International Plastic Fair Japan 2014

New CFRP mass-production technology, CF/GF plastics, hot runner systems shown



 The 8th International Plastic Fair Japan was held from October 28 to November 1, 2014, at the Makuhari Messe near Tokyo. Exhibits at the fair ranged broadly from plastic molding machines to mold designing and manufacturing systems, expanded plastics and rubber materials. This report focuses on components and processes displayed at the Fair that were closely related to the auto industry. They mainly included new thermoset and thermoplastic carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) manufacturing processes, carbon fiber (CF) and glass fiber(GF) reinforced composite materials, hot runner systems, plastic welding processes, vacuum molding by electroforming, and the newly-developed MPM process.

Related report: Automotive Weight Reduction Expo 2014 (part 2) (March 2014)

New processing methods for manufacturing thermoset CFRP

 Toho Tenax, a Teijin Group company, exhibited a prototype made by a new automated preform manufacturing method called "Part via Preform" (TENAX PvP). The method helps improve the efficiency of resin transfer molding (RTM) method. On November 4, 2014, only a few days after the Plastic Fair, the company announced having developed a new method that drastically increased the efficiency of thermoset CFRP production. The new processing method enables fast setting of the prepreg (carbon fibers impregnated with resins) which is used as widely as the RTM method.

 According to the company, both methods contribute to increase the manufacturing speed to meet need for volume production of vehicles.


Lexus LFA The steering wheel for the Lexus LFA
Large components at right and left and the steering wheel are used on the Lexus LFA. The component at the lower middle is a prototype of the PvP process. (Exhibited by Toho Tenax) The steering wheel for the Lexus LFA is manufactured by the conventional prepreg and inner pressure molding methods. (Exhibited by Toho Tenax)


Toho Tenax: A new thermoset CFRP manufacturing process

Automated preform manufacturing method (PvP: Part via Preform)  The use of thermoset CFRP has been limited to the top-grade of premium cars. Predicting potential demand for the material on volume-production cars as well, Toho Tenax has been working on a new process that would increase the production efficiency of thermoset CFRP.
 In RTM which is commonly used for making thermoset CFRP, carbon fiber sheet is preformed to match the mold shape and resin is injected and cured. Preforms of complex shapes are prepared by hand which inevitably leads to material loss.
 In the PvP method, preforms are manufactured directly from fibers in the form of parts. Expensive intermediate base material such as CF sheets are not necessary. The automated PvP process also helps to reduce man-hour and costs. The new method can be combined with the "high-cycle RTM method" and other fast forming processes currently being developed.
Fast-curing prepreg  In November 2014, Toho Tenax announced having developed a new fast-curing prepreg (cures in 3 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius). The new process increases the production efficiency by several dozen times compared to the conventional prepreg method. It will increase annual production capacity to 50,000 CFRP sets. The new process can be used to make hollow parts by internal pressure molding. The company has also developed a highly heat-resistant grade, which allows a broader application for automotive use.



New CFRTP manufacturing method and CF/GF composite material

 The Nagoya University and a group of five auto manufacturers are jointly working on the automation of carbon fiber reinforced thermal plastic (CFRTP) manufacturing process.

 Carbon (CF) and glass (GF) fiber reinforced composite materials are commonly used in automotive applications. Daicel Polymer, Sanwa Trading (Bond-Laminates agency in Japan), and Kyowa Industrial exhibited their CF and GF products.


Radiator core support for Nissan GT-R GM Opel Astra
Radiator core support for Nissan GT-R (Exhibited by Daicel Polymer) Continuous thermoplastic fiber material, Tepex, is used in the base of the seat for GM Europe Opel Astra (Exhibited by Sanwa Trading)
Back door for Nissan Rogue
Back door for Nissan Rogue built by Kyowa Industrial's molding process


Research and development projects for thermoplastic CFRP manufacturing processes

 Japan controls nearly 70% of the global supply of carbon fibers. However, Japan falls behind Europe in developing molding and forming processes and associated equipment. Therefore, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is currently initiating a research and development project on thermoplastic CFRP manufacturing technology for automotive applications.
 The project uses the 3500-ton high-speed hydraulic press at the Nagoya University's National Composite Center. The project's goal is to automate the CFRP manufacturing process and accelerate the processing speed required for mass production of vehicles.
 The five automakers are Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Fuji Heavy Industries, and Mitsubishi Motors. The project group also includes about 15 companies and organizations including Aisin Seiki, Toray, Mitsubishi Rayon, Kyowa, Meiki and JAXA.


