Innovative materials for future lightweight construction

Lightweight materials are in greater demand than ever – and not just in the automotive industry. Manufacturers of electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones also want to slim down their products. The advantages are obvious: while consumers appreciate light, thin devices, manufacturers also benefit from lower shipping costs while reducing their logistics-related ecological footprint.

Covestro received the second prize in the “Best Lightweight Innovation” category for its composite “A-cover” for next generation laptops (in the background on the right).

Covestro has developed a sophisticated composite technology that opens the door to a sustainable future for lightweight products. It is based on continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastics (CFRTP) in combination with a highly efficient production method. The company recently received this year’s European Plastics Innovation Award for its composite “A-Cover” for next-generation laptops. The development took second place in the category “Best Lightweight Innovation.”

Pushing the boundaries

Dr Michael Schmidt, Co-CEO of CFRTP composites at Covestro, took the trophy at the 2017 European Plastics Innovation Awards ceremony in Brussels.

“Winning this prize confirms that we have truly pushed the boundaries with our CFRTPs, in order to meet the needs of tomorrow,” says Dr Michael Schmidt, who, together with David Hartmann, heads the Thermoplastic Composites department at Covestro. “These composites are ideally suited for producing thinner, lighter and yet more robust parts for IT devices.”

David Hartmann particularly highlights the major weight advantage: “Compared to a conventional magnesium-aluminum alloy, we achieve weight reductions of approximately 15 percent. And the A-Cover composite exhibits the same good bending and torsional rigidity as the metallic material.” Moreover, CFRTPs meet Underwriters Laboratories’ flammability standard of V-0.

Contemporary design

The composites give product designers an unprecedented degree of design freedom. For example, various combinations of resin and carbon or glass-fibres can be used for optical effects. Textures can also be created, for example within the mould or by sandblasting, CNC milling and laser cutting.

The A-Cover composites come close to achieving the quality of a Class-A surface. An environmentally friendly water-based two-component finish with optimal adhesion to polycarbonate substrates provides the visual upgrade and permits individual design.

Fast and efficient production

By utilizing a “single mould manufacturing” concept, Covestro is able to combine the three conventional steps of preheating, thermoforming and functional integration into a single process. The results are twofold: substantially lower costs and shorter cycle times.

The European Plastics Innovation Award was instituted by the pan-European trade association PlasticsEurope and the Society of Plastics Engineers, SPE. The awards honor companies that use plastics to develop new ideas, methods, products or technologies that meet the needs of society while respecting the demands of sustainability.

With 2016 sales of EUR 11.9 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites around the globe and employs approximately 15600 people (full-time equivalents) as of the end of 2016.