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Title:
NEEDLE BONDED COMPLEX
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/020831
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention relates to a process for preparation of a complex, which includes a) the production of a sheet associating in a juxtaposed manner at least one layer of a fibrous reinforcing structure and a layer of a thickening material that considerably thickens said sheet, b) the needle bonding of said sheet on the side of the fibrous reinforcing structure by means of barbed needles passing through at least said layer of a fibrous structure and at least partially through the layer of thickening material, the needles moving in the direction of the sheet at essentially the same speed as the sheet when they pass through it, with an impact density ranging from 1 to 25 impacts per cm2. The invention also relates to the complex and to the composite material obtained by impregnation of the complex. The invention makes faster impregnation of the complex possible during manufacture of the composite

Inventors:
ROCHER, Gilles (573 Chemin Chiron, Chambery, F-73000, FR)
ROEDERER, Francois (1178 montee de Chaloup, Chambery, F-73000, FR)
Application Number:
US2008/071757
Publication Date:
February 12, 2009
Filing Date:
July 31, 2008
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
OCV INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL, LLC (One Owens Corning Parkway, Toldeo, Ohio, 43659, US)
ROCHER, Gilles (573 Chemin Chiron, Chambery, F-73000, FR)
ROEDERER, Francois (1178 montee de Chaloup, Chambery, F-73000, FR)
International Classes:
B32B5/24; B32B5/26; B32B5/28; D04H3/004; D04H3/105; D04H13/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MILLIKIN, Margaret, S. et al. (Bldg 21, 2790 Columbus RoadGranville, Ohio, 43023, US)
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Claims:

CLAIMS

1. A process for preparation of a complex, which includes: a) the production of a sheet associating in a juxtaposed manner at least one layer of a fibrous reinforcing structure and a layer of a thickening material that considerably thickens said sheet, b) the needle bonding of said sheet on the side of the fibrous reinforcing structure by means of barbed needles passing through at least said layer of a fibrous structure and at least partially through the layer of thickening material, the needles moving in the direction of the sheet at essentially the same speed as the sheet when they pass through it, with an impact density ranging from 1 to 25 impacts per cm 2 .

2. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the layer of a fibrous reinforcing structure contains continuous glass strands.

3. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the fibrous structure contains glass strands that have been oiled by a composition containing water, the dry extract of said composition containing 1 to 30 wt% of a coupling agent and 30 to 99 wt% polyvinylpyrrolidone.

4. A process according to either of the two preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the sheet is produced continuously, the glass strand being fiber formed continuously and then incorporated in said sheet continuously, without intermediate storage of the glass strand.

5. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at most 15 impacts per cm 2 .

6. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at most 10 impacts per cm 2 .

7. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at most 5 impacts per cm 2 .

8. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at least 1 impact per cm 2 . 9. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at least 2 impacts per cm 2 .

10. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the sheet moves forward at a speed of at least 2 meters per minute.

11. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the sheet moves forward at a speed of at least 5 meters per minute.

12. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the sheet moves forward at a speed of at least 8 meters per minute. 13. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the sheet moves forward at a speed of at most 35 meters per minute.

14. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the sheet moves forward at a speed of at most 30 meters per minute.

15. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the sheet moves forward at a speed of at most 20 meters per minute.

16. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the thickening material is chosen from the list of the following materials: non- woven fabric of crimped polypropylene fibers, non- woven fabric made of polyester, three- dimensional sheet made of polyamide. 17. A process according to one of Claims 1 to 15, characterized by the fact that the thickening material is a foam.

18. A process according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the foam is made of polyurethane and has a closed porosity.

19. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the thickening material has a thickness between 1 and 20 mm.

20. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that the thickening material at least locally thickens the sheet by at least 25%.

21. A process according to one of the preceding claims, characterized by the fact that a layer of fibrous reinforcing structure is positioned and needle bonded on both sides of the thickening material.

22. A complex containing at least one textile reinforcing layer and a thickening material, which are connected by a needle bonding operation of which the impact density ranges from 1 to 25 impacts per cm 2 .

23. A composite material containing a complex, said complex containing at least one textile reinforcing layer, a thickening material and a resin matrix, characterized by the fact that the thickening material is a foam, and by the fact that tenons connected to at least one surface skin including the textile layer and resin re-enter the foam transversely with

respect to the plane of the material, with a density of at most 25 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer.

