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Continuous fiber thermoplastics are bulk molding materials that feature continuous fiber filaments running the full length allowing these materials to exhibit simultaneous improvements in strength, stiffness, and impact resistance over a wide temperature range.

Heralded as an exciting growth area in thermoplastics, IMC composites are widely accepted as a viable alternative to traditional reinforced thermoplastics and metals for a vast array of applications.

AUTODYNAMICS uses a two stage Extrusion + injection process to manufacture continuous fiber thermoplastic, which entails pulling continuous fiber roving’s through a polymer melt in a specialized processing machine. The resulting composite strands are with better results.

Two stage IMC is dramatically different than the process used to manufacture short fiber thermoplastics where chopped fiber is melt-blended with plastic resin using conventional extrusion compounding methods. The fiber length in a SFT is typically less than 1 mm while in IMC fiber length is up to 1/2 inch.

Wet-out refers to the impregnation of the fiber roving’s with thermoplastic resin during the Manufacturing process. Successful wet-out completely coats the individual filaments and results in that are free of loose fibers or other debris which can cause problems during conveying.

Standard pellet length for continuous fiber composites at AUTODYNAMICS is 7/16 inch, or 11mm, although other lengths can be specified in the 6 to 12 mm range. Experience has shown that this length provides optimal properties while still allowing processing in standard injection molding equipment.

The fiber is the structural component of continuous fiber composites. The continuous the fiber, the more effectively the polymer is able to "grab on" and transfer stress to the fiber. At lengths around 1/2 inch the strength of the fiber is fully attained, and continuous lengths provide no significant improvement in physical properties while making the material more difficult to process.

Continuous fiber thermoplastic composites are available with glass, aramid, stainless steel, or carbon fiber reinforcement at loadings up to 60% by weight.

  • Glass fiber is the most popular and cost effective reinforcement used for IMC composites
  • Aramid fiber is utilized for its excellent wear resistant properties
  • Stainless steel fiber for its electrostatic dissipation (ESD) and electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding properties
  • Carbon fiber provides additional enhancements in flexural modulus and potential weight reductions while also providing ESD properties

Available fiber loading levels for most thermoplastic resins are 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60% by weight. Balancing performance, cost, and weight are critical criteria in selecting a correct polymer to fiber ratio. In general, 40 and 50% loading levels are most common.

AUTODYNAMICS has commercialized continuous fiber thermoplastics in: polypropylene (PP), nylon 6 (polyamide 6), nylon 6/6 (polyimide 6/6), Other semi-crystalline engineering resin systems offer potential for development if appropriate end-use applications present themselves.

Our network of production facilities is located in Hinjewadi, where major manufacturing enterprises are concentrated.

To ensure timely and efficient delivery our continuous fiber thermoplastic composites are produced at two sites in North America (Winona, MN and Indianapolis, IN); at our European hub in Beaune, France; and at our new facility in Suzhou, China. AUTODYNAMICS is committed to adding additional manufacturing capacity as the market for IMC composites grows.

Wet-out refers to the impregnation of the fiber roving’s with thermoplastic resin during the Manufacturing process. Successful wet-out completely coats the individual filaments and results in that are free of loose fibers or other debris which can cause problems during conveying.

Continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites bridge the price-to-performance gap between short fiber thermoplastic (SFT) materials and advanced composite materials while still being processable via efficient injection molding methods.

Successful end-uses often require greater performance than is attainable with SFT products and where metal is not a desirable option due to weight or per part costs. IMC composites have gained rapid acceptance as a viable alternative to die castings, metal assemblies, and traditional plastic materials in a vast array of markets, including: industrial equipment, automotive, consumer goods, sports and leisure, and information technology.

The benefits of continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites can be easily understood by examining the entangled continuous fiber matrix formed in a finished part. Exposing a molded part to pyrolysis conditions, commonly referred to as burn-off, removes the polymer and leaves behind the glass reinforcing fibers allowing visual examination. The fiber network that is formed by an IMC material retains the shape of the molded part and resembles a fiber preform with well and evenly distributed fibers.

The extensive fiber network in an IMC part serves to improve most all performance characteristics and also inhibit crack propagation. Often referred to as "stiff and tough," IMC composites exhibit a wide range of performance advantages:

  • Better impact resistance and rigidity at elevated and sub-zero temperature ranges (up to 5 times that achieved with short fiber thermoplastics)
  • Modulus retention at elevated temperatures
  • Creep resistance under constant load in severe environments
  • Dimensional stability and resistance to warpage resulting from reduced shrinkage — which occurs as thermoplastic materials solidify during molding

Relative to short fiber materials continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites are slightly more expensive, but yield price-to-performance advantages that make them attractive for end-use applications that need an engineered material solution. Due to the efficiencies of the injection molding manufacturing process IMC composites result in a lower per piece cost when replacing metal and provide a significant reduction in weight.

Each class of material has unique benefits. Polymers reinforced with continuous fiber offer elevated performance at levels unattainable by similarly reinforced short fiber materials. The physical requirements of individual applications should dictate which material is best positioned to provide a solution. Modulus is nearly equivalent between short and continuous fiber products, remaining more dependent on filler content than fiber length.

