Engel used K 2013 to highlight, among other things, its developments in composite technologies, demonstrating the production of brake pedals and latch covers for the automotive sector.
“Lightweight construction and injection moulding are inseparable key concepts for meeting the increasing demands of the transport and mobility sectors,” said Peter Egger, Head of Engel Austria’s technology centre for lightweight composites. “Aircraft construction has been given the direction, but the well established processes used in that industry to make lightweight components cannot be transferred to car manufacture, which is dominated by high unit quantities.”
The composite technology centre, which was opened in 2012 at the group’s large-scale machine factory in St. Valentin, Austria, was designed to develop new processes – often in connection with new material systems – for the car industry. “It is only interdisciplinary competence that makes fibre composite projects successful,” said Egger. “Composite technologies need ‘composite’ development; this means development has to occur in an alliance with others.”
Engel updated visitors on the progress of the research, stating that currently, the technology centre is focusing on the processing of semi-finished thermoplastic products (thermoplastic composite fabrics and tapes) and on reactive technologies that use thermosetting and thermoplastic systems, such as HP-RTM and in-situ polymerisation. Peter Egger said: “At this point, it's impossible to say which technology will be the preferred choice for specific applications on a regular basis in the future, but overall we believe that all four of these technologies have great potential.”
At K, the group demonstrated the production of a ‘geometrically optimised’ stress-resistant composite brake pedal manufactured using a one-shot process. The Engel ‘organomelt’ method used involves composite fabrics (semi-finished thermoplastic products reinforced with continuous fibres) being heated in an infrared oven, preformed in the mould of an injection moulding machine and immediately overmoulded with polyamide.
This set-up produces ready-to-install parts that don't require any extra cutting, whereas traditional metal brake pedals can’t be made in a one-step process. By replacing metal, the component weight is also reduced by about 30% without impairing the load-bearing capacity.
The system used a vertical Engel insert 200 single injection moulding machine with the group’s ‘easix’ multi-axis robot and an infrared oven with a shuttle system. Egger said: “As well horizontal as vertical injection moulding machines can be used for ENGEL’s organomelt technology. We customise every system solution so that it is adapted perfectly to the application, the manufacturing environment and the degree of flexibility desired by the respective customer. The solution’s overall efficiency is always the most important thing.”
The infrared oven, which has been developed by Engel itself, allows a sensitive, time-optimised heating process for composite fabrics, including thick-walled types. Both the oven and the multi-axis robot are fully integrated into the control unit of the injection moulding machine meaning that all the components access the same database.
Another application demonstrated Engel’s developments in high-pressure resin transfer moulding. The system produced latch covers for KTM’s X-Bow sports car on a v-duo injection moulding machine.
The v-duo is a large-scale vertical machine, which made its trade show debut at K this year. It was developed specifically for fibre composite applications, but could also be used for processes requiring high cavity pressures.
“Compared to conventional presses, the Engel v-duo is about 60% lighter in weight and has only 50% in terms of height,” said Bernhard Lettner, Product Manager for the Engel duo series. He added: “This reduces the efforts and costs involved in laying a base for the machine. In many cases, existing building structures can be used.” The clamping unit can be accessed from all four sides instead of just two, which speeds up maintenance work and also simplifies automation. In addition, handling devices can be integrated to move straight into the mould area. By using sliding tables, insertion tasks can be carried out outside the clamping unit, which reduces the cycle time even further for many applications.
The standard version of the Engel v-duo also comes with the ecodrive servo-hydraulic system.