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Next-gen composites take lightness and performance to a new level
A material class of its own
Lighter raw materials are the key to more useful and sustainable end products. However, lower weight must never be achieved at the expense of a loss in performance. Composite materials from Covestro achieve the previously impossible: They can be used to design and manufacture components that are not only extremely light and durable, but also offer unimagined creative freedom for product designers – for example in the automotive and electronics industries.
“The electronics industry and other industries are on the lookout for stronger and lighter materials that can produce even thinner parts and integrate new functions – and which are as efficient as possible to process. Our answer to this is CFRTP.”
Michelle Jou, Head of Global Polycarbonate Business at Covestro

CFRTP composites outperform metal

The best of both worlds

Five letters stand for one of the most exciting developments in the field of composite materials in recent years: CFRTP. It is the abbreviation of “Continuous Fiber-Reinforced Thermoplastics”. An admittedly somewhat cumbersome term, but it represents no less than an elegant revolution in the world of high-tech materials. For the first time, CFRTP combines the aesthetics and power of metal with the flexibility and design freedom of plastic.

CFRTP is made of ultra-thin tapes that are laminated to each other at certain angles to form sheets. Polycarbonate or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), for example, are used as thermoplastic – i.e., freely moldable using heat – base materials, which are then reinforced by strands of carbon or glass fibers. The resulting sheets are extremely light, thin, rigid and firm. They also look, feel and sound like metal. As plastic, however, they are more flexible than metal and can be processed and refined very efficiently using a variety of processes.

A high-quality appearance, lightness, robustness and versatile processing options: The combination of these advantages makes CFRTP an innovation that should soon push the boundaries of the possible in a whole range of applications.

A new hotspot for composite innovations

The demand for robust yet lightweight materials is growing ever faster worldwide. The end products made from these are not only more practical and attractive for consumers – thanks to a longer product life and lower energy consumption during transportation, they also conserve our natural resources and the climate.

No question about it: CFRTP composites are the perfect answer to this trend. This is why Covestro has now significantly expanded its production capacities and set up a new location in the Franconian Markt Bibart, which bundles activities in the field of lightweight composite innovations. Incidentally, the plant benefits from a highly innovative neighborhood: There are several well-known universities in its vicinity that are conducting intensive research into the further development of composite materials.

The stuff designer dreams are made of

CFRTP has a lot to offer, not only because of its excellent physical properties, but also from an aesthetic point of view. This makes the material particularly interesting for product designers who want to give their creations fresh, exciting looks and new functionalities at the same time.

There are almost no limits to their imagination. CFRTP is supplied in tapes or sheets that can be combined in a variety of ways, opening up completely new creative freedom. Various production technologies such as compression molding, injection molding, automated tape laying (ATL) and automated fiber placement (AFP) are possible. Versatile options also exist for further processing: CFRTP is characterized by its unique, metal-like texture immediately after production. However, it can also be further refined by coating, embossing or laser engraving.

As a very young material innovation, CFRTP is still at the beginning of its career. But the first projects in which designers have already experimented with it impressively reflect the versatility and creative potential of this exceptional material.

Designing with CFRTP: the first highlights
Mountain bike components for the highest demands
CFRTP can be used to upgrade bicycles

Many discerning cyclists have long appreciated the lightness and cool look of synthetic resin-carbon fiber composites. Until now, however, the risk of breakage was unfortunately ever present when these materials were involved. CFRTP composites shift the technology up a gear for all mountain bike enthusiasts. Previous restrictions on synthetic resin composites, namely the unsuitability for mass production and the intrinsic brittleness of the material, could soon be a thing of the past thanks to CFRTPs. The impact-resistant polycarbonate matrix material further increases safety – and the popular carbon look is also still there.

Reason enough for the experienced developers of the Swiss company next composites GmbH to rely on CFRTP in the future – for example when designing a pedal crank that not only absorbs high forces due to the continuous carbon fibers, but also combines several conventional steps in a single, fast procedure during processing. This makes production more efficient and minimizes the probability of processing errors.

High quality travel companions
CFRTP is perfectly suited for high-class luggage

An impact resistant polycarbonate matrix, an exciting, metal-like look & feel, extreme stability: For the Frankfurt design studio asdo design and research, it soon became clear that following their initial forays into CFRTP, the material offered optimal conditions for high-quality luggage. The developers see a particular advantage in the freedom of design that this material offers, which is a result of its precise processability and leaves the limitations of other materials behind. What comes out of the tape laying system at the end is much closer to the original vision of the designer, who no longer has to file and plane the corners to ensure that the product is still stable despite the weight of the model.

