A consortium of European companies have joined forces to advance the future of sheet molding compound as a cost-efficient material for lightweight components.
Among the participating members are French auto supplier Faurecia SA and two Germany-based companies, Polynt Group and Mahr Metering Systems, who are working within the AZL Aachen business platform in cooperation with Aachen University's Institute of Plastics Processing (IKV), to develop a new high-performance generation of SMC materials (HP-SMC).
The aim of the joint study is to gain in-depth knowledge of SMC applications, technologies and simulation methods.
The 12-month study will probe the challenges and potentials of developing HP-SMC, whose value chains are determined by a high number of interdependencies between material, processing and application properties.
In an Aug. 28 news release, AZL said the study was being carried in response to growing demand for SMC materials in sectors such as automotive industry.
The high-performance materials consist of short and continuous carbon and glass fiber reinforcement — or a combination of the two — in a customized resin matrix.
The AZL Partner Network consists of more than 85 international companies, all part of the lightweight production value chain, including raw material producers, molders, equipment suppliers and Tier 1 and Tier 2 part suppliers to automakers. The network consolidates the lightweight expertise of nine partner institutes on the RWTH Aachen Campus and closely collaborates in R&D projects and industrial groups as well as in business development.
Commenting on the initiative, Thierry Renault, manager of partnerships at Faurecia's Composite Technologies said SMC was “the” composite technology that is trusted by the automotive industry.
“There is for sure a strong renewed interest for standard SMC and also for its many evolutions and innovations that are now referred as high-performance SMC. The industry needs to clearly define the potential, advantages and drawbacks for new products that can be targeted for with these materials,” he added.
On his part, Peter Schmidt, managing director of Polynt in Miehlen, Germany also emphasized the importance of taking SMC to the next level.
“SMC has a long history at Polynt. We joined the study as the AZL offers us a platform to develop a high-performance version of SMC with enhanced raw materials, recipes and processes,” he said, inviting all AZL members of the entire value chain to get “actively involved” in the initiative over the next months.
According to Reiner Karl, managing director of Mahr Metering Systems GmbH of Göttingen, Germany, SMC “is a traditional and important process for large-series which can achieve an attractive price-performance ratio by using new resins and fibers.”
Mahr Metering Systems is active in the development of new metering and mixing techniques to replace batch processes with continuous processes.
The company aims to achieve “increased flexibility of the recipe and constant quality of the production process,” by taking part in the study, Karl added.