Carbon and glass fiber-reinforced thermoplastics

Daicel Polymer Plastron, long fiber- reinforced thermoplastics  Plastron, developed by Daicel Polymer, contains reinforcing fibers (GF and CF) that are aligned and cut to the length of the pellet. The molded part yields higher rigidity and impact resistance than conventional fiber-reinforced material. Plastron can be used in injection molding for mass production of parts. It can also be used as a substitute for metals.
 GFs, CFs, aramid fibers, etc., are combined with PP, PA (Nylon), ABS and other resins to produce a broad range of grades to meet specific purpose. The injection speed from 30 to 60 seconds is suited for mass production.
 The company exhibited a radiator core support used in Nissan GT-R. It uses PP-CF20 (20% carbon fiber) grade of Plastron. Its use on Nissan vehicles is expanding to the front end module and ECU box of the Fuga, etc.
BOND- LAMINATES (Sanwa Trading) Continuous fiber thermoplastic material  Sanwa Trading introduced continuous fiber thermoplastics (CFRTP/GFRTP) developed by Bond-Laminates, a German manufacturer. Continuous fibers of glass, carbon or aramid are woven into sheets and impregnated with PP, PA, PPS or other thermoplastics. Several impregnated sheets are laminated to prepare the CFRTP/GFRTP material.
 The material can also be used in "hybrid forming" in which ancillary parts are added by insert molding while the primary component is formed into shape (by bending sheets, etc.).
 The company exhibited the base of the seat, made by GF-reinforced PP, on European GM Opel Astra. Bond-Laminates is a supplier of CF-reinforced PPS parts used in the interior of the Airbus aircraft.
Kyowa Industrial Back door for Nissan Rogue  Kyowa Industrial is a leading manufacturer of molds and has plants in the U.S., Mexico, China and Thailand (joint-venture). Its capabilities include total development of injection molding processes and supporting new product development.
 The company exhibited the back door of the Nissan Rogue manufactured by using its mold. The door is formed by PP on the outside and GF-reinforced PP on the inside.



Hot runner systems

 The "runner" is the passage through which molten plastic runs and is injected into the cavities of the mold. When the formed part is ejected from the conventional "cold" runner, the material inside the runner is also solidified and ejected as well. This results in waste of material and requires reuse. The "hot" runner system was invented to heat the runner and keep the material in molten state. This eliminates waste of material and allows continued production. Hence, the new system is regarded as one of the key processes in plastic injection molding.

 The hot runner system is supplied by a hot runner system manufacturer for a mold manufacturer. Every time a new mold becomes necessary, the nozzles on the hot runner system must be repositioned accordingly.

 YUDO and a few other companies exhibited their hot runner systems at the Fair.


Exhibited by Seiki Exhibited by Seiki
A front panel for heavy-duty commercial vehicles with the nozzles of the hot runner system in the back (Exhibited by Seiki) Headlamp system and Aisin Tohoku-made door attachments (Exhibited by Seiki)
Exhibited by Seiki VIVA-ANGLE Valve Nozzle
Intake manifold made of GF-reinforced PA6 (Exhibited by Seiki) "VIVA-ANGLE Valve Nozzle" exhibited by HOTSYS (two nozzles are not in parallel to each other; they are adjusted to the product shape)


