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Ultra-thin prepreg system exploited in luxury watch project

Huntsman Advanced Materials (Basel) : 23 March, 2014  (Application Story)
Huntsman Advanced Materials has been supporting Swiss pre-impregnated materials specialist North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) to produce ultra-thin prepreg components on a Richard Mille luxury watch case, an unusual application for this materials class.
Today, prepreg composites have become the benchmark across many sectors of the composites industry, applied for their ease of use, consistent properties, high quality surface finish and the wide choice of types that are now available. More markets, including the wind energy, automotive and general transport sectors are adopting prepreg composites to integrate greater efficiencies at every level during manufacturing whilst also focusing on fulfilling higher strength to weight requirements.
Huntsman’s wide offering of specialty building blocks and specially formulated resin matrix systems is facilitating the continued growth of the market for prepreg composites. An unusual example is the recently founded (2009) company NTPT, which designs and manufactures ultra-thin prepregs for high performance composites applications, mainly for prototypes and small series production.
The business offers unique spread tow and associated prepregging techniques to manufacture uni-directional prepreg tapes processed with thermoset resins, which can be as thin as a third of a human hair in diameter. To facilitate their handling, the company has also developed an automated tape laying system. NTPT’s technology package is completed with simulation software which enables efficient parts designs, taking advantage of the uniqueness of ThinPregs.
The Richrd Mille watch cases are made from thick blocks of 400 thin ply of ThinPreg carbon fibre uni-directional tape, pre-impregnated with an epoxy resin matrix system based on building blocks (resin, toughener and hardener) selected with Huntsman’s support. Because of the ultra-thin interply thickness, the autoclave cured block can be considered as a one phase material which is machinable (drillable, millable) in the same way as metal.
NTPT selected the Huntsman combination of building blocks for this particular application specifically for their ability to meet the necessary criteria required for manufacturing ultra-thin prepreg tapes, as well as their filament bearing properties and the resulting resistance to delamination and crack propagation, which provides the cured uni-directional tapes with outstanding machinability behaviour.
Gilles Rocher, Sales & Marketing Manager, NTPT, said: “Both the reinforcement material and matrix system play an equally important role in achieving the right balance of desired properties. Matching process to performance was key to the success of this project.”
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