TWI has developed a high productivity plastics joining process for welding large or complex assemblies in one operation.
The new process uses microwave energy and a microwave-sensitive consumable. Multiple joints can be welded simultaneously in around 10 seconds.
Access to joints for weld tooling is not required, giving designers more scope for developing component functionality and aesthetics.
The microwave sensitive consumable - compatible with the plastic being welded - is placed at the joint, between the parts being welded. Parts are held in contact using simple, nonmetallic tooling. Microwave energy is applied and the consumable melts to form a welded joint.
The process uses relatively simple technology and lends itself to automated, continuous operation for high volume production. A minimum of re-tooling is required when welding different configuration components.
Thermoplastics and glass or Kevlar reinforced thermoplastics can be microwave welded. Whether small batch, specialised component assembly or mass production, the new process should find application in a variety of manufacturing sectors.
Applications in the automotive industry are expected to include dashboards, body panels, load floors, bumpers and under-bonnet components such as inlet manifolds.
Microwave welding of plastics is a fast, single shot technique with significant potential for improving component design, increasing throughput and reducing costs.