In addition, other features can be integrated into the injection molding process to further reduce steps and, consequently, costs. It’s technology that can be applied to any combination of consumer electronics.

“This could be any kind of housing in the field of consumer electronics – smartphones, tablets, notebooks, etc.” Bauder says. “But it could also be applied for shavers, hair-dryers, vacuum cleaners – wherever you want to achieve light weight in combination with stiffness and/or strength and a nice flexible decoration.”

Applying Composite Benefits

Faster production times that can reduce overall costs are one reason that thermoplastics like Tepex may be getting a closer look for future consumer products.

“It is in the nature of thermoplastics that the processing has shorter cycle times than thermoset-based composites,” Bauder says. However, he adds that the company demonstrated through its injection molding machines “that it is possible to reduce production process steps of thermoset-based composite parts from more than seven process steps down to one process step with this hybrid molding plus in-mold decoration process and by using only one tool.”

The sustainable aspect of thermoplastic materials is another appealing factor for consumers. Halford adds that, through down-cycling and thermoplastic matrices, carbon fiber suppliers are also finding ways to meet the demand for more sustainable products. “I have been sent recycled carbon fiber, reconstituted – a byproduct of aerospace – to be incorporated into products. That is a viable economic trend,” he says.

Covestro is blending the benefits of both materials with its latest offering. Its continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite solutions are based on films of endless unidirectional carbon fibers. These films are layered one on top of the other, cut, then laminated to produce stiff and lightweight composite sheets that don’t distort or shrink. The number, direction and sequence of layers can be altered to change the benefit, depending on the application.