Romeo RIM has developed a prototype agricultural combine side panel using Long Fiber Technology (LFT) and polyurethane (PU) products supplied by its longtime collaborator, Bayer MaterialScience.
The panel, measuring 111″ x 73″ x 5″ deep, was displayed at the CAMX event, in Orlando, this week. According to Romeo RIM, the component creates a shielding system with a value proposition focused around cost and weight savings when compared to alternative materials, such as sheet molding compound (SMC).
“What makes this part so attractive is the value proposition we’re able to offer,” said Matt Getty, director of engineering at Romeo RIM, one of the leading processors of reaction injection molding (RIM) technology in North America.
Getty explains that a part made using polyurethane and the LFT process can be up to 40-50 percent lighter than SMC parts, whilst maintaining similar mechanical properties. Using LFT process, one can produce a high-gloss surface right out of the mold, which eliminates the need for secondary painting operations, saving valuable time and reducing labor costs, he added.
The combine prototype panel is produced utilizing a 400-ton, 12′ x 12′ double shuttle press, which Romeo RIM believes to be the largest LFT press in the world.
Molded-in ribs, two to three times the nominal wall thickness with little to no read through on the class-A surface are made in the panel to provide structural support, according to Romeo RIM.
During the LFT process, long glass fibers are chopped and injected into an open mold along with polyurethane resin in a one-step process. A fiberglass chopper is attached to the polyurethane dispensing mixhead, which is attached to a robot. The robot is programmed to move over the open mold cavity while simultaneously dispensing both the long glass fibers and the polyurethane resin in an open-pour method. At the end of the pour, the mold is closed and the part is formed.
A sprayable in-mold coating provided by Bayer is used to get an agricultural Class-A surface right out of the mold. In addition to the agricultural market, large, Class-A surface LFT parts are also well suited to building and construction, mass transit and heavy trucks, among others.
In addition to supplying polyurethane products, Bayer will provide on-site technical support of the product development. While Bayer’s engineering group contributed design assistance to meet the structural integrity and mounting requirements, their laboratory in Pittsburgh assisted Romeo RIM in achieving a high-gloss finish.
“We’ve been collaborating with Romeo RIM on an ongoing basis as they continue to take LFT to the next level,” said Paul Platte, market manager – Polyurethane Composites, Bayer MaterialScience LLC. “This latest accomplishment is a game changer for OEMs looking to produce very large, high-quality, structural parts more quickly and inexpensively.”
Image courtesy of Bayer MaterialScience LLC