TPRC, its members and a number of further companies have established a research consortium for maturing the overmolding process of thermoplastic composites. The consortium covers the aerospace and automotive value chains and are active as OEMs (Boeing), tiers (Safran Composites, Fokker Aerostructures, SMP, Johnson Controls, DTC, Daher, Harper Engineering), material suppliers (Victrex, TenCate), equipment suppliers (KraussMaffei), software companies (Autodesk, AniForm), as well as knowledge institutes (University of Twente, Saxion). This initiative underlines TPRC’s ambitions for being a leading authority on thermoplastic composites. The project team started February 1st 2015, and the official kick off took place in August.

Thermoplastic composites feature excellent mechanical properties and low weight and have been successfully applied for a large number of applications. Currently, an increasing demand for large volume applications is observed, also driven by the automotive industry.

The overmolding process, being a combination of press forming of thermoplastic composites and subsequent injection over-molding, enables net-shape stiff and strong parts with a high level of function integration. Due to the nature of thermoplastics, the overmolding process features very low cycle times and allows for automated processing.

The aim of the project is to mature the overmolding process and provide processing and design guidelines for overmolded products. The research focus is on interface weld strength and warpage, as well as developing the virtual process chain. These building blocks form the basis for large scale introduction of overmolding in the different value chains. Very promising first results of interface characteristics have already been obtained within the project.

The research is carried out by researchers of TPRC supported and guided by the experts from the participating companies and TPRC members. KraussMaffei, one of the world-wide leading companies for injection molding equipment, will support the research by making a state-of-the-art research machine available. Martin Würtele, technology leader at KraussMaffei states that “we are convinced that our participation in this research cooperation will help KraussMaffei to achieve its strategic objectives in the field of aerospace”.

“The demand for new engines as a result of the strong growth of air traffic represents industrial challenges to Safran.  With regards to composite engine components we are therefore actively looking for innovative processes enabling reduced cycle time and cost. We expect thermoplastics and overmolding to be a suitable solution for some specific engine parts.  The participation in the TPRC project should allow us to evaluate the technology and to increase its technical maturity quicker thanks to the cooperation network offered by skilled partners.” – Wouter Balk, R&D project engineering, SAFRAN.

“We see the combined use of composites and overmolding to achieve multi-functional designs as a major trend in industries seeking to reduce weight and costs while increasing performance. We are therefore excited to be working with this consortium which brings together the required expertise in both processing and modelling from what were previously disconnected fields.”  – Dr. Franco Costa, Senior Research Leader, Autodesk.

“Lightweight thermoplastic composite parts for the automotive industry is a main R&D focus area at SMP. The scope of this research project includes special solutions for Moldflow analysis and warpage prediction. We expect that this will complement and significantly enhance our expertise in the virtual process chain in the important field of lightweight thermoplastic composites.“ – Timo Schwarz, SMP Vice President Research & Development.

“With this project we have established a unique consortium of leading companies from both aerospace and automotive for a technology that will play a big role in the future of composites part development.” – Harald Heerink, General Manager, TPRC.