AUTODYNAMICS has multiple engineers dedicated to continuous fiber composite product development. You can draw on their expertise during the application assessment and material selection process, or at anytime during your product development or manufacturing cycle. In total, AUTODYNAMICS has over 30 R&D engineers with expertise across a variety of disciplines — ranging from color, conductive/antistatic, wear resistance, and flame retardants — who can assist with any application requirement you may have.

AUTODYNAMICS has many specialty compounds certified to the automotive specifications of major OEMs. Please contact AUTODYNAMICS to inquire about a specific standard to determine which materials are suitable.

Customizing materials to end-use requirements is a hallmark of AUTODYNAMICS. Our experienced team of over 30 product development engineers are highly accessible and distributed worldwide, allowing them to answer your inquiries personally. Depending on usage volume, additional additives can be incorporated directly into our continuous fiber composites to meet your requirements or combined as a cube blended continuous-cut master-batch.

Yes, AUTODYNAMICS offers color masterbatches that can be combined with our continuous fiber products during molding; these masterbatches are optimized to preserve fiber length. Choose from our portfolio of standard colors or have our specialist’s custom match a color to your precise standard.

Reasons for using continuous fiber thermoplastics (IMC) vary, but a perennial conclusion is that the application would not be feasible using any other plastic material. IMC composites have opened possibilities for plastics to displace traditional materials and gain improved performance, design freedom, corrosion resistance, and weight reduction.

Ask our engineers for a material recommendation! AUTODYNAMICS has a streamlined application assessment process that considers many criteria, such as operating temperature, static or kinetic loads, impact, cost targets, and environmental considerations to identify a continuous fiber composite that will meet your applications' demands. In-house design engineers can also be tapped ensure a smooth transition from concept through production.

Any of our product development engineers, regardless of their area of expertise, can help you identify your applications' unique requirements and recommend a plastic compound that will meet your precise needs. Our engineers are polymer experts renowned for their accessibility and ability to solve your application problem.

Reinforced plastic compounds have replaced metal in many applications by providing better aesthetics, corrosion resistance, and opportunities for part consolidation. When choosing continuous fiber composite materials designers can now exploit these benefits when confronting demanding load requirements of structural components.

Die castings and metal assemblies are opportunities to apply the advantages of continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites to new applications. To bring new designs to reality, while avoiding typical metal concerns (corrosion, painting, recycling, etc.), designers regularly choose reinforced plastic compounds. In instances where other reinforced plastics do not fulfill performance requirements of complex parts, IMC composites are the logical choice.

Use of continuous reinforcing fibers elevate the performance of thermoplastics to such a high degree that cheaper resins begin to provide the properties of more expensive engineering polymers. In many instances, continuous fiber composites have proven themselves to be an economically viable alternative to other reinforced plastics. Contact any of our sales engineers for assistance in examining the differences between available reinforcing technologies.

AUTODYNAMICS’s global Technical Service team is available to provide expertise regarding design analysis, mold construction, pre-production trials and trouble-shooting. A wide variety of Computer Aided Design analysis and metal replacement tutorial services are also available.

Many die cast tools can easily be modified to allow them to be used for plastic injection molding. Often, this is a convenient first step in creating a meaningful prototype to measure success potential for changing materials.

Samples of our continuous fiber composites, or any other AUTODYNAMICS product, can be obtained by contacting a sales engineer or business manager who servers your geographic area or market segment. Use this website's feature to locate an AUTODYNAMICS representative.

Yes, care should be taken to maximize fiber length in the molded article to maintain physical properties. Typical accommodations include: use of free flowing check-rings and general purpose screws; generous mold gates and runners; and radiuses corners and direction changes.

All reinforced plastics, particularly those with fiber ends, are more abrasive to molding machinery than unfilled resins. Since continuous fiber composites have fewer fiber ends than an equal loading by weight of short fiber material, it wears less on equipment.

No special Tool is required to injection mold continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites. However, to produce quality parts care should be taken to minimize fiber breakage and maximize fiber distribution and packing. A detailed Continuous Fiber Molding Guide is available to reference which discusses these and other issues related to molding IMC composites.

Use low shear conditions to minimize unnecessary fiber filament breakage and maintain maximum physical properties in finished parts. Low shear conditions commonly include: proper barrel temperatures, slower screw rotation, minimal back pressure, and moderate injection speeds.

Even with the utmost care, some fiber breakage will occur during the molding process - this is to be expected. Successful molding practices minimize broken fibers and result in a normal bell-curve distribution of complete continuous and broken fibers.

If excessive fiber breakage occurs molded articles will not have the high stiffness and toughness associated with well-made continuous fiber composite development Team for details on maintaining optimum physical properties during molding.

Look for evidence of continuous fibers protruding from the sprue entry. Conducting a pyrolysis, where the polymer is burned away leaving the fiber matrix intact, allows fiber distribution, packing, and breakage to be visually examined.

Continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites exhibit excellent flow characteristics, even at high fiber loadings of 60% by weight. Not only can IMC composites flow continuous distances, they routinely fill intricate and thin wall sections with remarkable ease. Evaluation of any material in its end-use design should always be conducted to ensure appropriate properties are maintained.

Continuous fiber thermoplastic (IMC) composites are regularly molded into parts weighing in excess of 10 pounds and with surface areas comparable to doorways. The limiting factor is not IMC composites, but the availability of large injection or compression molding equipment.