The designers are also free to decide how they want to use the weight saved and the space freed up in the CFRTP suitcases – e.g., by integrating new components such as a power bank that keeps consumers' personal electronics topped up on long journeys.

Cool design for air conditioners

Haier – a world leader in large household appliances – has launched the first air conditioning system to benefit from the numerous advantages of CFRTP. The composite materials are used for the housings of the air conditioners, which are artistically designed in the form of two independent cylinders and offer the structure and outstanding aesthetic properties through which the brand has made a name for itself.

For the design team, the use of CFRTP in this application represents a small revolution. Up to now there was hardly any alternative to metal for the construction of the housings. The new composite material now looks just as good as the aluminum that is otherwise used – and is much less demanding. Shao Qingru, one of the designers from Haier involved in using CFRTP, explains: “CFRTP is a very attractive material for us because it has a natural surface pattern right from the start, unlike metals such as aluminum that require a combination of finishing processes such as sandblasting, brushing or anodizing before they can be used in the product. CFRTP has a natural finish and is beautiful in itself.”

More information

Press release on CFRTP for bicycles
Press release on CFRTP for luggage
Press release on the Covestro cooperation with Haier

From miniaturized devices to gigantic wind turbines: Composites by Covestro can push boundaries virtually anywhere.

A champion of composites in many areas

Composite materials conquer our everyday life

Composites in themselves are not a new class of materials. Plastics reinforced with glass or carbon fibers have been used for decades. Traditionally, however, they were reserved for a rather more manageable number of applications in which significantly higher costs were accepted for the improved material properties – examples include the aviation and aerospace industry, top-class automobiles and manufacturers of high-end sports equipment.

Covestro is committed to ensuring that high-performance composites conquer the mass markets in all major industries and thus develop their full potential in terms of sustainability and consumer benefit. Our customers and partners benefit above all from our versatile product portfolio: This enables complete and hybrid solutions that optimally combine a wide variety of composite materials and plastic types.

From filigree high-tech electronics to more efficient wind turbines: Here are some examples of how our composite technologies are pushing the boundaries!

Composites make all the difference in these industries
More efficient wind power

The expansion of renewable energy sources such as wind power is continuing. In order to make the use of the sustainable resource wind not only environmentally meaningful, but also economically profitable, the production of wind turbines, among other things, must become more efficient. Covestro has developed a special polyurethane infusion resin for rotor blades for this purpose. In combination with reinforcing glass fibers and an efficient vacuum manufacturing process, it enables shorter cycle times and thus has cost advantages. The resin, which was developed in China, is DNV-GL certified – a prerequisite for entering the wind power industry there.

A new prototype of a rotor blade with a blade length of 59.5 meters has now been produced in China. For the future, we have planned the production of additional blades with even longer blade lengths, which will enable even more efficient use of wind energy.

Smooth consumer electronics

In the electronics industry in particular, the trend is towards ever thinner housings e.g., for laptops and smartphones. Laptop lids can be made from CFRTP sheets in a single-stage process, resulting in shorter cycle times and significant cost savings. Compared to magnesium alloys, they are around 15 percent lighter and can be equipped with aesthetic surface structures.

Solid solutions for the construction industry

For good reasons, the legal requirements regarding the thermal efficiency of building envelopes are becoming increasingly stringent in many regions. A good example of this is the Benelux countries. Rear-ventilated facades (VHF) are widespread here, especially in office and industrial buildings. With today's material solutions, the ever-increasing requirements can either only be met with thicker insulating materials or not at all.

In order to meet this challenge, FISCO composite solutions based in Zusmarshausen has now developed a new wall bracket for VHF facades whose core consists of glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP). Fisco has chosen a polyurethane resin from Covestro as the matrix material for this core, which combines outstanding fire behavior, very good mechanical properties and weather resistance. Our material innovation thus helps to comply with legal requirements and at the same time considerably simplify the assembly process.

Another pioneering example of the use of our composite technologies in the construction sector is the cooperation between Covestro, KraussMaffei and the Institute for Plastics Processing (IKV) in industry and trade at RWTH Aachen University. Together with our partners, we have created the basis for a broader industrial use of the so-called pultrusion process with polyurethane resins.

With this method, composite profiles can be produced for insulating window frames with increased productivity, process and product quality, for example. Polyurethane resins from Covestro offer clear advantages over established pultrusion materials such as epoxy or vinyl ester resins. Their lower viscosity, good wetting of the fibers and high reactivity allow higher process speeds, which reduces production costs. Another advantage is the high flexibility – the reaction time and viscosity of polyurethane resins can be widely varied so that even filigree component geometries can be precisely reproduced.

More information

Press release on the cooperation with Fisco
Press release on the DNV-GL certification for windpower in China

Stories that push boundaries

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