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Spartanburg, South Carolina, is home to one of the largest privately
owned chemical and textile research establishments in the world, Milliken
& Company. The firm's innovative research that combines textiles and
chemistry has now produced a thermoplastic composite called Tegris that
is cheap, recyclable and tough. These properties make Tegris an attractive
alternative to (or composite partner for) carbon fiber, and it's already
proving to have wide ranging applications in the automotive, military and
sporting industries.

Tough, cheap and 100 percent recyclable

With increasing demand for lighter and more fuel efficient vehicles using
more environmentally-sustainable products, newer polypropylene-based
products lay claim to being both green and cheap. Recent developments
in additive and resin technologies have improved the performance, ease
of production and range of applications for polymers such as
polypropylene, particularly Tegris and a rival product named Pure from
Dutch textiles manufacturer The Royal Lankhorst Euronete Group.
By collaborating with its clients, Milliken has been able to leverage its new
technologies in interesting ways. One example is a carbon
fiber/Tegris/carbon fiber sandwich that has equal stiffness to a carbon
fiber-only structure, yet is 18 percent lighter, more damage tolerant and
requires twice the energy to break. Another is an
aluminum/Tegris/aluminum sandwich construction, which takes three
times the energy to break.

The production process

Tegris starts out as a series of polypropylene (PP) films that form a tape
yarn within a polymer matrix - for composite processing - before being
woven into fabric. This is then pressed under heat and pressure to form a
single piece approximately 0.005 inch (0.13 mm) that weighs just 0.02
lbs/sq.ft (0.11 kg/sq.m).
Sheet and plate is typically available in 0.125 inch, 0.250 inch and 0.500
inch thick sizes, so multiple layers are added depending on the required
thickness. The NASCAR Aero splitters made from the material are typically
100 layers thick (1/2 inch or 12mm).
The outer layers are melted together to perform a similar function to that
of resin in fiberglass products. From here, the sheet can be formed into a

variety of shapes using heat and pressure, depending on the mold. The
end result contains no fragment-producing glass, has high impact
resistance and retains strength from around 180 degrees F down to -40F,
as well as being easier on the production molds.
To put this into perspective, whilst having similar properties to carbon
fiber, (the company claims 70 percent of the strength) Tegris won't shatter
on impact, is approximately a tenth the cost, and is fully recyclable.

Tegris is already seeing use as protective armor by the U.S. military in its
vehicles, primarily against IEDs. There's also such diverse applications as
small watercraft, helmets, outdoor furniture and baggage.
Tumi, a high end luggage manufacturer which holds Tumi the exclusive
rights for Tegris in the travel goods market, is already using the material in
its new Tegra-Lite collection. This includes a range of packing cases and
smaller carry-on baggage that claim enhanced durability, impact
resistance and less weight. All very desirable attributes for baggage when
Another outfit that appreciates the lightness and toughness of the material is
Riddell, makers of body armor for football players. Its Lightspeed Shoulder Pads
are claimed to be the lightest in the business without compromising protection.
In the automotive racing world, as mentioned, Tegris is being used in NASCAR
racing for Aero splitters, as well as some door panels .Powerstream
Industries has further developed the process to suit the equally harsh road racing
environment, using CNC-machined pockets in a sheet of Tegris which is inlayed
with high density foam and covered with a cap layer of Tegris that is then heat
formed back into one piece, achieving a high level of rigidity.

"Much of our development is to create advanced duplex composite panels

to compete against carbon fiber," says Powerstream's Chris Meurett. "But
with approximately 50 times the impact resistance."
Tegris can also be glued or threaded to accept mechanical fasteners. "We
have done extensive testing with various adhesives designed for
polypropylene and have found the bond unsatisfactory for our use,"
Meurett adds. "The very best way to bond Tegris to Tegris is through a
consolidation process using heat and pressure on a platen press which
when heated to the correct temperature essentially turn 2 pieces into 1."

Source: Milliken and Co..