At the annual congress of the Federation of Reinforced Plastics e.V. (AVK), Innovation Awards in several categories were presented to the winners on 5 November 2007. With the AVK Innovation Award, the association appreciates outstanding developments in the field of reinforced plastics in the three categories “Industry”, “Envionment” and “University”.
We present the two laureates that have been able to score with applications of natural fibre applications:
AquaCell® – ecological and economical foaming with water
The AquaCell® process developed by Möller Tech GmbH in Bielefeld, which won the second Industrial Award, allows the production of physically foamed plastics components on conventional injection moulding machines using water as an ecological and economical blowing agent. Owing to the specific evaporation and cooling-off characteristics of water, this new process represents an interesting combination of high gas yield and force-free demoulding, associated with a shorter cycle time.
AquaCell turned out to be particularly beneficial for the processing of fibre-reinforced polyolefins. Since this technique requires no special-purpose machines, it is possible to fall back on established, tried and tested screw concepts for this purpose, especially with long glass fibres.
Möller addressed the problem presented by water (which – in contrast to conventional blowing agents – refuses to mix with polymer melt) by using fine-grained natural fibres – the ligneous components of fibre hemp (so called shives) – as carrier materials. These shives, typical side products of fibre production from hemp plants, are characterised by high water absorption (several hundred weight percent). The polymer granules, shives, and water are mixed in a special purpose mixer, giving rise to a free flowing mixture of granules and moist shives. This mixture is initially put into interim storage and is then, whenever required, transferred to the injection moulding machine by a screw conveyor.
DUAL-FaserTec – New development of soft upholstered seats with horizontal hardness attitude
The third award in the category “Environment” was awarded to the company Johnson Controls GmbH & Co. KG, Epselkamp, for its seating pad made with natural fibres. The dual FaserTec procedure was developed to eliminate the lamination of the PU soft foam on a FaserTec pad. In addition to a good comfort there was also important the economic and ecological aspect.
The comfort characteristics of the DualfaserTec pad – should correspond with a FaserTec pad laminated with PU soft foam. Here it was crucial that by choice of different latex formulation horizontal hardness attitudes are possible. The first horizontal layer has to be soft on the side, where driver sits into. While sitting deeper into the pad, it has to become harder to get the characteristic feeling of a Fasertec pad.
In addition to the comfort, the economic and ecological aspect was very important. The pad must consist out of one material, not out of different basic material, because of the recycling process, which allows only one kind of material.
Due to the effect of using different kind of latex formulations, the lamination of PU foam is not needed to get different horizontal zones. This is the economical part of Dual FaserTec, eliminate one step in the process to produce pads out of FaserTec.
Federation of Reinforced Plastics
The AVK (Federation of Reinforced Plastics e.V.) represents the interests of manufacturers and processors of reinforced and filled plastics, engineering thermosets as well as their raw materials suppliers on a national and European scale.