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First demonstrator in TPC research

Alligator Plastics has taken an important additional step in research into the application of thermoplastic composites (TPCs) in an injection molded product. Together with our research partners, we have managed to successfully cast a pre-formed TPC container into a mold. It is the first demonstrator in this project to prove that the technology works.

Super light and extremely strong

A TPC is a fiber-reinforced plastic that is super light and extremely strong. The material consists of a fabric of, for example, glass or carbon fibers that are connected to each other with a thermoplastic (heatable) plastic. The TPC can easily be deformed by heating. The thermoplastic of the TPC also adheres well to thermoplastics used in an injection molding process. This makes the material eminently suitable for processing in an injection molded product. The TPC makes the injection molded product much stronger in desired places, while the product remains thin and lightweight.

Make the difference

“It is not without reason that people worldwide are eagerly awaiting the use of TPCs in an injection molded product,” says project leader Jordi Torres of Alligator Plastics. “It makes sense because a TPC-reinforced injection molded product gives you the freedom of form of the injection molding and the extremely strong, lightweight properties of the composite. This is very interesting for the automotive sector, for example. They can use plastic products instead of the expensive, energy-consuming metal components. A lightweight, TPC injection molded product also saves fuel and is easy to recycle. So, you also make the difference in terms of sustainability,” says Jordi.

First important evidence

Although the new technology has the green light, the theory must first be proven in practice. To this end, Alligator Plastics participates in a research project of the Brightlands Materials Center on the Chemelot Campus. For the injection molding research part, we work together with TPC machine manufacturer Van Wees in Tilburg and Plastica Thermoforming in Bergen op Zoom. Student Joost Zelisse (industrial product design) conducted the tests at Alligator Plastics, under the supervision of Jordi Torres. “Together with our partners, we have succeeded in casting a vacuum-formed TPC container into a mold,” says Jordi. “We have minimized the shrinkage of the injection molded plastic and the adhesion is excellent. This is the first important evidence. Now, we want more.”

Warm insertion

The next step is to refine the injection of pre-formed TPC components so that this technique becomes production-ready. “It becomes even more interesting if we do not pre-form the TPC but, instead, place the TPC mat or strip directly in the mold and deform it during injection molding,” says Jordi. “This is possible because the TPC is heatable and therefore malleable, just like the injection molded plastic itself. We call this technology ‘warm insertion’. This saves a process step. We also did the initial tests with this. This is how we continue to work on this technology and keep our partners and relations informed.”

Call for launching customer

Alligator Plastics now wants to continue applying TPCs in an injection molded product with a real product. According to Jordi: “A concrete product often helps to accelerate innovation. That is why we are looking for a customer as a launching customer. Are you working on product development where strength and low weight are important? Let us know. We will take that lead together!”

Read our first message about TPCs here.

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