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was represented by Glass Mat reinforced

Long glass fiber thermoplastics


thermoplastics (GMT). Random in-plane

Material classification and characteri- fiber reinforced GMT-sheets can be pre-


sation pared by melt impregnation of non-woven
glass mats (dry process), or by mixing
1. Introduction
chopped fibers with polymer powder in a
There has been a rapid and steady growth fluid medium, followed by straining, drying
in the use of long fiber reinforced plastics in and consolidation (wet process). GMT
recent years. This has been achieved due to sheets were heated up in an oven system
their potential of combining high perform- and pressed to complex parts in a press
ance / price ratios - such as reduced weight, forming process. Although the GMT process
corrosion resistance, great design and styl- is an established and well known technol-
ing flexibility - with rapid clean processability ogy, it´s role of a ´trailblazer´ for new and
and the attraction of their intrinsic recyclabil- innovative applications is being challenged.
ity. Caused by the necessity of massive cost
Since the early 80ties thermoplastic com- savings - a clear demand especially from
posites (TC) in structural applications have the automotive industry - a number of alter-
played a greater role in the automotive in- native materials and processes has been
dustry. The combination of high volume developed in the last years.
processing, and high end-use properties Long fiber reinforced granulates (LFG), pel-
and lower system costs, is a strong driving lets and chips (STC), prepared by wire-
force for further applications. Furthermore coating, crosshead extrusion or several pul-
their high integration potential - the consoli- trusion techniques were introduced 10 years
dation of various parts into one single com- ago, recent developments in this area are
ponent - is rapidly being recognised as a based on commingling and powder impreg-
major advantage in comparison to traditional nation techniques.
materials. Typical automotive applications These long fiber granulates are suitable
are dashboard carriers, technical front-ends, both for the classic injection moulding proc-
seat shells, bumber carrier, battery trays, ess (IM) and the injection compression
spare wheel dwells and – as one of the moulding process (ICM) as well as for the
most rapid growing markets - complete un- extrusion compression moulding process
derfloor systems. (ECM).
Common to all these processes is a plastifi-
2. New material and process develope-
ments cation unit in form of an injection or extru-
sion screw which is the mainspring for the
For a long time, the main driving force for
process intrinsic deficit - an apparent fiber
new thermoplastic composite applications,
length degradation in the finished part /1-4/.
This typical reduction of the fiber length is or pellets, leads to a clear benefit concern-
irrespective of massive ameliorations in the ing to the material and process costs.
field of the plastification systems (screw The main developments were performed in
geometrie, mixing zones, etc.), and opti- the area of extrusion compression moulding.
mised process parameters (screw speed, These process technologies could be differ-
injection speed, back pressure, etc.). entiated by different compounding methods
25 (single or double screw extruder), impreg-
nation methods (direct feeding or accessory
av. fiber length lm [mm]

20

systems), reinforcing material basis


15
(chopped or endless fibers), matrix material
10
(PP in form of granulats, powder or water
5
dispersion) /6-13/. Although the develop-
0 ment of modified injection moulding proc-
extruder

