Canadian Plastics

Thermoforming Gains Favor for High-Performance Panels in Transit Markets

Canadian Plastics   



Advances in thermoplastic sheet formulations are creating more opportunities for thermoformed parts in the demanding aerospace and rail transportation sectors. Fire safety is an overwhelming concern f...

Advances in thermoplastic sheet formulations are creating more opportunities for thermoformed parts in the demanding aerospace and rail transportation sectors. Fire safety is an overwhelming concern for these markets, coupled with the need for light weight and strength.

Now that thermoplastic materials which meet fire safety requirements and strength-to-weight ratios are available, parts manufacturers serving these sectors have more opportunity to use thermoforming, which generally provides a lower overall system cost than competitive thermoset processes: fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) or sheet molding compound (SMC).

Similarly, the use of engineered thermoplastic sheet products is making inroads in other transportation markets, such as agricultural equipment, heavy trucks and coaches.

Melanie Cook, market director for the transportation and spa sectors for GE Advanced Materials, Global Marketing, reports that GE’s thermoplastic products are gaining market share in the agricultureal and heavy truck segments. While the market growth ranges from 2% to 8% in these sectors, GE Advanced Materials is recording double-digit sales growth.

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GE Advanced Materials recently introduced Azdel Rail-Lite composite, a thermoformable, light weight composite sheet material that exhibits excellent flame, smoke, and toxicity performance in large semi-structural panels for trains and aircraft. Potential applications initially include window masks and ceiling panels.

Low cost tooling in one benefit of thermoforming when compared with high-pressure molding processes such as compression molding. In addition, thermoforming allows attachments and fixtures to be molded-in, rather than added later in a secondary processing step.

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