WICKERT pivots to all-around composites manufacturing provider
June 8, 2021.
Wickert Maschinenbau, the parent company of WICKERT hydraulic presses North America is changing from a manufacturer of customized presses to an all-round provider for composite manufacturing. The family-run company is thus reacting to the increasing demand for supplementary services revolving around the planning and development of press systems.
These services range from component development, to concept creation, feasibility studies and through to overall planning and general contracting for complete production lines including turnkey solutions. In this way, Wickert wants to offer its customers highly productive composite processing from a single source.
The composite specialist expects to see new stimulus for growth from the increasing level of automation in production and the increased desire for greater system flexibility with the use of additional injection units. Furthermore, the company is anticipating a future rise in thermoplastic processing and has also identified potential in the use of natural fibers and natural resins. Wickert believes it is well positioned to serve all four trends.
Organo sheets are turned into 3D components at the research institute “Neue Materialien Bayreuth” (NMB). Here you see a composite press for high-performance thermoplastics with processing temperatures of up to 450 °C. Thanks to their modular structure, hydraulic composite presses from Wickert can be customized to meet virtually all customer-specific requirements.
Wickert integrates all-round composite manufacturing
As Steve Büchner, Sales and Project Manager at Wickert explains, assistance is important even in the early phase of component development and in the implementation of feasibility studies, due to the fact that engineering resources are sometimes scarce for composite manufacturers: “Thanks to our experience in manufacturing, we are able to provide valuable advice in these early stages.” In this regard, the machine manufacturer from Germany’s Palatinate region benefits from its vast experience with the integration of customized presses in composite production lines.
Wickert is now putting this know-how to good use by independently offering all-in-one systems, Büchner explains: “We know which supplementary components meet our high quality standards and how we can integrate these in perfect harmony.” This insight means that the company is also able to offer turnkey solutions to interested parties. And this can all be done without having to expand the company’s own product range.
Their own department designs concepts for automation and customized solutions
Wickert’s own development department provides assistance in the planning of entire systems and designs individual concepts for automation and customized solutions. This allows the systems to be implemented with fully automated production. “We are also able to link up presses and peripheral components with other parts of the system and the primary process control systems in line with a Smart Factory”, Büchner explains.
Roof linings for passenger cars are produced on Wickert presses like this WKP 1500 S, in some cases also using composites which include natural-fiber-reinforced plastics (NFRP)
Increased flexibility for composite presses through the use of additional modules
In addition, Wickert has seen an increased desire among customers to use composite presses for a number of diverse applications. Even today, with relatively little effort, the presses can be extended by additional modules for injection processes such as RTM (Resin Transfer Molding) and RIM (Reaction Injection Molding) as well as polyurethane injection units.
Thermoplastic composites for mass production
Wickert also sees opportunities for growth from the increasing interest in the use of thermoplastic matrix systems. The company believes that the thermoplastic forming of organo sheets in particular, is on the rise. This is because high-precision, mass-produced parts can be manufactured in stable, fully automated processes – and with significantly shorter cycle times than with thermosetting.
Natural fibers have potential
In the short term, the composite specialists also see growth potential in the market for natural-fiber-reinforced plastics (NFRP) using fibers such as flax, hemp, jute, sisal and kenaf as well as natural resins with vegetable oil basis. In addition to the principle of unlimited availability, important advantages include their excellent compostability in comparison to glass or carbon fibers as well as stable prices. However, Büchner believes the success of NFRPs will depend on broad acceptance among customers. The systems for production already exist, as natural materials can already be processed on Wickert presses.