24. A material according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the density of tenons is at most 15 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer. 25. A material according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the density is at most 10 tenons per cm 2 of surface of the composite.

26. A material according to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the density is at most 5 tenons per cm 2 of surface of the composite.

27. A material according to one of Claims 23 to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at least 1 tenon per cm 2 of surface of the composite.

28. A material according to one of Claims 23 to the preceding claim, characterized by the fact that the impact density of the needle bonding is at least 2 tenons per cm 2 of surface of the composite.

Description:

NEEDLE BONDED COMPLEX

TECHNICAL FIELD AND INSUTRIAL APPLICABILITY OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a needle bonded complex intended for impregnation by a resin in the context of the production of a composite material. The complex associates a number of layers of different materials juxtaposed parallel between one another and has at least one layer of a fibrous reinforcing structure (for reinforcing the final composite material) and a layer of a material that considerably modifies the thickness of said complex, hereafter called thickening material.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The thickening material can have different functions and particularly at least one of the following two functions:

1) if the material is particularly permeable to the impregnation resin, its role can be to thicken the complex in order to facilitate the progression of the resin during the impregnation step;

2) if the material has particular mechanical properties such as a good stiffness, for example, its role can be to give its mechanical properties to the final composite.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION AND PREFERED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Other functions of the thickening material can be envisaged, in particular such as to aid in occupying the volume of the mold (the case of the RTM process) or to help reach a certain thickness in the final piece without excessively increasing the weight of the piece. In the case of the RTM process, one aims in particular for a fibrous reinforcement that is close to the two sides of the composite material. If the distance between the two parts of the mold is too great (the space between the two parts of the mold is known as the clearance), there is a risk of accumulation of all the reinforcement toward a single side of the final material, while the other side will be richer in resin, with the risk of giving the material unsatisfactory mechanical properties. The thickening material, placed in the center, with the fibrous structure on either side of it enables this problem to be solved.

In general, the thickening material is placed between two layers of fibrous reinforcing structure generally containing glass fiber. In all cases, the complex is assembled by needle bonding. Since the thickening material is generally placed between

two layers of fibrous reinforcing structure, it is generally not visible to the naked eye in the final composite.

According to the invention, the thickening material thickens the whole, which includes the fibrous structures and the thickening material itself, before needle bonding. Thickening is therefore observed when the different layers of the future complex are juxtaposed on one another in the order corresponding to that of the final composite, at least when it is not subjected to a compression force exerted on its sides, in comparison with the same assembly without thickening material.

According to the invention, a very particular needle bonding operation is carried out in order to assemble the different layers of the complex, giving it sufficient consistency, not breaking any strands or breaking very few strands, and not forming any holes that can be seen with the naked eye on its surface. According to the invention, the needle bonding is done by needles that move at the same time as the mat, with essentially the same speed as the mat in a direction parallel to the direction of movement of the mat. Furthermore, the number of needle impacts is reduced and is at most 25 impacts per cm 2 , and preferably at most 15 impacts per cm 2 , and even more preferably at most 10 impacts per cm 2 and can even be less than 5 impacts per cm 2 . Generally, the number of needle impacts is at least 1 impact per cm 2 and preferably at least 2 impacts per cm 2 .

Thus, the invention relates in the first place to a process for preparation of a complex, which includes a) the production of a sheet associating at least one layer of a fibrous reinforcing structure and a layer of thickening material, b) needle bonding using barbed needles that pass through at least said layer of fibrous structure and at least partially through the layer of thickening material and that move in the direction of the sheet at roughly the same speed as the sheet when they pass through it, with an impact density ranging from 1 to 25 impacts per cm 2 .