Hot Runner System

YUDO  YUDO is a Korean manufacturer of hot runner systems and a world leader among automotive industries. Its systems are used by most automakers and affiliated mold manufacturers. The company has the top share in Japan including its systems that are imported from Korea and China together with molds.
 YUDO's product lineup includes hot runner systems for plastic injection molding, temperature controllers, heating and cooling systems for adjusting the mold temperature, robotized ejectors, etc.
Mold Masters  Mold Masters is the world's leading supplier of hot runner systems headquartered in Canada. Its largest market is China at present. The company is represented in Japan for past forty years.
 The company exhibited the bumper (used on Nissan Juke) and a large hot runner system (nearly 2m long, 70 to 80cm wide) that forms the bumper in a single action. Also exhibited in the booth were automotive lamp lens and intake manifold for a V6 engine.
HOTSYS  HOTSYS, a Korean manufacturer of hot runner systems, exhibited its original "VIVA-ANGLE VALVE NOZZLE." It is used, for example, for making an automotive headlamp lens that has angled surfaces. The nozzle angle can be changed perpendicular to the product surface (as seen in the photo above).
 The company is represented by JMS Engineering in Japan.
Seiki Corporation  Seiki Corporation is a manufacturer of hot runner systems headquartered in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture. It also operates in China, Southeast Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Australia.
 The company exhibited a front panel of a commercial vehicle, the hot runner system for molding the front panel, lamp lens (the clear part of the lens is hard to make as it requires uniform transmission of light), door attachments (manufactured by Aisin Tohoku) and intake manifold.
INglass (Correns Corporation)  Correns Corporation, a trading company in Japan, exhibited a hot runner system for injection molding manufactured by INglass, an Italian manufacturer of molds and hot runner systems. Exhibited at the booth included the headlamp lens (for VW Tiguan) made by Koito Manufacturing and rear combination lamp (model name unknown).
Maenner  Maenner is a German manufacturer of hot runner systems. It was established nearly 50 years ago and is represented in Japan for about 25 years. Its main line of business is food packaging and medical apparatus. Automotive application is somewhat limited.



Plastic welding technology

 Emerson Industrial Automation is a U.S. manufacturer of welders. It has a plant in Atsugi, Japan. The company exhibited four types of welders carrying the Branson brand. Also exhibited was the Dukane vibration welder.


Vibration-welded parts Laser-welded lighting devices
Vibration-welded parts: Turbo pipe for Lexus NX200T, left forefront, and center console for Nissan Leaf, right in background(Exhibited by Branson) Laser-welded lighting devices for Lexus IS and ultrasonic-welded ceiling blind for Toyota Noah (Exhibited by Branson)


Plastic welders

Emerson Industrial Automation Vibration welders  Vibration welding is a friction welding technique that uses up to 240Hz of vibration (240 cycles per second). It ensures required rigidity and dimensional accuracy in a shorter production cycle without using screws or adhesives. This technique is preferred for making relatively large plastic items such as automotive components and household appliances.
 Vibration-welded automotive components on display included the turbo pipe for Lexus NX200T and the center console for Nissan Leaf.
Laser welders  Unlike the conventional process based on sequential scanning of weld lines, all weld lines are illuminated at once in Branson Contoured Laser Technology (simultaneous illumination). The technique has a shorter welding cycle (3 to 10 seconds per cycle) and can be used to make 3D parts and large parts as well.
 Part of the rear combination lamp on Lexus IS was exhibited as an example of application.
Infrared welders  Branson Contoured Infrared Welder uses the heat from contactless infrared emitters to activate and apply pressure to the part surface. This process produces no dust or burrs and drastically improves the finish quality of the final product.
Ultrasonic welders  Branson Ultrasonic Welder generates ultrasonic vibrations in the frequency range from 20 to 40kHz. Thermal energy converted from the vibration is used to join the parts.
 The ceiling blind of Toyota Noah minivan was exhibited. The ultrasonic welding is used to join the meshed blind and its supports.
DUKANE Correns Corporation Vibration welders  Correns Corporation exhibited a vibration welder manufactured by Dukane Corporation. The U.S. market of plastic welders is split between Branson and Dukane. Dukane landed in Japan only a few years ago and its share is still low in Japan. Correns exhibited an intake manifold and a spoiler made by vibration welding.



