This year, Engel is – for the first time – presenting its expertise in lightweight composite technologies at the Composites Europe trade fair, which takes place from 7th to 9th October in Düsseldorf, Germany. The manufacturer of injection moulding machines and automated system solutions, headquartered in Schwertberg, Austria, is one of the preferred suppliers to the international automotive industry. At its own centre for lightweight composite technologies, ENGEL co-operates with partner enterprises on developing economical processes for serial production of innovative CFRP-components.
Lightweight construction and injection moulding have long become inseparable key concepts for meeting the increasing mobility demands. Integrated plastics solutions contribute towards reducing vehicle weight, while at the same time empowering economical processes for high-volume serial production. The objective of the Engel Austria Center for Lightweight Composite Technologies, founded in 2012 in St. Valentin, Austria, is to accelerate the development and market launch of new manufacturing processes. With its high levels of system solution and automation expertise, Engel already offers one success factor that is crucial for this. Engel's understanding of the Technology Centre is above all that of a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration with partner enterprises and universities. "One important precondition for successful CFRP projects is that the materials, design and production process mesh in the best possible way. This can only work if enterprises bundle their expertise along the value chain. Composite engineering needs 'composite' development", says Peter Egger, Director of the Engel Center for Lightweight Composite Technologies.
The Technology Centre's current focus is on processing semi-finished thermoplastic products (thermoplastic fabrics and tapes), and on reactive technologies that use thermosets and thermoplastic systems, such as HP-RTM and in-situ caprolactam polymerisation. With sample parts, presentations and videos, Engel will be giving trade fair visitors a peek behind the scenes into ongoing research work, and successful customer projects.
Tailor made for BMW in Leipzig
The BMW i3 is probably the best-known electric vehicle on the market right now. Its shell components are made on Engel duo injection moulding machines. Two large-scale Engel duo machines with a clamping force of 40,000 kN are integrated as a twinned system. In master/slave mode, both machines can be synchronised to injection mould and complete two components at the same time. This manufacturing principle makes sure both components undergo exactly the same material aging process and the high quality requirements are met. Parts are handled by multiple axis robots, which Engel integrates into the production solution as the general contractor. Engel's most recent delivery to the BMW plant in Leipzig was in March this year.
New Engel v-duo reduces machine footprint
In the summer of 2014, the BMW plant in Landshut also commissioned a new Engel production cell. On an Engel v-duo vertical machine, the plant manufactures large-scale, structural, fibre-plastic composite components using the HP-RTM process. BMW is one of the earliest adopters of the new Engel v-duo series, which was specifically designed for fibre composite applications. The Engel v-duo enables very compact production cells with comparatively low investment costs. The machines are far more compact than the presses traditionally used for fibre composite applications. Additionally, the machine weight is significantly lower, which reduces the foundation building overhead. Because the Engel v-duo completely does without hydraulic accumulators and instead already comes with the Engel ecodrive servo-hydraulic system as a factory standard, it also sets new standards in terms of energy efficiency for large-scale machines.