Commissioned in 2022, Kautex’s compression molding line in Pinghu is a 5,500-ton compression molder capable of handling a variety of fiber-reinforced plastics. This compression molder is the second purchased by Kautex, the first of which resides in Bonn, Germany, at the company’s global headquarters. It was from there that German engineers and technicians worked remotely (due to Covid-19 travel restrictions) with the team in China to complete the initial setup and commissioning of the Pinghu machine and assisted with the initial trials and development activities.
“Over time, we have established a team of experts in Pinghu,” said Ulf Recht, senior manager, manufacturing processes, in Bonn. “Even though restrictions have lifted in China and we are now able to travel, we still rely heavily on the systems, processes and partnership that bought us great success during the pandemic. Today, we have a very good and valuable relationship and learn from each other. It’s been a terrific collaboration.”
The machine was purchased to complete the sampling and development activities of several local customers, but it has served to increase Kautex’s capability and expertise in compression molding processes. Kautex also produced its own housing (nicknamed Project Horizon) for two of its three demonstrator vehicles now on the road in Germany and the United States.
"Since composite battery housings are a relatively new product, we decided years ago to develop production-ready designs and manufacturing concepts at Kautex” states Guido Schäfer, manager, product development. “In order to prove to our customers we could simulate and test housings that would pass ECE/R100 or GB38031 standards and manufacture parts that were “road-worthy,” we’ve purchased three vehicles and retrofitted their existing housings with Pentatonic components. The housings for the first two demonstrators were manufactured at our facility in Bonn and at the facility of a local compression molding partner. The third was manufactured at our facility in Pinghu.”
As with its fuel tank business, Kautex is prepared to install such production lines in all regions worldwide, based on customer demand.
Project Horizon is manufactured in a one-shot process, with some final assembly and machining steps completed in Bonn (these will later be transferred to the Pinghu line as well). The system has already successfully passed internationally recognized standards for shock, crush and external fire as determined by the ECE R100 and the GB30831. By installing Horizon in test vehicles, the company can also demonstrate the long-term durability of its products.
But Kautex hasn’t stopped learning – and perfecting its methodology for its customers. Currently, the team is conducting various samplings and testing procedures for numerous customers in China and across the globe. But with more than a year of experience under its belt, the team is well-versed in the process and is deepening its understanding and capabilities. As a result, the team in Pinghu is well-versed in the compression molding process and the associated maintenance requirements. The team also helps to identify the key process parameters that need to be monitored to ensure consistent, high-quality parts.