Growing demand for lightweight composites in North America and Europe has prompted Hanwha Azdel Inc. to increase capacity for its Azdel SuperLite lightweight reinforced thermoplastic (LWRT) composite product at its Virginia production facility, NetComposites.com reported.
The company is adding more space at the plant, plus a new production line that is due to become active in the second quarter. Growing demand from customers in the RV, automotive, commercial truck, building and construction, office furniture and industrial market segments prompted the move to add capacity to support sales efforts in North America and Europe.
LWRT composites are lower-density forms of traditional glass-mat thermoplastic (GMT) composites with a higher ratio of reinforcement to resin. These sheet-form composites are moulded into a variety of parts using thermoforming or used in sandwich panel constructions to create panels, which are usually faced with fabric, wallpaper, laminate, or film skins.
The lightweight composite will not rust, corrode or rot, significantly reduces panel or part weight, lowers sound transmission (provides acoustical damping), and offers thermal insulation. Further, the company — a subsidiary of Korean company Hanwah Global — claims that third-party product testing to ASTM E 1333-96 standards by an ISO 17025 accredited testing laboratory has verified that the material contains no detectable levels of formaldehyde.
According to Sean Campbell, director of global marketing, “If you look at key industry trends in the transportation industry, particularly the RV segment, they’re really fueling rapid growth of Azdel SuperLite composites. With legislative mandates for improved fuel economy or lower greenhouse-gas emissions in many parts of the globe, transportation OEMs need to reduce vehicle mass significantly. While those mandates don’t impact RV manufacturers directly, lighter RVs use less fuel and can be pulled or powered by engines with lower towing capacities.
“Since our materials are half the weight of plywood,” he continued, “they have a strong value proposition. They also are far more impact and puncture resistant than plywood.”
The RV industry is the fastest growing market segment for the company’s Azdel SuperLite and also is where it believes the material can offer the strongest value proposition (halving weight and eliminating water-related issues).
Hanwha Azdel said that investment in the new North American production line is another milestone in its goal of fully globalising Azdel SuperLite LWRT, a patented technology that Azdel introduced in 1999, which has revolutionised how transportation OEMs produce composite panels ranging from headliners to underbody shields to wall systems.
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