part
zone 46

zone 32

zone 27

zone 16

plastificat
zone 1
basis length

head

esses was started almost 10 years ago, a


screw zone
broad industrial introduction of these sys-
Picture 1: Typical degradation of the aver-
age fiber length, found in ECM-process (PP- tems is expected previously for the next
LFG25mm, 40% glass content) years /14-18/. But the cut off of the semifin-
ished material step also has some draw-
Specifically in closed mould operation – like
backs - the part producer is not only re-
in the injection moulding process - the addi-
sponsible for the final production but addi-
tional fiber length reduction in the nozzle,
tionally for the homogenisation and prepa-
the gating system and the mould itself
ration of the raw materials and the material
(geometrie, radii. etc.) must be taken into
classification and quality. Furthermore is
consideration to minimize fiber breaking and
has to be noted that an in line compounding
nonuniform physical properties in the fin-
system needs higher investment costs and
ished part /1-5/.
skilful service personal.
A real breaktrough in thermoplastic com-
Regarding all these developments on the
posites was the idea of combining the com-
field of new materials and different proc-
pounding of a long fiber reinforced thermo-
esses, the part producer is confronted with
plastic material directly with the final part
the question which kind of process and
production process. The reinforcing fibers
which kind of material is the right decision.
were incorporated and impregnated with the
On the one hand he has to fulfill the de-
PP-matrix directly during the compounding
mands and requirements of his customer for
and plastification process of the thermo-
a specific part - on the other hand he has to
plastic composite (DIF-process). The leav-
produce on a cost level which is accepted
ing out of semifinished products, like blanks
by the market.
One of the main tasks in future projects same zone a difference of the mechanical
could be the qualified comparison of differ- properties as a function of the traction angle
ent types of materials in one and the same applied, may be found /19/.
application, the assessment of different pro- It is obvious that measuring or indicating
cesses and the efficiency of process pa- single values – wheater it is a young´s mod-
rameters. Therefore a basic understanding ule, a tensile strength or a charpy impact
of the general influencing factors by the de- energy – which is often required and prac-
signers and the engineers is a very impor- ticed - is no sufficient method to handle the
tant condition for a better understanding of complexity of these kind of materials.
the performance, the advantages and the
3.1 Influence of the fiber orientation and
limitations of long fiber reinforced thermo-
the fiber length on the mechanical prop-
plastics. erties
10 mm
10 mm
3. Material basics of long fiber reinforced
thermoplastics 0°

The mechanical properties of a part made of


reinforced thermoplastics are defined by the -90° 90°
matrix system, the fibers, the fiber content
and most of all by the orientation of the re- 9,00

inforcing fibers. High performance levels 8,00

7,00
relative quantity [%]

can only be obtained from a composite part 6,00

with high fiber concentrations and if the re- 5,00

4,00
inforcing fibers in the final product have a 3,00

sufficiently high aspect ratio - which defines 2,00

1,00

the length to diameter relation of a single 0,00


-80° -60° -40° -20° 0° 20° 40° 60° 80°

fiber. Mainly affected on different, flow in- traction angle [°]


6000
duced fiber orientations, it is usual that a
5000
great variation of properties could be found
Modulus [Mpa]

4000
over a part. The orientation and the length
3000
of the fibers are distinctly influenced by the
2000
production process and the variation of pro- 1000

cess parameters. This is the reason why 0


-90 -80 -70 -60 -50 -40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
different mechanical values may be found traction angle [°]

on identical parts produced by different Picture 2: Prediction of the tensile modulus


technologies and why a comparison of dif- for a flow orientated 40%-GMT (below)
based on X-ray testing (on top) and orienta-
ferent materials is rather difficult although tion related quantification by picture analysis
the part geometry is the same. Even in the (middle)
With models, founded on the theory of Hal- It could be determined that the stiffness of
pin & Tsai it is possible to predict the stiff- the composite couldn´t be boosted over a
ness of long fiber reinforced materials with a significant level by using longer fibers.
sufficient accuracy /20-21/. Although a But the maximum strength and the impact
number of models for the prediction of com- properties could be increased distinctly by
posite strength and impact properties exist, raising the fiber length. This is the reason
there is no appropriate simulation method why the crash performance of complete
for the practice /22-25/. parts could be improved significantly by the
Recent methods are based on X-ray analy- utilisation of longer fibers. Despite the fact
sis of test plates and cut out sections of real that these theoretical relations between fiber
parts. With powerful picture analysis pro- length and impact performance could be
grams a complete functionality between verified on principle in the reality, there is a
modulus and load angle can be plotted, lack of profound work on real parts and ex-
picture 2. Only a few references are han- aminations considering the specific circum-
dling the relation between fiber length, ori- stances of real production processes.
entaton and strength. But most of the scien- Moreover evident is the lack of comprehen-
tific work done on this topic are more or less sible and accessible data relating fiber con-
theoretical and could be verified only on test tent and fiber length distribution with impact
plates in an adequate state /24-26/. The properties. One of the difficulties is the cor-
qualitative relation between the fiber length rect and reproducable measurement of fiber
and the mechanical properties of a glass length distributions in real parts.
fiber reinforced PP is shown in picture 3.

