VOC-Free Prepreg Used to Manufacture Complex-Shaped EV Battery Enclosures

General Motors (GM) worked with Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) as the need for a composite electrical vehicle battery enclosure was identified to meet a number of rigorous performance requirements. These included 30° offset-barrier, side-impact, and rear-barrier crash; 50 G impulse shock (X, Y, Z); post-crash package integrity; fire-resistance testing; 3-m drop testing (bottom/end); 1-m water-submersion test; and vibration/shock testing.

Battery tray in the press

To satisfy all criteria, new material, production process, post-mould finishing, and non-destructive test methods were needed.

CSP therefore turned to Cytec Industrial Materials (Cytec) for a materials solution as well as engineering support. Cytec have a strong focus on innovation and technology and always work very closely with their customers to develop materials that meet the prerequisite processing technique. Cytec studied CSP requirements and developed MTM® 23, a tailored, self-releasing rapid-cure vinyl ester resin system. Cytec and CSP also worked together on data generation, ply design and press production technology. That close collaboration enabled CSP to manufacture parts in less than 10 minutes at a 150° cure, but MTM® 23 has the capability to be rapid-cured in less than 3 minutes.

The result is the industry's first application of a volatile-organic compound (VOC)-free thermoset vinyl ester resin woven glass reinforced prepreg. This new material enabled CSP to form a complex-shaped enclosure that protects the EV's battery components in the event of a catastrophic event. The tough compression-moulded composite is 40% lighter than metallic solutions, helping the vehicle achieve extended range and enhanced performance. Since it is non-conductive, it protects occupants and first responders to an accident scene. The specially formulated resin is free of styrene emissions, making it safer for workers and the environment. Selective pattern layups allow for localized reinforcement. The application also features a large structural joint of composite to steel. Cytec looks forward to recommending MTM® 23 for other applications in the future.

This unique application earned GM an SPE® Automotive Division award (‘Electrical Systems’ category) at the recent 43rd SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala. The award ceremony gathers the global automotive and plastics industries to honour the year's most innovative use of plastics in ground transportation. Cytec Industrial Materials and CSP are proud to have been part of this new application in the automotive industry. It underpins the companies’ focus on developing materials and processes that enable OEMs to affordably design and manufacture carbon fibre composite structures and applications for mass production vehicles, while reducing the vehicle weights.

Cytec’s Industrial Materials business provides advanced composite and process materials for automotive, aerospace, wind energy, motorsport, marine, mass transportation and other demanding applications. Our focus on technology and application expertise allows customers to adopt more efficient manufacturing approaches. Our product portfolio supports the end-to-end manufacturing of composite parts and includes tooling, fibre, prepregs, resin systems, vacuum bagging, and adhesive, resin and surfacing films.

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