Lanxess Corporation, in cooperation with Venture Plastics, Inc., will highlight the benefits of Plastic/Metal Hybrid (PMH) Technology at the annual Precision Metalforming Association’s METALFORM Conference and Expo in Chicago. Plastic/Metal Hybrid Technology, a patented process pioneered by Lanxess, combines injection molding technology – utilizing glass fiber-reinforced, heat-stabilized polyamide Durethan® BKV 30 H2.0 (PA 6) – with formed sheet metal inserts to produce a composite product with an enhanced combination of properties.
The paper, "Plastic/Metal Hybrid: Today’s Innovative Value-Added Opportunity," presented by Norm Brozenick of Lanxess and Karl Schmidt of Venture Plastics, Inc., encourages an active partnership between the plastics and metalforming industries to explore the synergistic possibilities of this hybrid technology.
"The plastics and metalforming industries, you could say, have typically run on separate, if not competitive, tracks. However, Plastic/Metal Hybrid Technology offers an exciting chance for them to work together to mutual benefit … and profit," said Brozenick, program management, Semi-Crystalline Products, Lanxess.
"Hybrid technology combines the inherent strengths of each material and manufacturing process, offering significant weight reduction, improved structural strength and component integration, increased cost efficiencies, and greater design flexibility. These value-add properties have made it very attractive to manufacturers with applications ranging from automobiles and appliances to fitness equipment and furniture – translating into a hot business opportunity," Brozenick continued.
The paper details how the technology works, presents a short history of PMH technology, and outlines a case study of the Ford Focus front end module.
How Plastic/Metal Hybrid Technology Works – Unlike traditional single-material construction methods, the plastic-metal composite possesses unique physical properties that cannot be attained with a single material. During manufacture, the hybrid approach combines the benefits of both the deep-drawing process and injection molding, enabling ready-to-assemble components to be produced in fewer steps, with shorter cycle times, resulting in cost reductions. To start the molding process, a deep-drawn, perforated sheet steel part is placed in an injection mold which is then filled with plastic melt. During the injection cycle, the melt flows into and around the perforations in the metal part. The plastic and metal are interlocked by both force and shape, creating a high-strength composite structure. No post-molding treatment or painting is required.
Compared with a pure plastic structure, the dimensional accuracy of the hybrid is dependent to a much smaller extent on factors such as material shrinkage, temperature and climate. And compared with a steel design, it eliminates the need for numerous high-tolerance jointing operations and the additional costs these entail.
Using hybrid technology, load-bearing metal structures can be designed thinner because a molded-in plastic rib structure significantly reduces the tendency of thin metal parts to buckle and bend under load, enabling dramatic weight reduction without sacrificing structural integrity and strength.
Other benefits cited in the paper include:
- Easy handling and transport during assembly
- Reduced plant floor space
- Warehousing of fewer components
- Reduction of scrap
Automotive Case Study: Ford Focus Grill Opening Reinforcement
Initially developed in the 1980s, PMH technology has found significant markets in many areas, most notably in front-end module production for automobile manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Nissan, Mercedes, and Volkswagen. Today’s automotive structures are more complex, with more subsystems and components. Hybrid construction accommodates greater integration of those complex system components that require tight tolerances.
"Just looking at the numbers, the Ford Focus Grill Opening Reinforcement offers a dramatic case study," said Karl Schmidt, marketing, new product development, Venture Plastics, Inc. "Compared with an all-steel design, the Plastic/Metal Hybrid allowed for high dimensional stability and the integration of 17 functions, while delivering 20 percent in cost savings, 40 percent in weight savings, and a 50 percent reduction in capital investment. That’s some serious added-value."