Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Plastic Technology Co., Ltd., a group company of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), has completed the development and commenced worldwide marketing of the “D-LFT System,” a kneading/injection molding machine capable of forming high-strength long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (LFT) products from glass fibers and polypropylene (PP) resin, all in one process. A unique screw shape, glass fiber feed method and other proprietary innovations eliminate the need for kneaded pellets (compound), enabling significant reductions in manufacturing costs. The new system will be marketed with an eye on promoting its adoption in new applications, especially for creating items to supersede conventional metal parts in order to achieve lighter vehicles, etc.
The newly developed D-LFT System integrates a variety of hardware innovations – a dedicated screw, automatic resin and glass fiber feed mechanisms, etc. – with proprietary innovations in software, including technology that controls the glass fiber feed according to the amount of melted resin and a new control system that disperses the glass fibers into the melted resin with outstanding uniformity. Together these innovations enable injection molding in which resin and glass fibers are introduced into the system in their material state, resulting in LFT molded products of superlative strength and rigidity.
Compared to injection molding that requires the purchase of compound material, the D-LFT System can be expected to trim material costs by roughly 25%. Simultaneously, the integration of the kneading and injection molding processes translates to a more compact production line. User support will be enhanced through the introduction of a new service whereby users will be provided with material mixing recipes for use with glass fibers manufactured by Nippon Electric Glass Co., Ltd., a company that cooperated in developing the D-LFT System.
Today, as the automotive industry actively pursues lighter vehicle chassis in a quest for higher fuel performance, demand is expanding for plastic parts to replace conventional metal components. However, because outstanding strength and rigidity are necessary particularly in the case of large parts and exterior components, interest is rising toward technology that enables the creation of large LFT molded items featuring fibers of the maximum possible length.
For the foregoing reasons development of the D-LFT System at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Plastic Technology was accorded highest priority in a quest for ability to manufacture LFT products molded from glass and PP at low cost – products for which demand is most clearly in evidence. Going forward the new system will be proactively marketed not only to the automotive and related industries but also to such manufacturing industries as makers of large home appliances and of building interior and exterior materials. In addition to pursuing new applications and developing new application technologies, efforts will focus on expanding the application range of the D-LFT System to areas such as glass-reinforced polyamide resin (nylon) molded products and carbon fiber reinforced plastics.