“In view of the trend towards lightweight electric cars and lightweight, fuel-saving motor vehicles, we are concentrating intensively on nylon composite sheet hybrid technology based on polyamide," explains Hartwig Meier, head of Product and Applications Development in the Semi-Crystalline Products business unit at LANXESS.

This technology is based on thin sheets of fibre reinforced plastic that can be pressed into shapes, just like thin metal plates. When these are combined with ribbing and struts made of polyamide, the resulting material can be used to make components whose strength is similar to that of hybrid parts made of metal and plastic, but which are even lighter.

"Compared to pure metal, or metal/plastic hybrid designs, this technology offers great potential for saving on component weight,” Meier confirms.

LANXESS's expertise builds in part on the plastic/metal hybrid technology used to fabricate, for example, front ends, brake pedals and pedal brackets. The company reports that hybrid components are usually 20-30% lighter than their pure steel counterparts while offering the same performance. Even more weight can be eliminated if the sheet metal is replaced by lightweight polyamide (PA) nylon composite sheet reinforced with continuous fibres. This cuts component weight by another 10% over aluminium hybrid designs.

“We see great potential for nylon composite sheet hybrid technology in the production of door sills, B pillars and seat cross-members,” Meier says.

Simulation of process steps

LANXESS says it can now simulate all the process steps in nylon composite sheet hybrid technology.

“Now we can not only calculate locally varying fibre alignments in a moulded nylon composite sheet, we can also determine when multiple folds will form during shaping, how the semi-finished product is best positioned in the mould and the limit conditions for thermoforming,” Meier explains.