Teijin has developed
thermoplastic molding technology that speeds up the production of carbon fiber
reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts by a factor of five. Conventional CFRP uses
thermosetting resin and requires at least five minutes for molding. Parts are
formed in less than a minute with the new process.
Teijin also developed technologies for welding thermoplastic CFRP parts together and for bonding CFRP with materials such as steel, both of which are expected to reduce the use of all-metal constructions in automotive assemblies. Some OEMs, particularly in Europe, have favored greater use of aluminum in car frames to reduce weight. America OEMs have made greater use of new lightweight, high-strength steels.
By impregnating carbon fiber with thermoplastic resin, Teijin developed three intermediate composites for the production of CFRP designed for use in mass-production vehicles. The actual materials used will depend on strength and cost considerations. Teijin says that various thermoplastic resins can be used, including polypropylene and polyamide (nylon).
The new intermediate materials are as follows:
- Unidirectional intermediate: ultrahigh strength in a certain direction.
- Isotropic intermediate: optimum balance of shape flexibility and multidirectional strength.
- Long-fiber thermoplastic pellet: high-strength pellet made from carbon fiber, suited for injection molding of complex parts.
As a demonstration project, Teijin has developed an electric-vehicle (EV) concept car that features a frame made entirely from thermoplastic CFRP and weighs only 103.4 lbs, or roughly one fifth the weight of a conventional automobile's cabin frame. The four-seat EV is capable of speeds up to 37 mph and has a cruising range of 62 miles.
The CFRP innovation fits into a revised and amped-up R&D strategy at the Teijin Group. "In order to deal with rising nations, we must conduct research and development in a more efficient manner and at a faster pace and to respond more promptly to the changing market environment," says Toshiaki Yatabe, chief technology officer for Teijin.
The Teijin Group, which has positioned automobiles and aircrafts as one of its key growth markets, has been developing CFRP for such applications through collaboration between the Teijin Composites Innovation Center and Toho Tenax, the core company of the group's carbon fibers business.
Looking ahead, the Teijin Group aims to accelerate its expansion of advanced composite materials, one of the pillars of the group's long-term growth strategy. On April 1, Teijin is establishing a new business group named the Carbon Fibers and Composites Business Group, by integrating its current business units for carbon fibers and composite materials.
Going forward, Teijin intends to develop mass production applications for CFRP in automobiles and many other parts that require certain levels of structural strength, such as machine tools and industrial robots.