As thermoplastic composite materials and processes continue to evolve, their use is expanding into new industries and applications.
For years, reinforced thermoplastics have been used in the automotive market, mostly for non-structural, interior components. But thermoplastic composites are advancing into new applications – and markets – as manufacturers strive for lighter, tougher parts that can be rapidly produced, post-formed and recycled.
“Thermosets widely out sell thermoplastics in the total market, but more structural thermoplastics are marking inroads in automotive for vehicle weight reduction,” says Marianne Morgan in new business development with BASF. In addition, as aerospace has adopted more thermoplastic composites in the last five years, their overall role within the industry has begun to change.
“[The use of thermoplastics in aerospace] proves the technology to other industries,” explains Dwight Baker, vice president of advanced composites at Composites One. “At the same time, it increases the education of the engineers, so they are able to engineer them into other products.” Today, reinforced thermoplastics have expanded into structural automotive parts, as well as oil and gas, electronics, infrastructure, and marine applications.
Making a Case for Thermoplastics
Thermoplastic composites are used for applications that require high levels of rigidity (stiffness) and impact strength, as well as temperature, humidity, and chemical resistance. “In many cases, thermoplastics are the best solution for applications requiring higher output production, reducing weight or fracture toughness,” says Baker.
Read more: Trends in Reinforced Thermoplastics