The compounding of short fibre reinforced thermoplastic composites
It is generally accepted that the mechanical properties of short fibre reinforced thermoplastics do not correspond with the high mechanical properties of fibres used to reinforce them. A study is made into the methods of compounding reinforcing fibres into thermoplastics to produce short fibre reinforced thermoplastics of enhanced properties. The initial method chosen for investigation is the twin screw extrusion compounding process. Variables such as fibre feeding arrangement and extrusion screw design are found to be factors influencing the properties of carbon and glass reinforced nylon 6,6. Use is made of computer programs to predict properties, assess compound quality and estimate fibre-matrix bond strength. Investigations indicate that the presence of reinforcing fibres with enhanced lengths does not result in the predicted property increases. The reasons for this shortfall are believed to lie in unfavourable fibre orientation in injection mouldings and the reduced strain to break of these materials. Short Kevlar reinforced thermoplastics are compounded and their mechanical properties assessed. The reasons for the poor mechanical properties for these materials are identified as a poor bond strength between fibre and matrix, the formation of points of weakness within the fibres by the compounding and moulding processes and the coiled arrangement of fibres present in injection mouldings. A method suitable for the routine assessment of fibre-matrix bond strength is used to examine combinations of fibre and thermoplastic matrix. A comparison is made of the values derived from this method with values calculated from stress-strain curves of injection mouldings. This allows an understanding of the nature of the fibre-matrix bond yielded by compounding and injection moulding steps. A description is given of a novel method designed to overcome the limitations of conventional compounding routes to produce long fibre reinforced injection moulding feedstock. Further work is necessary before this method is a feasible production technique.