Hollow profiles instead of sheet metal in hybrid technology for auto parts


Plastic metal hybrid technology is an established method for manufacturing lightweight structural components developed by the speciality chemicals company Lanxess. This technology combines the advantages of metal and plastic. It has been used for many years to manufacture automotive parts like front ends, pedal boxes and brake pedals. This hybrid technology includes glass fibre-reinforced polyamide 6 for injection moulding as well as a steel or aluminium sheet as metal component.

Lanxess has now extended the use of its hybrid technology to metallic hollow profiles with round or rectangular cross sections.

“Compared to sheet metal, hollow profiles show significantly higher dimensional stability as well as increased torsional strength and stiffness,” explains Lukas Schröer, project manager for lightweight structures in the High Performance Materials (HPM) business unit. “We believe that this new ‘Hollow Profile Hybrid Technology’ enables the manufacturing of components such as cross car beams, which up until now were not resilient enough using classic plastic metal hybrid technology.”

For its hollow profile hybrid technology, Lanxess says it developed an economical, one-step process that has to meet multiple challenges: “It needs to be possible to smoothly and fully automatically place the metal inserts into the injection moulding tool. Due to their production process, these metal inserts exhibit dimensional tolerances, which can damage the tool. In case of undersized inserts leaks in the tool system may result,” explains Boris Koch, hybrid technology specialist in the HPM business unit’s technical application development.

Additionally, in order to avoid the profile to collapse due to the high levels of melt pressure during the injection moulding process, the metal insert has to be supported. Another challenge was creating a long-lasting, form fitting bond between the plastic and the metal in all directions.

According to Koch: “The result of our development work is a process that is suitable for large scale production, only requires an investment in standard injection moulds and machines, makes short cycle times just like standard injection moulding possible, and is just as simple as the classic hybrid technology using metal sheets.”

In addition to cross car beams, this new hybrid technology offers significant potential for use with other structural components with high mechanical demands. “With respect to lightweight automotive components, we’re thinking about seat structures, front ends, tail gates, and mirror brackets in trucks. But we also see potential for this technology in the manufacture of furniture, ladders, and strollers,” says Schröer.

Lanxess offers customised polyamide compounds as injection moulding materials for its hollow profile hybrid technology. “This includes particularly easy-flowing material varieties for complex ribbed structures and shapes as well as highly filled types of polyamide 6 that, thanks to their outstanding mechanical properties, take the structural performance of hybrid components to a higher level,” explains Koch.

The German company says it is currently working on expanding hybrid technology to simple and competitive die-cast or extrusion moulding inserts. “Even hollow profile inserts made of fibre-reinforced composite can be used in the new hybrid technology,” says Koch. “This allows manufacturers to achieve further weight reductions in the mass production of structural components.”

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