By David Reed UT contributing editor
Leuven, Belgium-A Belgian university has developed a novel method for making honeycomb-cored panels based on thermoplastics such as polypropylene.
The process was developed by technologists at the KU Leuven university, working in cooperation with the research centre of Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel maker. It has three main steps-thermoforming, folding and bonding-and yields honeycombs with different cell sizes, densities and thicknesses from a range of thermoplastics either from a roll or directly from an extruder.
The thickness range is 4-12 mm, with cell sizes of 6.4 to 8 mm, according to an announcement from EconCore NV, a spin-off company now responsible for global licensing of the product.
A demonstration production line has been built and can make the ThermHex products based on polypropylene in widths up to 1.4 metres at speeds as high as 10 m/min, the announcement says.
A related process, using paper as the honeycomb core material, yields lightweight, cost-efficient and high quality sandwich panels and parts, the announcement claimed. This technology, designated TorHex, yields production speeds up to100 m/min and is currently available in a production width of 1.2 m, the statement added.
"ThermHex and TorHex are the most economic technologies for a complete in-line production of sandwich panels and parts with honeycomb cores," according to Jochen Pflug, managing director and founder of EconCore, they are the most economic technologies for making panels and parts with honeycomb cores, he claimed.
Applications in automotive, furniture, building and packaging markets are suggested by EconCore.