Our raw material: UD tape
The laser assisted tape winding (LATW) process is developed to achieve controlled heating and consolidation of UD-tape material wound around a mandrel with high productivity and highly automated. In this blog I will explain you what UD-tape is, how it is manufactured and which opportunities are offered in the market by UD-tape suppliers.The flexibility in the product composition and dimensions as well as the wide offering from many suppliers all over the world brings advantages for you as end user of our CFR thermoplastic tubular products.
At the end of this blog, you will have an understanding, why the LATW technology at Alformet allows you to select the ideal combination of fiber and thermoplastics to achieve the required properties and behavior of your product.
What is UD-tape?
UD tapes are composite materials in which fibers are impregnated unidirectionally with a thermoplastic matrix. The tapes contain endless fibers and the thermoplastic resin or matrix offer the possibility to weld and hot form the material.
The geometry of the tapes gives the designer additional degrees of freedom when designing the component. The fiber-reinforced tapes are used both on one side and on both sides of the component as a sandwich piece. They can be further processed into 2D and 3D grids or into organic sheets, with adjustable stiffnesses in any direction. They are also used for winding tubes and containers. Optimally, UD tapes give the component strength exactly where it is needed. Areas in the component that require (more) strength or stiffness can be locally reinforced. The reinforcements load-bearing, making the end products more efficient and resource-saving. As a result, components can carry more load even with thinner walls and in some cases without the requirement of ribs.
UD-tapes are produced with specialized equipment to impregnate the fibers with a thermoplastic resin. The manufacturing process of UD-tapes delivers a tape of a certain (standard) width and thickness after which it is slitted in the final width, as specified by the customer. The slitted spools (or bobbins) are available in various length for the equipment to produce organosheets for thermoforming, wound tubes (LATW), 3d-curved sheets with LATP (Laser Assisted Tape Placement), etc..
Combination of fiber and thermoplastic
The advantage of UD-tapes lays in the flexibility of the material combination and the dimensions. Especially in the combination of the thermoplastic matrix and reinforcing fiber, the current options are extensive and can and will be extended further in the future. Principally the endless fiber has the role to reinforce the component made from UD-tape and the thermoplastic resin has the role to optimize the function of the fiber and add other properties like resistance against corrosion and chemicals, damping properties, energy absorption from impact etc..
On the fiber side, the most applied are glass fiber and carbon fiber, but also kevlar/aramid, basalt, flax fibers are available today for the reinforcement in UD-tapes.
Towards the future and in development today, many other combinations can be expected going from specific applications to more sustainable materials with biopolymers and biofibers. You can imagine that the possibilities are endless and more announcements of new materials can be expected for the lightweight products with high strength and stiffness.
All these combinations are fulfilling the requirement of materials that can be recycled and reused. And moreover all these combinations can be processed with our laser technology (LATW and LATP), offering you the best of both worlds of thermoplastics and reinforcement fibers!
Written by Theo Mimpen (May 2022)