Materials made with fiber composites offer numerous advantages. They are light, tough as metal, anti-corrosive, low-maintenance and offer design freedom combined with very good mechanical properties. As the technology used to manufacture them becomes ever more advanced, the cost and productivity advantages over conventional materials such as aluminum, steel, wood or concrete become clear. And materials made with fiber composites cater for a growing demand for strong and light materials that can be produced in ways that are resource and energy efficient.
German-based materials manufacturer Covestro is at the forefront of composite material and technology innovation. The company offers a variety of solutions for sectors like renewable energies, construction, sport attire and electronics. At the China Composite Expo 2018 (Booth A1210, Hall 1, Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center) the company showcases its portfolio and shows how composites could shape our future with diversified applications.
“The major driving force behind all our innovation efforts is sustainability. It is one of the core pillars of our overall business approach,” said Dr. Michael Schmidt, Head of Innovation for Covestro in the APAC region and of its Polymer Research and Development Center (PRDC) in Shanghai. “This means that through our business we intend to benefit society while improving people’s quality of life and minimizing the impact on the environment. With our composite solutions, we can meet these needs, since innovative lightweight materials as well as their production are more sustainable than comparable materials - and we innovate particularly for sectors like construction, renewable energies and mobility.”
Making windmills spin with polyurethane infusion resins
Talking about renewable energies: the longer the blades of a wind turbine, the more power it generates, so there is a clear trend towards ever-longer blades – and the potential is far from being fully exploited. However, longer blades also bring new design and manufacturing challenges. This is where solutions from Covestro come into play: Baydur® infusion resins combined with vacuum-infusion technology make it possible to manufacture wind turbine blades that are ever longer yet have superior stability and efficiency.
The technique as well as the material offer various advantages: it allows wind turbine blades to be lighter and stronger with excellent mechanical performance and better fatigue resistance than conventional epoxy resins. What’s more, thanks to faster curing processes and improved processing properties like faster infusion speed and no post-curing requirements, blade production time can be significantly decreased. This development will provide a cost competitive solution for the wind industry, which is particularly important since the current limitations of materials and technologies make it very challenging for the industry to improve production efficiency. With its polyurethane solutions, Covestro pushes boundaries in this area and gives blade manufacturers the competitive edge.
PU composites for renewable energy and energy saving solutions
Covestro is deeply involved in the development of pultrusion technology, which can be used to combine polyurethane resins with fiber to manufacture fiber-reinforced materials. The company develops the technology that significantly increases productivity as well as process and product quality.
The use of polyurethane resins from Covestro offers significant advantages over established pultrusion materials like epoxy or vinyl ester resins. They have low viscosity, good fiber wetting and high reactivity, so increasing the processing speed while reducing manufacturing costs. For this technology, Covestro has two systems being showcased at the China Composites Expo: Baydur PUL® and Desmocomp™.
Baydur PUL® is used for fabricating highly durable sections that display outstanding thermal insulation properties. It is perfectly suited for example to manufacture highly insulating window frames – an application that is especially important in the construction sector in China. Since windows are one of the key energy wasters in buildings, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD) has announced an intention to change that in its 12th five-year-plan. Windows with Baydur PUL® help to achieve this goal since they have better thermal insulation properties. As well as the good heat conductivity coefficient, the material offers good wind load resistance, sound insulation and fire resistance, which also enhances safety and residential amenities in various ways.
Desmocomp™ is a matrix material system formulated from aliphatic polyurethane that displays good mechanical properties and also excellent UV-, chemical- and weathering resistance. It can also be processed extremely cost-efficiently with no coating required, thanks to its exceptionally long pot life and rapid curing. These properties make it the product of choice for outdoor applications such as frames for solar modules – another application that is showcased at Covestro’s booth at the Composites Expo. The module on display has a composite frame that improves the anti-PID performance with no grounding required as it is not conductive. Last year, the Desmocomp™ solution won the “JEC Innovation Awards” at the JEC trade fair in Paris, the biggest composites trade fair in Europe.
Maezio™ – a new class of composites to tune the world
Covestro has developed a completely new technology for the efficient production of a thin, lightweight, strong and aesthetic material. Under the recently announced brand name of Maezio™, the company distributes continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites (CFRTP), which are strong as metal yet light, freely formable and can be recycled at the end of their useful product life. Among the first products that use the material are home appliances, laptop covers and soles for sports shoes. Covestro has helped athletic gear start up ‘Bmai’ to develop light and strong marathon shoes that will benefit athletes and leisure runners alike. Examples of some of these applications are showcased at the Covestro booth.
To meet the significant market potential, Covestro has invested a double-digit-million euro sum and opened the first big production facility of the new material in the city of Markt Bibart in Germany. Here the company produces unidirectional tapes and sheets that can then be further processed by its customers. Covestro overcame the hurdle of lack of cost effective and scalable production processes that have so far hampered the further propagation of advanced composite materials. Shortly after inaugurating this facility, the company also began offering the material on its online store on 1688.com, China’s biggest online B2B market place. Customers can order the material under covestrochina.1688.com.
Baybond® dispersions strengthen the bond between fibers
To ever more increase the strength of fiber reinforced plastic materials, the fibers can be coated with sizing materials. They make sure that the fibers are protected from mechanical damage – but more than that the sizing is partially responsible for the mechanical bond between the plastic matrix and the fiber surface, thus increasing the mechanical properties of the composites. Covestro offers the Baybond® series of waterborne polyurethane dispersions that increase elasticity, adhesion and other properties of the composites like weathering resistance and strength.
With 2017 sales of EUR 14.1 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,200 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2017.
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This news release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Covestro AG. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Covestro’s public reports which are available at www.covestro.com. The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.