Injection molding technology group Engel Holding GmbH has signed a partnership agreement with fiber preform machinery group Fill GmbH to cooperate on composites manufacturing.
The two companies, both based in the Upper Austrian region, will work together to produce “turnkey solutions for the industrial manufacturing of fiber-reinforced plastic components,” they said in a news release.
“The aim of our partnership is to meet the demands of the market even more effectively and drive the industrialization of composite processes forward even faster,” said Franz Füreder, vice president of Engel Austria's automotive business unit. “We are delighted that in Fill we have found a partner whose technologies are also the world's best and who, like Engel, prioritizes research and development."
Fill, based in Gurten, Austria, makes a wide range of machinery, including metal machining and polyurethane processing equipment. For the automotive sector, it has developed resin transfer molding (RTM) technology as well as its Preformliner technology which converts two-dimensional fiber textiles into three dimensional forms. BMW AG uses Preformliner and high pressure RTM equipment from Fill in producing carbon fiber-reinforced plastic components for its BMW i3 and i8 cars.
Engel indicated the key role that fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) is playing in development of automotive lightweight construction. “At the moment, the biggest challenge is developing economic processes for the mass production of innovative composite parts,” it said.
Injection molding could be a means to achieving lower process costs, and Schwertberg-based Engel said its system and automation expertise will now be enhanced by Fill's expertise in the area of preform manufacturing and processing.
“Interdisciplinary competence is absolutely essential if an FRP project is to be successful,” Füreder said. “It's only when the materials, designing and process steps are all coordinated with each other perfectly that the productivity and cost efficiency levels required in the automotive industry can be achieved.”
Engel has been involved in collaborative work with partner companies, universities and other research institutes in the field of automotive lightweight construction for a number of years. In 2012 it set up its own technology centre for lightweight composites at its large-scale machine factory in St. Valentin, Austria.
“It was this that prompted the partnership with Fill as well,” Engel officials said. “The two partners have already completed their first projects for international automotive groups successfully.”