Preferably, the barbs of the needles are directed toward their support (usually called needle board), but they can also be oriented in the opposite direction. Preferably, at least 1 barb and preferably 2 barbs of each needle penetrate with each impact in the sheet. Preferably, the needles have a diameter (smallest circle entirely containing any cross section of the needle including the barbs) ranging from 0.2 to 3 mm and even more preferably 0.5 to 1.5 mm. Such a needle bonding leads to a complex that can be manipulated, which does not prick the hands, without hole marks on the surface. Thanks to

this very particular needle bonding operation, the sheet can be moved forward at high speeds, for example, at least 2 meters per minute and even at least 5 meters per minute and even at least 8 meters per minute. Generally, the speed is at most 35 or even at most 30 meters per minute, or even at most 20 meters per minute. During the passage of the needles through the fibrous structure, strands are taken in the barbs and carried along forming loops without breaking of the strands. These loops bind the complex and let it deform easily while continuing to function as binder. These loops do not prick the hands because the strands are not broken.

In order to carry out such needle bonding, it is possible, for example, to use certain pre-needle bonding machines normally designed for processing polymer fiber felts, such as the machine referenced PA169 or PA1500 or PA2000 marketed by Asselin (NSC group). In this type of machine, the needles describe an elliptical movement with a horizontal component enabling the needles in the complex to follow it in its movement.

According to a first embodiment, the thickening material can be chosen in order to facilitate the progression of the resin of the final composite during the impregnation step. The thickening material should in that case have a better permeability to the resin than the layer of fibrous structure with which it is associated, under the impregnation conditions, which can go hand in hand with the need to have a better crushing strength. In effect, different processes for production of composite materials exist, and in particular the injection process (called "RTM" in English "Resin Transfer Molding") and the infusion process. These processes in their principles are well known to the expert in the field.

According to the RTM process, a structure to be impregnated with resin is placed between a rigid mold and a rigid counter-mold (both generally made of metal or composite), and after application of a vacuum, resin is injected in order to migrate and fill the whole space between the mold and the counter-mold (called "clearance"). Under the effect of a vacuum, certain deformable molds and/or counter-molds (particularly those made of composite) can then crush the structure to be impregnated, which can considerably hinder the migration of the resin within said structure.

According to the infusion process, the structure is placed between a rigid mold and a plastic film (or cover), the latter being responsible for compressing the structure to be impregnated under the effect of a vacuum before impregnation. In this case, the capacity of the structure to resist crushing under the effect of the vacuum can have a huge influence on the flow speed of the resin. In the case of large pieces, the operator places drains (or

ducts) over the mat in order to aid the migration of the resin. These ducts are removed at the same time as the cover after polymerization of the resin.

It is seen therefore that the RTM and infusion processes bring about crushing of the structure to be impregnated, which makes it denser at the time of impregnation and therefore less permeable to the impregnation resin. A thickening material chosen for its crushing resistance and for being particularly permeable provides a solution to this problem. Such a thickening material can be chosen from the list of the following materials: non- woven fabric of crimped polypropylene fibers, non- woven fabric made of polyester marketed under the brand Soric by the company Lantor, three-dimensional sheet made of polyamide such as that made of nylon marketed under the brand Enkamat by the company Colbond. The materials just mentioned have a thickening effect on the whole width of the complex.

Let us note that as a draining material (with regard to the impregnation resin), it is possible to use materials that do not particularly thicken the complex. In effect, still in this idea of improving the progression of the impregnation resin, it would be possible to use, as draining material, a channel, placed parallel to the fibrous reinforcing structure, and which drains the resin. The channel forms a preferred route for the resin inside which it rapidly flows, more rapidly than directly through the fibrous reinforcing structure. This draining method is the object of a patent application other than this one, filed on the same day in the name of the same applicant company.

According to a second embodiment, the thickening material can be chosen so as to give the final composite material certain mechanical properties. In particular, the thickening material can be a foam such as a polyurethane foam. We refer in this case in particular to the applications of the truck wall or boat floor type. Such a foam generally has a closed porosity so that the impregnation resin cannot normally pass through it.

