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03-29-2011

Polypropylene composite material with natural fibers

Natural Fibers from the Injection Molding Machine

Polypropylene composite material with natural fibers

The Volkswagen business unit of in-house production (components, plastics section) at the Wolfsburg, Germany, site is undertaking research work on the development of a polypropylene composite material reinforced with natural fibers, which is due to meet automotive requirements. This is done in a joint project with machine producer KraussMaffei, together with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, Germany. This interdisciplinary approach is able to comprise the entire process chain, starting from material development, via production, up to the finished component. The Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts developed the material, while KraussMaffei Berstorff GmbH in Hanover is in charge of material compounding.

The compound is processed by injection molding, and KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH in Munich, Germany, supports the project in this area. Long-standing experience is available on biocomposites processed by compression molding. While injection molding is superior to compression molding because it offers benefits such as great freedom of design, and better integration of functions, short fiber-reinforced biocomposites have failed to establish themselves in this application yet. This is especially true in regard to a stable production process suitable for serial production, as well as various requirements specific to the application. These include, among others, the scratch resistance of component surfaces, and odor properties, in particular.

The developed material is a high-quality composite, which can be produced at an industrial scale. Its range of application was tailored specifically to meet the demands posed to a complex and demanding component of a door lining. If compared to plastics with a mineral filling, this cellulose fiber-reinforced material is superior in terms of weight, i.e. its density specific stiffness is higher. Having optimized the material formulation, and having adjusted processing, engineers were moreover able to improve odor properties significantly. Even scratchproof grained surfaces could be achieved. This development is in line with Volkswagen’s strategy of environment and sustainability.

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