ICT engineers claim that the process is suitable for mass production of up to 100 000 parts a year.

"Our method offers comparatively short production times," states Dieter Gittel, a project manager at ICT. "The cycle time to produce thermoplastic components is only around 5 minutes. Comparable thermoset components frequently require more than 20 minutes."

The Fraunhofer researchers have named the technique thermoplastic resin transfer moulding (RTM) (T-RTM). It is derived from the conventional RTM technique for thermoset composites. The composite component is formed in a single step.

"We insert the pre-heated textile structure into a temperature-controlled moulding tool so that the fibre structures are placed in alignment with the anticipated stress," Gittel explains. "That enables us to produce very lightweight components."

Carbon or glass fibres are generally used.

The next step involves injecting the activated monomer melt into the moulding chamber. This contains a catalyst and activator system. The researchers can select the system and the processing temperature in a way that enables them to set the minimum required processing time.

The demonstration trunk liner for the Porsche Carrera 4 made using T-RTM will be on display on the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT stand number C33, Hall 12, at the COMPOSITES EUROPE 2010 exhibition in Essen on 14-16 September.

To improve the crash behaviour of the vehicle’s overall structure, the ICT engineers also calculated the optimum fibre placement.

Another advantage of the T-RTM process is that the cost of the thermoplastic matrix material and the cost of its processing are up to 50% lower than the equivalent costs for thermoset structures.