However, the needle bonding used in the context of the present invention, and intended for binding the fibrous reinforcing structure to the thickening material, punctures at least the side of the foam in contact with the fibrous reinforcing structure, which enables penetration of the impregnation resin also into the thickening material, at the site of the needle impacts. If the needle bonding passes through the thickening material, resin can even pass through its whole thickness. In all cases, the filling of the openings created by the needles in the thickening material results in excellent binding between the different layers contained in the composite, which tends to reduce the risks of delamination. In

addition to penetration of the resin into the thickening material, the needle bonding makes strands of the fibrous reinforcing structure penetrate into the thickening material, which also contributes towards improving the binding between the different constituents of the composite. The final composite material has two resin skins separated from one another by the foam that causes mechanical stresses to be communicated from one skin to the other. This separation contributes toward increasing the stiffness of the final composite. For this type of application, the thickening material generally has a thickness between 1 mm and 20 mm. The resin that has penetrated and filled the holes made by the needle bonding leads to the production of veritable tenons connected to at least one surface skin made of resin and re-entering the foam transversely with respect to the plane of the final composite. The quantity of tenons connected to the surface of the final composite corresponds to the quantity of needle bonding impacts.

Thus, the invention relates also to a composite material containing a complex according to the invention and a resin matrix, the thickening material being a foam; tenons connected to at least one surface skin including the textile layer and resin, re-enter the foam transversely with respect to the plane of the final composite material, with a density of the tenons of at most 25 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer, or even at most 15 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer, or even at most 10 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer, or even at most 5 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer. In particular, this density can be at least 1 or even at least 2 tenons per cm 2 of surface skin including the textile layer. The site of the tenons corresponds to the place where the needles have punctured the foam, and since the needles have carried fiber from the fibrous structure inside the foam, the tenons penetrating into the foam can contain fiber. In all cases, the thickening material thickens the sheet at least locally by at least

25% with respect to the same sheet without thickening material.

The particular needle bonding used in the context of the present invention (1 to 25 impacts per cm 2 and even fewer than 5 impacts per cm 2 ) greatly spares the integrity of the thickening material, which is particularly advantageous notably in the case of a foam that is by nature fragile with regard to any needle bonding. Conventional needle bonding (considered by the expert in the field to be well over 25 impacts/cm 2 ) in effect tends to destroy the internal structure of the foam, which then no longer has the same crushing resistance and bending resistance. A good bending resistance of the foam in particular

makes suitable manipulation of the complex possible before migration. The moderate needle bonding according to the invention makes it possible to attain this objective.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The fibrous reinforcing structure can be of a type with chopped strands or with continuous strands. It generally contains glass fiber. For the case in which the fibrous reinforcing structure contains glass strands, the glass strands have preferably been oiled by a composition containing water, the dry extract of said composition containing 1 to 30 wt% of a coupling agent and 30 [sic; 70] to 99 wt% polyvinylpyrrolidone, with it understood that the strands can be dried partially or totally or not at all before the needle bonding. Such oiling was the object of international patent application PCT/FR2007/050968 of March 20, 2007.

The fibrous reinforcing structure can be a mat with continuous strands bound by needle bonding (and without chemical binder) as described in WO2005/054559. The fibrous reinforcing structure can therefore be bound chemically or mechanically before being associated with the thickening material by needle bonding. It is however possible for it not to be bound, the particular needle bonding taking place in the context of the present invention then providing all the binding necessary for the complex, that between its different layers and those of each of its layers considered individually. If the fibrous reinforcing structure is not pre-bound before association with the layer of thickening material, it is possible, for example, to proceed in this way in order to produce the complex: one starts with the chosen thickening material already manufactured, which is run horizontally on a belt and continuous strands are projected onto it by unwinding from spools thanks to an arm performing a rocking movement across the belt that is running by. For more details on this projecting technique, one can refer in particular to WO02084005 or to WO2005054559. Instead of unwinding continuous strands from spools, it is also possible to manufacture a strand continuously under a die, to oil it and project it directly, immediately after extrusion, onto the belt running by. Thus, the invention also relates to the process according to which the sheet is produced continuously, the glass strand being fiber- formed continuously and then incorporated in said sheet continuously, without intermediate storage of the glass strand (in spool form, for example). In such a continuous process, the thickening material is generally pre -manufactured, wound for storage and unwound for incorporation into the continuously formed sheet. The thickening material

can also be stacked in slabs and unstacked for incorporation into the continuously formed sheet.

The sheet thus formed and containing the thickening material covered with a layer of continuous strands is then sent to the needle bonding device, which proceeds to bind the complex. Generally, the complex has a layer of fibrous reinforcing structure on either side of the thickening material. In the example just given, it is then sufficient to project continuous strands on the belt before depositing the layer of thickening material and then the second layer of continuous strands by projecting.

