Mitsubishi's machine for processing LFTs in single process; targeted at auto sector

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Plastic Technology, a group company of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, (MHI), has completed the development and commenced worldwide marketing of the D-LFT system, a kneading/injection moulding machine capable of forming high-strength long-fibre-reinforced thermoplastic (LFT) products from glass fibres and polypropylene (PP) resin, all in one process.

A unique screw shape, glass fibre feed method and other proprietary innovations eliminate the need for kneaded pellets (compounds), enabling significant reductions in manufacturing costs. The new system will be marketed with an eye on promoting its adoption in new applications, especially for creating items to supersede conventional metal parts in order to achieve lighter vehicles, etc.

It integrates a variety of hardware innovations such as a dedicated screw, automatic resin and glass fibre feed mechanisms, with proprietary innovations in software, including technology that controls the glass fibre feed according to the amount of melted resin and a new control system that disperses the glass fibres into the melted resin with uniformity. Together these innovations enable injection moulding in which resin and glass fibres are introduced into the system in their material state, resulting in LFT moulded products with strength and rigidity.

Compared to injection moulding that requires the purchase of compound material, the D-LFT system can be expected to trim material costs by roughly 25%. Simultaneously, the integration of the kneading and injection moulding processes translates to a more compact production line. User support will be enhanced through the introduction of a new service whereby users will be provided with material mixing recipes for use with glass fibres manufactured by Nippon Electric Glass, a company that cooperated in developing the D-LFT system.

Today, as the automotive industry actively pursues lighter vehicle chassis in a quest for higher fuel performance, demand is expanding for plastic parts to replace conventional metal components. However, because outstanding strength and rigidity are necessary particularly in the case of large parts and exterior components, interest is rising toward technology that enables the creation of large LFT moulded items featuring fibres of the maximum possible length.

The company says the new system will be proactively marketed not only to the automotive and related industries but also to such manufacturing industries as makers of large home appliances and of building interior and exterior materials. In addition, efforts will focus on expanding the application range to areas such as glass-reinforced polyamide resin (nylon) moulded products and carbon fibre-reinforced plastics.


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