Suppliers are working on solutions to meet industry demand for high-volume, efficient production.

AIREX® T10 3A Composites Wind Energy

Wind energy is one of the markets for AIREX® T10, a new PET-based structural core material from 3A Composites. Photo Credit: 3A Composites

Composite sandwich structures utilizing core materials such as honeycomb, aluminum, balsa wood and foam have a lot to offer product manufacturers, including high strength and stiffness-to-weight ratios, good fatigue behavior, decent surface quality, effective noise dampening and fire/smoke/toxicity protection. Bonded sandwich structures have been a basic industry component for decades in a range of end markets where structural requirements are high, such as aerospace, transportation, marine and wind energy.

But three-dimensional shapes and high-volume production pose challenges for cores. Sometimes structural cores are too expensive or don’t meet the required manufacturing criteria, including reduced cycle times or an economically favorable price point. Where there is a market, however, there is research and development. Core suppliers have upped their offerings. Providers of sandwich structure cores are finding answers for many challenges, including:

  • Volume demand
  • Reduced part weight
  • Lower costs
  • Stricter fire standards
  • Environmentally-friendly materials and production methods
  • More efficient production methods, especially for high-volume production

Here are some of the developments from several core material suppliers tackling these challenges.

Advances to Enable Mass Auto Production

As with all material segments of the composites industry, innovations in core materials are driven by demand from automotive companies. Evonik, a global specialty chemicals company, has its eye on the mass production of structural components in complex shapes for the automotive industry. ROHACELL® Triple F, a polymethacrylimide (PMI) rigid foam core, has been under development for about five years. It aims to make complex three-dimensional core shapes a possibility, while at the same time enabling large-scale production of the high-performance foam cores through a proprietary in-mold foaming (IMF) process. Evonik believes the process is capable of producing up to 50,000 complex 3-D sandwich structures per year.