1.0
K [-]

0.8
impact resistance

strength
Normalized Properties

0.6 1 mm
modulus
0.4

Picture 4: Optical determination of the fiber


0.2
length on injection moulded parts
Fiber diameter dF: 10 µm
left) short fiber PP right) long fiber PP
0
0.1 1 10 100
Fiberlength l [mm]
The existing analytical methods for the
measurement of the fiber length - like differ-
Picture 3: Qualitative relation between the
normalized mechanical properties and the ent sieving, filtering or optical methods - are
fiber length of a glass fiber reinforced PP
very large-scaled, expensive and time con-
(based on /26/)
suming. Furthermore these methods allows
no indication on the efficiency of the fiber
coupling and the interphase properties of a tion can be visualized by plotting the flexural
fiber, pictures 4 and 5. strength and the related stiffness in one
20 diagram. A linear connection between the
18 maximum flexural strength and the flexural
16
amount of fibers [%]

14 modulus could be found, picture 6.


12 Under the assumption that the fiber length
10
8
distribution in a mat based GMT is quite
6 narrow, this outcome points out that in this
4
2
case the fiber orientation is the main factor.
0 Well oriented fibers lead to higher stiffness
10-11

11-12

12-13

13-14

14-15
0-1

1-2

2-3

3-4

4-5

5-6

6-7

7-8

8-9

9-10

fiber length [mm] and higher strength values, specimen con-


taining fibers oriented in a perpendicular
Picture 5: Typical fiber length distribution in
an injection moulded part (PP-LFG 15mm, way to the load shows poor values.
30% glass content)
200
GMT 40
175
4. A new practical approach for the char-
Flexural strength [Mpa]

150
acterisation of orientation and fiber
125
length on the mechanical properties
100
GMT 30
Due to the absence of easy, practise ori- 75

50
ented test methods for the characterisation
25
and determination of the fiber length distri-
0
bution in a part, large-scale and cost inten- 1500 2500 3500 4500 5500 6500 7500 8500

sive component tests are commonly used. Flexural Modulus [MPa]

Picture 6: Linear relation between the


Based on this unsatisfying situation a sys-
maximum flexural strength and the flexural
tematic investigation of the relations be- modulus (30% and 40% mat reinforced
GMT)
tween different materials, processes and
geometries was performed /27/. With the Whereas this outcome is a rather simple
use of a typical press moulded GMT part and a well-known phenomenon in the daily
for representation, it is shown that with a testing practise of long fiber reinforced ma-
simple test procedure the relation between terials, the acquired experience of these
fiber orientation, stiffness and strength could experiments is building the root for a con-
be determined. By cutting specimen out of nection between the static and the impact
the complete part surface, the whole variety behaviour.
of flow induced fiber orientations in the part The next step was just a slight extension of
can be considered. After the flexural speci- the commonly used charpy impact test.
men is tested in a standardized bending test Cut out and prepare of specimen
(ISO178), the influence of the fiber orienta- (15‚80‚thickness, accord. ISO 3167) in dif-
ferent positions of the part, at least about 15 The real benefit of this new testing approach
samples with different flow orientations. The could be displayed by the investigation of
specimen were tested in a bending trial different processes and materials. Repre-
(ISO178) without rupture within linear elas- sented in picture 8 is the flexural strength to
ticity (max 2 mm deflection, 23°C) and the modulus behaviour of specimen from parts
flexural modulus is measured. After that the with 30% glass fiber content, but produced
same specimen were used for the charpy with three different processing technologies.
impact test (ISO 179eU) and the impact 175
strength is measured. The two values- 150 LFG - ICM

Flexural strength [Mpa]


charpy impact energy and flexural modulus - 125 LFG - IM
are drawn in one plot, picture 7. 100

SFG - IM
Represented for GMT with three different 75

fiber percentages (20, 30 and 40%) it is ob- 50

25
vious that a linear relation between the all Materials: PP - 30 % GF
0
charpy impact energy and the stiffness ex- 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000

ists. Flexural Modulus [MPa]

70
65
Picture 8: Influence of the fiber length on the
60
linear relation between the maximum flex-
Charpy Impact [KJ/m²]

