SEKISUI CHEMICAL CO., LTD. (President and Representative Director: Teiji Koge, hereinafter called “SEKISUI CHEMICAL”) has established the world’s first*2 continuous atypical molding technology for thermoplastic CFRP*1 (hereinafter called “the technology”) and will start the thermoplastic CFRP business in the fiscal year 2017.
＊1 ＣＦＲＰ＝Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic ＊2 As of February 2017: investigated by SEKISUI CHEMICAL
The technology greatly increases productivity compared to the conventional general CFRP production process and at the same time, enables the manufacture of large and long products.
In the future, SEKISUI CHEMICAL will carry on with the development and provision of thermoplastic CFRP products, first, for the infrastructure field, and at the same time, will develop thermoplastic CFRP products for transport equipment, which is an extremely large market.
１．What is CFRP?
CFRP combines lightness with strength, and has been applied extensively to various products related to transportation equipment as a substitute for metal. The market size is assumed to be about 1.2 trillion yen*3 and is thought to expand further in the future.
＊3 In FY2015. Source: 2016 prospect of carbon fiber composite material (CFRP/CFRTP)-related technologies and applied markets” (Fuji Keizai)
CFRP is available in two forms: “thermosetting CFRP” which is formed by impregnating carbon fiber with liquid plastic material and then by hardening by heat, and “thermoplastic CFRP” which is formed by integrally molding heated and softened plastic with carbon fiber. Essentially, thermoplastic CFRP is effective for continuously manufacturing long and large-size products, but it was difficult to manufacture products that could manifest long and large size and high strength at the same time by the conventional technologies and processes. As a result, thermosetting CFRP accounts for nearly 100% of the market share; however, there still remain issues in increased length, increased size, and continuous production, and furthermore, thermosetting CFRP is difficult to be recycled.
２．Point of this technology
This technology which has been successfully developed recently is characterized by the following three elemental technologies:
(1)Pretreatment technology of carbon fiber (carbon fiber opening technology)
Thermoplastic CFRP is produced by integrally molding the heated and softened plastic with carbon fiber as described above. Unlike the thermosetting type, plastic does not reach the liquid form level and thermoplastic CFRP has a disadvantage in that plastic is difficult to be impregnated with carbon fiber. SEKISUI CHEMICAL therefore has developed a unique technology (fiber opening technology) that breaks bundle-form carbon fibers into every single fiber so that even high-viscosity plastic becomes easy to be impregnated with carbon fibers.
(2)Composite continuous extrusion technology
SEKISUI CHEMICAL has developed a composite continuous extrusion technology of carbon fibers and thermoplastic resin by making use of the extrusion technology that has been cultivated with its pipes and films. This enables SEKISUI CHEMICAL to increase the length and the size of products and at the same time, achieve high productivity.
(3)Profile forming technology
In addition to the composite continuous extrusion technology, SEKISUI CHEMICAL has developed a technology that can continuously and simultaneously form a special rib structure*4.
This has enabled SEKISUI CHEMICAL to simultaneously achieve increased strength and weight reduction compared with conventional CFRP.
＊4 Plate-like protrusions formed for reinforcement on the back of castings and plastic moldings.
Part of the development results of the present study is part of the results of the study conducted with the support of the "Project to Support Innovative New Energy Technology Ventures" grant by the New Energy and Industrial Development Organization (NEDO).
３．Production process of thermoplastic CFRP product
４．Rollout of thermoplastic CFRP applications and the first product
The thermoplastic CFRP produced by the use of this technology provides “ultralight weight”, “long and large size”, “high strength”, and “high productivity” and moreover, thermoplasticity. It is, therefore, a product with outstanding recycling efficiency and competitive edge.
Making the best use of these features, SEKISUI CHEMICAL carries on development and provision of products in wider fields, including infrastructure, civil engineering, and construction fields (windmill, tunnel, road, river, and other facilities) as well as transport equipment.
For the first product, SEKISUI CHEMICAL has opened prospect of commercializing a water stop (disaster reduction structure) for preventing underground malls and subways from being exposed to water when ravaged by torrential rains, and is slated to launch the product by the end of FY2017.
■Features of thermoplastic CFRP water stop
Ultralight weight (about 1/3 to 1/4 the weight of the conventional water stop
Easy installation just to pull and extend a roll-form CFRP plate
５．Production and business systems
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Urban Infrastructure and Environmental Products Company will be responsible for developing the thermoplastic CFRP business. The Company has been engaged in the business of molding plastic sheets (boards) for pipes for public-private infrastructure and for aircraft, and in the business of synthetic wood. The Company will be certain to create synergy with thermoplastic CFRP business.
This press release may contain forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are based on current expectations and beliefs and are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such statements due to changes in global economic, business, competitive market and regulatory factors.