Orlando, Fla. — For Belgium-based EconCore, a company that has developed and commercialized technology for the continuous production of honeycomb sandwich materials, NPE2018 was an important stepping stone to the North American market.
The company, which exhibited at the Orlando-based show this year for the second time, highlighted the news about a number of recent new licensees of its technology.
This company's technology, called ThermHex, allows lightweight honeycombs to be produced from a wide range of thermoplastics and a variety of skin materials (including nonplastic ones) depending on the targeted application. The skin materials are bonded in line to the cores.
Transportation is a major focus area for EconCore. Its technology fits seamlessly into the ongoing lightweighting trend in the automotive industry and is already being used in numerous automotive applications in Asia and Europe.
EconCore licenses the technology to customers around the world; one of the most recent of which is Fynotej, a manufacturer of automotive nonwovens and industrial carpets based in Mexico City. It is EconCore's first North American licensee to focus on automotive applications, said EconCore's Chief Operating Officer Tomasz Czarnecki.
Fynotej went into production earlier this year with a range of honeycomb sandwiches for automotive interiors, including the trunk space. These products, polypropylene honeycomb boards branded Fynocore, have a PP honeycomb core with skins — thermally bonded in-line — of either solid PP sheet or with a nonwoven surface finish.
One other licensee in North America mentioned by Czarnecki was Wabash National Corp., a leading producer of semitrailer and truck bodies that has been using composites for weight reduction purposes for two decades. It developed a product featuring a thermoplastic honeycomb core with metal skins. "In addition, we have also signed two other important licensing agreements, one with a Tier 1 producer serving a Japanese OEM, and another in Europe," he said.
He continued: "We see our biggest growth in automotive interiors. But our strategy is still to find markets with applications where lightweighting is important, find partners in those markets and then license out technology.
EconCore is now taking its ThermHex technology a step further, broadening the focus to high-performance thermoplastic (HPT) honeycomb core materials and sandwich panels. The latest development, Czarnecki said, is to produce honeycomb cores in engineering plastics, including modified polycarbonate, nylon 6/6, polyphenylene sulfide and others — materials with performance criteria.
"We are also working with materials modified for FST [flame, smoke, toxicity] compliance in railway and aerospace applications," he added.
EconCore's lightweight sandwich panels feature PP honeycomb cores thermally bonded between skins of PP reinforced with continuous glass fibers. Called organosandwich materials, they offer an outstanding ratio of stiffness to weight. Compared with more conventional composite and metal-based solutions, this is a new solution that offers "superior lightweighting potential and important cost benefits," Czarnecki said.