55
50 GMT 40 ural strength and the flexural modulus (30%
45 glass reinforced PP materials)
40
35 The specimen made with long glass fiber
30 GMT 30
25 granulates in an injection compression
20
15 GMT 20 moulding process (LFG-ICM) – which di-
10
1500 2500 3500 4500 5500 6500 7500 8500 minish the fiber breakage - exhibit the high-
Flexural Modulus [MPa] est strength and stiffness values. The
specimen cut out of parts produced with the
Picture 7: Linear relation between the
charpy impact energy and the flexural identical granulate type, but in a common
modulus of 20, 30% and 40% mat rein- injection moulding process (LFT-IM), are
forced GMT materials
showing mediocre values and at least the
The most interesting outcome is the slope of specimen from parts injected with normal
the charpy / modulus-ratio, which is nearly short fiber granulates (SFG-IM) are mani-
identical for the three different fiber con- festing the lowest stiffness and strength
tents. It was shown that the flexural modulus values. This outcome points out that – be-
the flexural strength and the charpy impact neath the fiber orientation – a second influ-
energy are direct related to the fiber orienta- ence is taking effect – the fiber length, here
tion in the part. as the result of different production tech-
nologies. As described in the literature the 5. Outlook
stiffness and the strength is directly related With a rather simple mechanical test proce-
to the fiber length. The efficiency of the fiber dure fundamental relations between the
length could be directly evaluated by the fiber length and the fiber orientation of long
slope of the strength / stiffness-ratio, which glass fiber reinforced composites with poly-
is raising significantly towards longer fibers. propylene matrix can be determined and
How easily and comprehensibly the method visualized. With a slight extension of the
could be used to draw clear distinctions charpy impact test – which is in any case
between the described process technolo- part of the normal testing program for ther-
gies for long fiber reinforced thermoplastics moplastic composite parts – it is possible to
is shown in picture 9. When the charpy im- obtain a lot more information and correla-
pact values of the different specimen is tions about the material performance, as if
plotted over their related stiffness the three common single point testing methods were
processes could be distinguished very well. used.
The increase of the fiber length leads to a With this practise oriented measuring
significant increase of the charpy / modulus- method, the producer of TC-parts is enabled
ratio. to optimise process parameters, to compare
35 different kinds of materials and to classify
all Materials: PP - 30 % GF LFG - ICM
30 different kinds of production processes.
Charpy Impact [KJ/m²]

25

20
LFG - IM
15
6. References
10
1. Schweizer, R.A. : Glass fiber length degra-
5 SFG - IM
dation in thermoplastics processing, Proc.
th
0 36 Ann. SPI Conf., Session 9A, p 1-4
2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 (1981)
Flexural Modulus [MPa]
2. Schmid, B. : Spritzgießen von langfaserver-
stärkten Thermoplasten, Kunststoffe 79
Picture 9: Influence of the fiber length on the (1989) 7, p 624-630
linear relation between the charpy impact
energy and the flexural modulus (30% glass 3. Sanschagrin, B. ; Ehrhardt, P. ; Fisa, B. :
reinforced PP materials) Fiber length degradation of long glass fiber
reinforced Polypropylene during injection
th
molding, Proc. 46 Ann. SPI Conf., Session
Whereas the slope of the charpy / modulus-
9A, p 1-10 (1991)
ratio for the injection moulded short fiber PP
4. Wolf, H.-J. : Faserverkürzung beim Verar-
is almost zero, a distinct difference could be beiten langfasergefüllter Thermoplaste,
noticed for the LFG-IM and the LFG-ICM Kunststoffe 83 (1993) 1, p 69-72

process. With increasing fiber length you will 5. Hafellner, R., Pichler, M. ; Wörndle, R. ;
Steinbichler, G. ; Egger, P. : Lange Fasern
increase the charpy / modulus-ratio as spritzgießen, Kunststoffe 90 (2000) , p 44-48
shown.
6. Hawley, R. C. : Extruder Apparatus and 17. N.N.: http://www.husky.ca/de/products/q-
Process for Compounding Thermoplastic tech-01-lgf.html
Resin and Fibers, U.S. Patent Number
5,165,941 (4 Nov. 1992), to Composite 18. N.N.:IMC compounder at http://www.krauss-
Products, Inc. (CPI) maffei.de/k/

7. N.N.: http://www.compositeproducts.com 19. Berglund, L. A.; Varna, J.: Specimen size


effects on modulus of GMT and other inho-
8. N.N.: http://www.lawtonmachinery.com mogeneous composites, J. of thermoplastic
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Anformprozeß, 27. AVK Jahrestagung Ba- 20. Halpin, J.C.: J. o.l.Compos. Mater.;Vol 3;
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