Inspired by the 2015 Paris UN Climate Conference, Lorenz Kunststofftechnik, a family-owned German supplier of BMC/SMC/CIC thermoset applications, sought to develop a thermoset composite with a lower CO2 footprint.
Needing a research partner, it turned in 2018 to the Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe (IVW) in Kaiserslautern, with whom the company already had a good working relationship. The two partners, backed by funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, have now successfully developed a lighter weight semi-finished product based on regionally-sourced renewable raw materials. The new material is targeted at lightweight applications in sectors such as the automotive industry, e-mobility and infrastructure construction. This material is flame-proof to UL 94 V0 4 mm HB and mould resistant.
The Kaiserslautern institute did the lab-scale preliminary testing, general research and the development of the formulations for the new organic SMC, while Lorenz contributed its expertise, SMC materials, and conducted the tests for industrial production.
Prior to developing the new SMC, the company first assessed whether such a new material would be of interest to the market, through a survey of some 30 companies, including specialists in electrical, automotive, and industrial manufacture. While the requirements of these companies differed strongly, two common demands emerged: the need for a full life-cycle assessment (LCA) and recyclability.
Lorenz then started investigating the use sustainable fillers, fibers and resins for the manufacture of semi-finished BMCs and SMCs, said Peter Ooms, director of Sales and Business Development at Lorenz Kunststofftechnik GmbH. A number of organic-based lightweight fillers and fibres, including ground sunflower seed shells and reeds, were shortlisted; choices which were also determined by the decision to use raw materials sources within a 500 km radius for the expected commercialisation of the project results.