Molding machines

 Many molding machine manufacturers exhibited their products at the Fair.

 Sodick Co., Ltd., exhibited GL series of V-Line injection molding machines for making high value-added products. Placo Co., Ltd., and Japan Steel Works each exhibited a plastic fuel tank made by their blow molding machines.


Sodick's V-Line system
Sodick's V-Line system. Resins are molten in the overhead cylinder and injected into the mold cavities from the lower cylinder.


Plastic injection molding machines

Sodick V-LINE system  Sodick's molding machines are unique in that the melting cylinder is separated from the injector cylinder to maintain the respective precision. The two functions are normally performed by one cylinder in conventional systems.
GL60 molder for long-fiber reinforced material  When molding plastic material reinforced with long fibers of carbon or glass, fibers may be shredded during the process and the effect of reinforcement lost. The V-Line system itself is capable of preventing the shredding. The machine has a new screw profile that will help maintain the effect of reinforcement (details not disclosed).
GL100 molder for outgas suppression  PPS (polyphenylenesulfide) contains elastomers that may cause outgas during the molding process. When this is the case, outgas can mar the molded part and plug up the mold.
 Sodick's V-Line system is capable of suppressing generation of outgas. In addition, The GL100 has an intermediate vent to draw gas by vacuuming.

Plastic blow molding machines and plastic fuel tanks

Placo Compact plastic fuel tank molding machine  Placo has developed a blow molding machine, 6SOB-1, for making small plastic fuel tanks (about 40 liters) with multi-layerd.plastics It was introduced by a panel presentation and images along with a small plastic tank made by using the molding machine.
 Placo manufactures blow molding machines and film forming machines. The company has worked with up to six layers of plastics using a film forming machine. According to Placo, this experience was of help to the development of this blow molding machine.
Japan Steel Works Plastic fuel tank manufactured by Yachiyo Industry  Japan Steel Works (JSW) exhibited a built-in fuel tank system being manufactured by Yachiyo Industry using JSW's molding machine. When the tank is produced by blow molding, the valve, oscillation suppressor baffle and tube are built into the tank at the same time. The leakage from the valve is reduced to zero and the HC transmission from the tank has been reduced by 12% compared to the company's conventional products.



Expanded plastics by Sekisui Plastics


Items containing Piocelan Bumper core
Items containing Piocelan exhibited by Sekisui Plastics: Rear seat spacer (right), two floor levelers (center), and shock absorber for lower limbs (left). Bumper core containing Piocelan absorbs impact to the pedestrian and reduces damage.
Engine cover
Engine cover containing expanded CFRP composite material (trial product exhibited by Sekisui Plastics)


Expanded plastics by Sekisui Plastics

PIOCELAN  Piocelan developed by Sekisui Plastics is an expanded polystyrene polyolefin plastic having outstanding resistance against impact, chemicals and friction. It is used by all automakers in Japan to make bumper cores, shock absorbers for lower limbs, floor levelers and tire spacers. It is also used to make distribution packaging material for large household appliances.
 Its impact resistance is 1.2 times higher than that of the conventional expanded polypropylene (EPP). This allows weight and cost reduction. When it is used for pedestrian protection (bumper core), it also provides excellent protection for passengers as well.
Expanded CFRP composite material (trial product)  Sekisui Plastics is developing various types of expanded plastics to make a core material sandwiched between CFRP sheets. When completed, it will allow further weight and cost reduction while maintaining high rigidity and shock absorption.
 The company is developing acrylic, heat resistant polystyrene (PS), special heat resistant polyester and other expanded plastics to meet specific purposes. Special heat resistant polyester is used in the engine cover in the photo above (trial product). It has a very high heat resistance to approximately 180 degrees Celsius.



