Thermosets, Thermoplastic processes are environmentally-friendly: No toxic gas is produced during curing and the service life of thermoplastics
  • Compared to thermosets, thermoplastics are more resistant to impact, especially at low temperatures
  • In many cases, thermoplastic composites offer key fundamental advantages over thermosets including toughness, fatigue resistance, durability and corrosion resistance

Drawbacks of Thermoplastics

What makes Thermoplastics undesirable for manufacturers is the low rigidity of the material compared to thermosets and, obviously, steel. On the other hand, this feature is beneficial in some applications, such as in highway guardrails. However, it does cause some strength issues in other cases. For example, most platforms should respect certain maximum deflection limit under load

Another issue that makes thermoplastics unpopular is the manufacturing process. The transformation of thermoplastic requires the material to undergo heating, pressure then cooling down while subjected to pressure. Following all these steps manually requires much time and needs a lot of precision

Our solution

To overcome these problems the AS Composite team has developed an automated and continuous process as a solution to all these concerns:

As mentioned previously, reinforced thermoplastic composites are flexible in nature, and they cannot not be used in most structural applications. However, the concept of the sandwich panel remedies the problem since an appropriate core material can considerably increase the stiffness of the plate. Lightweight honeycomb core is one of the best choices for this purpose. Combining the thermoplastic flexible skin with honeycomb core makes it so stiff that it can easily be compared with steel or other structural alternatives.

The AS equipment is designed so as to integrate all necessary steps in a continuous manner to complete thermoplastic forming.