Covestro composites take lightness, performance and aesthetics 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.
One of the most exciting developments in the field of composite materials in recent years are so-called “continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastics”, CFRTP in short. Under the name Maezio™, Covestro has developed a CFRTP composite that represents no less than an elegant revolution in the world of high-tech materials. For the first time, Maezio™ combines the aesthetics and power of metal with the flexibility and design freedom of plastic.
Maezio™ material 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 Maezio™ composites 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: Maezio™ composites are 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
Maezio™ composite material 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. Maezio™ material is supplied in films 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: this material 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, Maezio™ 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 Maezio™ composites: the first highlights
Mountain bike components for the highest demands
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. Maezio™ 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 Maezio™. 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 Maezio™ composites 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
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 Maezio™, 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 Maezio™ 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 Maezio™ composites. The 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 Maezio™ composites 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 explains: “Maezio™ 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. Maezio™ composites has a natural finish and is beautiful in itself.”
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 Maezio™ 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.