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Thermoplastic honeycomb materials for automotive, aerospace applications

Mar 13, 2018

EconCore is expanding the capabilities of its ThermHex technology to produce high-performance lightweight thermoplastic honeycomb core and sandwich panels. The company has obtained a license for polypropylene (PP) honeycomb production technology and can now produce high-performance thermoplastic honeycombs. EconCor's further development goal is to be able to produce organic composite plywood preforms with a continuous fiber-reinforced skin.


EconCore's technology uses a series of high-speed operation lines, from a single continuous extrusion of thermoplastic film to the production of honeycomb structures, involving a range of thermoforming, folding and bonding operations.

Tomasz Czarnecki, chief operating officer of EconCore stated: “In the refurbished R&D facilities in Leuven, Belgium, we have successfully produced and tested several high-performance thermoplastic honeycombs. We have been working with various types of modified polycarbonates (PCs). ), Polyamide 66 (PA 66) and Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS) deal with, and continue to develop these polymers and other high-end polymers, and now we are entering the final stage of product validation, and we expect this year to be in automotive, aerospace, Several application developments in the transportation and construction markets."

EconCore's patented technology uses a series of high-speed operation lines to produce a single continuous extruded thermoplastic film honeycomb structure. It involves a series of thermoforming, folding and bonding operations. The ThermHex technology may be used with various thermoplastic polymers to make honeycombs, and the size, density, and thickness of the honeycombs can be adjusted by simple hardware or process parameters. This process allows the skin to be directly bonded to the honeycomb at the production line, thereby creating a highly cost-effective finished composite sandwich material.

EconCore CEO Jochen Pflug added: "Today, we offer the most cost-effective honeycomb materials on the market. In the near future, we will also provide honeycomb materials that are improved in weight."

Thermoplastic honeycomb cores for composite materials can take into account both the performance and weight characteristics. This is a very difficult compromise between the two and can be achieved with other types of core materials if possible. The ThermHex core material is approximately 80% lighter than the solid thermoplastic core material used today and can be used in products such as metal skin panels in the transportation and construction industries. The lightweight core also has a positive effect on product handling, raw material inventory, outbound logistics and installation.

In use, the honeycomb structure not only excels in terms of mechanical properties: the acoustic and thermal insulation properties of honeycomb structures also have advantages in many other applications.

  HPT honeycombs build on the inherent advantages of lightweight honeycomb structures, resulting in higher heat resistance (applicable to products such as battery covers for electric vehicles) and very good flame resistance (important for building panels). EconCore uses materials that have been improved for FST (flame, smoke, toxicity) compliance. These materials are used in the railway and aerospace industries. The company also sees the great potential of ThermHex technology in photovoltaic (PV) panels and many other product applications.

EconCore has demonstrated the potential to use polycarbonate honeycombs in the next generation of aircraft interior modules. This was developed in an EU sponsored project involving the aerospace company Diehl Aircabin. The ultra-light photovoltaic panels developed in collaboration with panel makers Armageddon Energy and DuPont also demonstrated the advantages of polyamide honeycomb technology.

      EconCore is also preparing to use the ThermHex improved technology to produce organic plywood materials. These are thermoplastic sandwich composites, also produced in-line, which contain a thermoplastic honeycomb core with a continuous glass fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite. In contrast to traditional organic tablets, organic sandwiches provide excellent stiffness-to-weight ratios and can be converted into final parts using fast and efficient processes such as compression molding and injection molding. Compared with more traditional composites and metal-based solutions, these products have excellent lightening potential, significant cost advantages, and rapid production of complex structural and functional components.

Organic plywood materials are ideally suited for lightweight, cost-effective material solutions and high stiffness areas, such as in many structural automotive parts and markets with similar requirements.

Czarnecki said: "The new honeycomb core and organic plywood materials will have various advantages in terms of weight reduction, cost reduction, performance improvement and design flexibility, and these products can be quickly and efficiently produced and converted in a highly automated process. In addition, when the honeycomb core and the skin are produced from the same thermoplastic polymer, they are also highly recyclable."