The Journal of Sandwich Structures & Materials vol:11 issue:2-3 pages:151-178
A continuous process of thermoplastic honeycomb core, ThermHex, has been patented and is under development at K. U. Leuven. This new concept of thermoplastic honeycomb provides more affordable choices for structural applications than the previous expensive honeycombs thanks to the automated and continuous processing technology. The ThermHex process starts from one continuous thermoplastic sheet and consists of three main processing steps: thermoforming of half-hexagonal webs, folding of webs to honeycomb geometry, and internal fusion bonding. In this article, the polymeric material behavior during the thermoforming step is investigated in detail. First the material is characterized by a series of polymer tests to obtain basic data for the next numerical calculation. Then a 1D viscoelastic model and a 2D finite element (FE) model are used to analyze the polymer behavior during the thermoforming step, to acquire the correct understanding and hence to minimize the effect of the anelastic strain recovery (ASR) during the production. It is found that the material stress relaxation is one of the key features of the final process quality.