Cutting weight from cars and trucks was a major theme of the Thermoset TopCon, and a composites expert from Ashland Inc. gave an update on a tough ultra-low-density sheet molding compound with a Class A finish.
About three years ago, the resins and chemicals company began development of the SMC that also offers enhanced toughness through improved mechanical properties, and at the same time by low-density, said MJ Sumner, a technical group leader in the Composite Polymers-Global Technology Organization at Ashland Performance Materials.
Ashland has studied a vinyl ester-based SMC, and the company can improve mechanical properties by adding reactive tougheners and initiators and studying mold temperature, Sumner said.
Now researchers are looking at several other approaches, using different resins, developing fillers, developing microspheres and other ingredients. Ashland materials experts are looking at potentially blending carbon fibers and glass fibers, to reduce cost, he said.
Sumner said the goal is for the SMC to compete with aluminum, so price will be a big issue.
He that Ashland changed up the product development process by “engaging with a number of our customers very early on,” looking for unmet needs.
Customers said they wanted to maintain a Class A finish with a lower-density material that is cost-effective and has very good properties, such as crack resistance, he said.
Sumner also discussed the results of technical testing. Researchers also studied the effect of the mold temperature and the initiator system.