Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar.

High-impact composite from Lamilux India assures better performance.

Supplying fibre-reinforced composites to the CV industry – particularly to bus and reefer truck body builders, Lamilux India has been striving to stay ahead of the curve. A recent addition to the company’s Indian product portfolio – Lamilux High Impact – bears testimony to this effort. “Over the last three years engineers at Lamilux have been working towards improving the impact resistance of fibre glass. It was during this endeavour, using a special resin, did they develop a material which absorbs an impact on the spot and prevents it from transferring to the entire vehicle body,” said Dr. Cosima Klinger-Paul, Managing Director, Lamilux India.

The Lamilux High Impact, is a fibre reinforced composite (with a surface appearance of polished metal facings) which ensures low thermal conductivity and elastic deformability of thermoplastic materials. With a high resistance to UV, weathering and corrosion, it is rigid, stable and has a low specific mass per unit area of thermosetting polymers. The High Impact FRP is also claimed to compensate for the disadvantages of other materials like the susceptibility of metals to corrosion and the poor paint-ability of thermoplastics.

Available in sheets or coils, the High- Impact FRP comes in thickness of 0.8 mm to 1.6 mm, and in widths up to 3.2 m; in smooth, corona treated or sanded reverse surfaces. Made with the combined strength of materials like metals, thermoplastics and duroplastics, it is also claimed to offer superior tensile, flexural strength and e-moduli. Its significant glass content (48 per cent), combined with resin lends it a unique texture. “In fact the texture of the High-Impact material contributes towards its impact resistance properties. It is the resin and additives wherein the formula lies,” averred Dr. Klinger-Paul. Presently, the material finds use in the interiors of reefer truck bodies and bus bodies. “While constructing a reefer truck superstructure or a bus body, using the right Fibre Reinforced plastic (FRP) or Glass Reinforced plastic (GRP) composite panels determines its success. Much like the Indian relish Chutney – only the right ingredients can ensure a flavourful outcome,” said Dr. Klinger-Paul. Incidentally, a chunk of Lamilux composites – 80 per cent are consumed by the reefer truck industry; the bus and ambulance body builders consume a five per cent share each, and the rest goes to the infrastructure sector. Stressing on a trend to replace metal with FRP or GRP, Dr. Klinger-Paul stated that the market size for reefer trucks is 10,000 units. The estimated rate of growth is 20 per cent per annum.

When Lamilux entered the Indian market seven years ago, metal was a key component used in the construction of a reefer truck superstructure. The company took on the onus of spreading awareness and educating the market about the use of composite materials as an alternative to steel for side walls, roof and floor construction of truck, bus and other special application vehicle bodies. “The scope to reduce weight lies with the superstructure, and this is bringing about an awareness for the use of FRP or GRP material. The market is exploding and with it we see the trust for such materials growing,” mentioned Dr. Klinger-Paul. She explained that the decision to use metal in the construction of the superstructure, where FRP or GRP composite materials are more suitable, is mainly dictated by cost. It however, takes only five to six months to recover the extra cost added Dr. Klinger-Paul, owing to fuel saving. She opined that the material also saves on air-conditioning, temperature control, and extends the tyre life.

Riding on the strong support of its parent company, the High-Impact composite material is expected to contribute a good deal to the company’s growth in India. A EUR 192 million company, Lamilux (Germany) supplies 15 million sq. m. worth of composite material every year. Over 90 per cent of the company’s turnover is from exports. USA is the biggest market and over 75 per cent of its material finds use in the building of caravans over there. Delivery vans also employ FRP or GRP panels in their construction. This trend also applies to India. Working on restructuring the Indian operations, and with a view to offer better support to the clients, Dr. Klinger-Paul explained, “We have a flexible and effective network. Our technology team travels from Germany to support our clients.” Lamilux India conducts seminars to ensure a sound build, as quite often the inordinate use of supporting materials and chemicals like glues can cause issues. This makes it essential that clients are trained to build bodies in a right way. “We train clients, and work closely with glue manufacturers to have good bonding,” concluded Dr. Klinger-Paul.

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