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EconCore breaking new ground with high-performance core materials

EconCore’s new ThermHex high-performance thermoplastics (HPT) honeycomb materials are well suited for applications requiring lightweight solutions but still needing to meet heat resistance and fire-smoke-toxicity (FST) requirements. Source | EconCore

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EconCore (Leuven, Belgium), at JEC World 2019 showcased its ThermHex honeycomb process technology with high-performance thermoplastics (HPT). The next generation honeycomb materials are well suited for applications requiring lightweight solutions but still have demanding performance requirements, such as high heat resistance in structural automotive and fire-smoke-toxicity (FST) in aerospace and public transport. Additional benefits of the material are said to include improved cost-efficiency, lightweighting and additional functionalization, such as acoustic absorption.

EconCore says it is breaking new ground with high-performance core materials and techniques for the commercial production of such materials. By combining high-performance honeycomb cores (polycarbonates, PPS, PEI, PA, etc.) with fiber reinforced, thermoplastic composite skins EconCore reportedly provides thermoplastic solutions for sandwich panels and parts.

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“HPT honeycombs build on the intrinsic benefits of lightweight honeycomb structures, but now with higher heat stability and excellent fire resistance,” says Dr. Jochen Pflug, managing director of EconCore. “The thermoplastic polymers used for HPT honeycomb’s production are Fire-Smoke-Toxicity qualified grades, including, amongst other options, polycarbonates, PPS and PEI. Such sandwich structures fulfill the requirements with regards to railway (EN45545) and aviation (FAR25.853) applications.”

Even though these cores can be laminated with thermoset composite skins, the key innovation element is related to the perspective of high volume, continuous production of fiber reinforced mono-material thermoplastic sandwich panels allowing for cost-efficient conversion of such panels by thermoforming.

EconCore’s patented honeycomb production process is said to allow efficient integration of direct skin lamination onto the continuously produced sandwich core as it is being made, contributing to lower manufacturing costs. The technology allows for the production of honeycomb cores and sandwich panels in a fast, continuous and in-line process, directly from a thermoplastic granulate. The technology’s efficiency allows it to be used in larger volume market applications enabling reductions in product cost and weight.

“The applications for HPT honeycombs are broad ranged and primarily lay within aircraft and railway interior components,” says Tomasz Czarnecki, chief operating officer of EconCore, “With the proven honeycomb structure, the mechanical performance is superior to that of FST / FR grades of foam cores offered in the market. Next to the possibility of combining the core with thermoset composite skins for conventional processing methods, the thermoplastic honeycombs are often laminated with thermoplastic face sheets, building all-thermoplastic sandwich structures. These can be thermo-formed into final parts in an energy, time and cost-efficient single-step process, dramatically changing production environment in contrast to the costly and labor-intensive conventional processing methods dedicated to thermoset composites.”

» Author: Scott Francis

» Publication Date: 16/04/2019

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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [310187].