Vacuum forming using an electroformed mold; electroplating on plastics

 KTX Corporation exhibited a center console for Honda Vezel and an instrument panel for Chevrolet Traverse, both manufactured by vacuum forming using porous electroformed molds. KTK has also developed electroformed molding by MPM (metaled piping mold) method that allows more precise temperature control and thin-walled injection molding of low-fluidity material.

 Tsukada Riken Industry is a surface treatment manufacturer that specializes in electroplating on plastics. Its automotive parts are used by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Fuji Heavy Industries, Suzuki and other automakers (including indirect supplies via trading companies). In 1963, the company became the first Japanese company to apply electroplating on plastic surfaces.

 Use of parts with satin finish (less glossy, platinum-like elegant finish) commonly used in European premium cars is increasing on Japanese vehicles as well.


Center console for Honda Vezel Instrument panel for Chevrolet Traverse
Center console for Honda Vezel exhibited by KTX Corporation. The area confined by a white line is made by vacuum forming using a porous electroformed mold. The orange arrow points to leather. Instrument panel for Chevrolet Traverse made by vacuum forming using a porous electroformed mold (other than the dark portions)
Paddle shift for Lexus IS-F Mask-plated and double-color parts
Paddle shift for Lexus IS-F is electroplated by Tsukada Riken Industry. Mask-plated and double-color parts exhibited by Tsukada Riken Industry. The green portion on the mask-plated part is the masking liquid.


Vacuum forming using porous electroformed mold and newly-developed MPM method

KTX Vacuum forming using porous electroformed mold  KTX Corporation exhibited a center console for Honda Vezel and an instrument panel for Chevrolet Traverse, both manufactured by vacuum forming using porous electroformed molds. Vacuum forming is commonly used to make a wide variety of automotive parts such as instrument panels and interior components.
 In vacuum forming, a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, placed on a mold, and forced against the mold by a vacuum introduced between the mold and the sheet. A porous electroformed mold is a type of electroformed molds (more information below). It has tiny vent holes to allow vacuum forming.
Metaled Piping Mold (MPM) method  KTX has also developed electroformed molding by MPM (metaled piping mold) method. An array of pipes is provided in back of the mold for alternately running steam and cooling water. This method enables quick heating and cooling of the mold.
 The MPM enables thin-walled injection molding of low-fluidity material. It realizes weight reduction and higher rigidity along with better transferability of the electroformed mold. Products made by this method are likely to reach markets in the near future.
Electro-forming  KTX Corporation has been developing electroforming technologies since the 1980s. Electroforming is a metal forming process that electroplates electrolytic ions over the model to a thickness of 3 to 5mm. This process permits accurate reproduction of the model shape as well as the surface irregularities. It is protected by patent in Japan, the U.S. and Germany.
 The electrodeposited plating is removed from the model for use. Therefore, an electroformed part will have a shape exactly opposite of the model. The electroformed part can be used as a mold to produce cast parts having exactly the same shape as the model (called an electroformed mold).

Electroplating on plastics

Tsukada Riken Industry Plating on Nylon  Tsukada Riken Industry exhibited a paddle shift for Lexus IS-F made of Nylon plated by Tsukada Riken. The company has also developed a plating technique for engineering plastics that are hard to apply plating on.
Masking  Selective plating is usually done by covering the area not to be plated with a masking liquid. The green portion on the mask-plated part in the photo is covered by masking liquid.
 Masking liquid sticks to the plastic and is not easily removed. Normally, the masked portion is painted over to conceal the masking liquid. Tsukada Riken Industry has developed "TP masking method" in which the masking liquid is removed entirely within the plating process.
Plating on double-color parts  This method does not require masking. When parts made up of hardly platable material such as polycarbonate (PC) and easily platable acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) are plated, the ABS portion is plated while the PC portion is left unplated as intended without masking. This method dissolves problems associated with double-color parts such as finish quality and noise (metallic feature created by plating can cause friction noise coming in contact with metal parts). The company sometimes is consulted by parts manufacturers on selection of materials during the development phase.

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