Lightweight construction with plastics: Concrete application examples for high-performance compounds.
Lightweight design with plastics is the art of reconciling a wide range of requirements. Demands on the material, the design, the functional integration, the total cost of ownership, the component performance ... the list is long. In order to achieve an effective cost-performance ratio, it is advisable for the material itself to be highly modifiable - in such a way that it gives the designer free rein to think in any direction (for example, to decouple the typical dependence of the property on the processing orientation). Or, to put it another way, if the compounder masters the anisotropies of the material to a degree that enables the designer to come up with a perfectly adapted design for the function of his component. These four examples from the aerospace, mechanical engineering and sporting goods sectors clearly show the directions in which this can go:
Example No. 1: Aerospace industry. How to save weight and production costs at the same time by changing materials from aluminum/magnesium to plastic.
They comprise "only" a few dozen of millions of individual parts in an Airbus, but are nevertheless also jointly responsible for the well-being of the passengers on board - at least for those with more or less extensive hand luggage. These are the stiffeners for the luggage compartments: Partition Holder. They belong to the "flying parts" as they are called in aviation jargon and are therefore a piece of aircraft that deserves special attention.
Partition holders are available worldwide in a wide variety of materials, such as magnesium, aluminum or CFRP, i.e. resin-bonded carbon fiber. There is no question about it: all these materials have successfully passed the complex approval procedures, which often take years, and have been or can be technologically convincing. It is only in the context of the ongoing search for savings in terms of weight and, above all, processing costs that their performance has been repeatedly downgraded in the recent past by another material.
This material is a LEHVOSS compound made of polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) and carbon fibers. A high-temperature resistant thermoplastic material, its package of properties makes it stand out in the market. Its bundled performance in terms of both technical (strength, weight, flammability and flowability) and economic aspects "cost reduction" as well as "investment security".
A decisive factor here plays its easier processing in the injection molding process. This is followed by sanding, priming and painting, as well as the attachment of fastening elements. Finished is the mechanical stiffness and flame resistance with simultaneously reduced dead weight and reduced manufacturing costs.
Example No. 2: Roller Ski. How to improve the riding experience by changing the material and still save costs and weight.
Product developments and production processes in the sports equipment sector are significantly influenced by those who use the end product on a regular basis. Whether professional or amateur, skier or cyclist, tennis player or golfer: the human/sports equipment interface must be coherent so that things run smoothly later - in business as well as in sports.
This is especially true for roller skis. On the one hand, they should provide their rider with an optimum riding experience within the framework of a complex motion sequence. On the other hand, they should also meet economic and "design" requirements for cost reduction and weight saving in general. Materials such as aluminum, composites or most fiber-reinforced plastics often find themselves in a tight spot on the home stretch.
It's different with a material like the LEHVOSS high-performance compound LUVOCOM® XCF made of polyamide 66 with high-modulus carbon fibers. Processed into a roller ski, it meets the requirements of the rider (low weight - comfortable riding characteristics - authentic ski feel), the designer (high strength - substitute material for aluminum) and the "cost controller" (better cost-performance ratio compared to aluminum and composite variants) at the same time.
In sports jargon, one likes to speak of an "all-rounder" - even if the formulation for the compound was created specifically for this application. Just as practically every LEHVOSS compound is unique, i.e. newly composed or compounded for every application.
Example No. 3: Drone wings. How to reduce material costs and increase product performance by switching from a composite solution to a thermoplastic solution.
Material changes often also describe a solution path to dissolve previously seemingly unsolvable tasks into pleasantness. A good example of this is the demands placed on the development of drone wings: On the one hand, they should be more and more technologically advanced (i.e., develop more and more lift to be able to transport heavier loads), but on the other hand, they should also consume less energy and - on top of that - contribute to lowering production costs, which are under strong pressure as a result of significantly increasing demand and extreme competitive conditions.
What initially sounds like squaring the circle can be solved quite concretely in the area of drone wings by switching from a composite to a thermoplastic solution - for example, a LEHVOSS high-performance compound made of polyphthalamide with high-modulus carbon fibers.
The significantly improved material properties - such as impact strength, strength, stiffness and fatigue resistance - make it possible to design longer and thinner wings that:
- can rotate faster (and thus develop more buoyancy),
- are lighter (and thus consume less energy) and ultimately
- are more cost-effective compared to original composite solutions.
Example No. 4: Food industry. How to reconcile the parameters of carbon footprint, profitability and product safety by switching from stainless steel to plastic containers.
In the search for energy-saving opportunities to realize CO2 reductions in the food industry, a change of material from stainless steel to plastic solutions can make previously "hidden" savings potentials usable. Without changing the product/process itself and, above all, without compromising product or consumer safety. The linchpin here is the reduced weight and the integration of functions - even in the material itself.
The reduced weight sets a "chain reaction" in motion, at the end of which the parameters mentioned at the beginning are successfully taken into account. Because the following applies: lower mass = lower weight = lower moment of inertia = less drive energy = higher cycles with unchanged energy consumption or reduced energy consumption with unchanged cycles.
Even though in practice a plastic container must have about twice the wall thickness to provide suitable dimensional stability, the large difference in density still saves about 2/3 of the total weight.
This means that either 2/3 more food can be processed in the same machine with the same drive power, or at least 50 percent of the drive energy can be saved - taking into account factors such as friction/wear. Simply by changing from stainless steel to plastic.
Yes, but ... Can plastic also keep up in terms of product safety or consumer safety?
Absolutely - if, among other things, the compounder can introduce properties into the plastic that a food processor is used to from the stainless steel containers he has used up to now. Keyword: metal detection and separation.
LEHVOSS high-performance compounds offer this security. For example, by implementing ferromagnetic properties. This ensures that any plastic parts can be found using standard detection methods in the food processing industry, as well as the efficient and safe rejection of the affected products - without having to "throw an entire day's production into the garbage can".
Go directly into the subject matter and find out more in our whitepaper "Structural applications and metal replacements with thermoplastic materials and compounds":