The needle bonding is always done on the side of a layer of fibrous reinforcing structure so that the needles carry strands of the fibrous reinforcing structure across the layer of thickening material. The complex can consist of a single layer of fibrous structure and of a single layer of thickening material, in which case the needle bonding is done on the side of the layer of fibrous structure in order to carry its fibers inside the thickening material. A layer of fibrous reinforcing structure can also be positioned and needle bonded on each side of the thickening material. For the case in which the complex has two layers of fibrous reinforcing structure placed on either side of the thickening material, two simultaneous or successive needle bonding operations can take place from both sides of the complex. Furthermore, a layer of fibrous structure can include a number of stacked sub-layers of fibrous structure. For example, a layer of fibrous structure on one side of the thickening material can contain a fabric or multiaxial sub-layer in direct contact with the thickening material and a sub-layer of continuous strands toward the exterior of the complex. The fabric or multiaxial sub-layer is then attached to the thickening material by the continuous strands coming from the sub-layer of continuous strands passing through it that are needle bonded into the thickening material. It is not excluded in the context of the present invention for the needles of a first needle bonding device to first pass through a first layer of thickening material as long as 1) under this first layer of thickening material is first a layer of fibrous structure and then again below that a second layer of thickening material so that fibers of the fibrous structure are carried inside the second layer of thickening material, and 2) a second needle bonding device is placed on the side of the second layer of thickening material and causes fibers of the fibrous structure to go inside the first layer of thickening material.

According to this variant, there is indeed needle bonding of the second layer of thickening material "on the side of the fibrous reinforcing structure" by means of the first needle bonding device, and there is needle bonding of the first layer of thickening material "on the side of the fibrous reinforcing structure" by means of the second needle bonding device.

The complex according to the invention can therefore have two layers of thickening material between which there is a layer of fibrous structure, two needle bonding devices placed on either side of the assembly of the different juxtaposed layers having bound the whole. The impregnation resin for the production of the composite material can be of the thermoplastic type but is generally of the heat hardening type (polyester, vinylester or epoxy).

Figure 1 depicts a complex according to the invention that has layer 1 of continuous strands, layer 2 of thickening material, and layer 3 of continuous strands identical to layer 1. A needle bonding operation has been carried out on the side of layer 1 by barbed needles, the needles moving in the direction of the sheet at essentially the same speed as the sheet when they pass through it, with an impact density of 1 to 25 impacts per cm 2 . This needle bonding brought about the formation of loops 4 of strands coming from layer 1 and completely passing through layers 1 and 2 and partially or completely through layer 3.

BREIF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 2 very diagrammatically depicts the principle of the needle bonding thanks to which the needles accompany the complex when they penetrate it. Complex 5 moves forward under board 6 provided with needles 7 with barbs oriented towards their support, the so-called needle board (the orientation of the barbs could have been the reverse), said board being given a movement with two components, one horizontal CH and the other vertical CV, thanks to a system of connecting rods turning around fixed point 8. The dimensions of these different elements of the machine are determined so that the horizontal component CH is essentially identical to the speed of the complex VM when the needles are in the complex. The depiction of Figure 2 is very diagrammatic, and in comparison with the simple circular movement suggested by Figure 2, even if it is satisfactory, an elliptical movement is preferred (the major axis of the ellipse being

vertical and the minor axis of the ellipse being horizontal), enabling the horizontal component to better follow the speed of the complex that is generally constant.

Figure 3 depicts a complex needle bonded according to the invention for an application of the truck wall or boat floor type. This complex associates two layers 9 and 10 of continuous glass strands and layer 11 of polyurethane foam with closed porosity. In this case, taking into account the great thickness of the foam layer, needle bonding from both sides of the complex was carried out (it is clear that needle bonding could have been done passing completely through the foam). Loops 12 of strands coming from the layers of continuous strands have thus been carried into a certain thickness of the foam, on both sides of this foam layer. This complex is intended for impregnation with resin, particularly a heat hardening resin. Tenons of heat hardening resin, connected to the surface skins made of composite reinforced by fibrous reinforcing structures 9 and 10, then form in the needle holes, particularly at the site of formation of the loops of strands inside the foam.