Thermoplastic Overmolding onto Injection-Molded
and In Situ Polymerization-Based Polyamides
Róbert Boros, Praveen Kannan Rajamani and József Gábor Kovács *
Department of Polymer Engineering, Budapest University of Technology and Economics,
1111 Budapest, Hungary; firstname.lastname@example.org (R.B.); email@example.com (P.K.R.)
Received: 7 October 2018; Accepted: 29 October 2018; Published: 30 October 2018
We investigated products manufactured by in situ polymerization, which were reinforced
with overmolded ribs. We developed our own mold and prototype product for the project. We used
three different materials as preform: a material with a magnesium catalyst, manufactured by in
situ polymerization, a Brüggemann AP-NYLON-based in situ polymerization material and an
injection-molded PA6 (Durethan B30S, Lanxess GmbH) material. The ribs were formed from the same
PA6 material (Durethan B30S, Lanxess GmbH). We examined the effect of the different technological
parameters through the pull-off of the overmolded ribs. We measured the effect of melt temperature,
holding pressure and holding time, and mold temperature. Considering the individual preforms,
we pointed out that monomer migration and binding strength are related, which we concluded from
the temperature-dependent mass loss of the materials, measured by thermogravimetric analysis
(TGA). Finally, we designed a mold suitable for manufacturing overmolded parts. We designed
and built pressure and temperature sensors into the mold to examine and analyze pressures and
temperatures around the welding zone of the materials.
Keywords: overmolding; in situ polymerization; polyamide
The importance of polyamides cannot be questioned as many automotive parts are made from
them, among others. Their mechanical properties, such as long-term properties, are increasingly
]. Also, special technologies are developed which help shape the ﬁnal parts.
Among others, overmolding, special joining techniques [
] and also the development of some special
electrical or thermal properties  could play a key role in their future development.
Injection molding—today’s most widely used plastic forming technology—is gaining popularity
fast in the automotive industry, too. In addition to conventional technologies, increasingly
special technologies are gaining ground in the manufacturing of automotive parts, including
gas- and water-assisted injection molding, bright surface molding and also reactive technologies.
Reactive injection molding (RIM) and resin transfer molding (RTM), however, cannot be integrated
into car factory assembly lines due to their considerably longer cycle times. Despite this, more and
more and larger and larger parts are manufactured with these technologies, for example, the whole
body of the BMW i3, which is produced with a cycle time of a few minutes [
]. The technology can
produce a functional part as a whole composite structure, but recycling is a problem because these
technologies produce cross-linked structures. For this reason, much research has been done in the past
few years into the practical application of in situ polymerization. The technology produces polyamide
structures of a thermoplastic matrix [
]. The advantage of the technology is that the mold is ﬁlled with
a low-viscosity oligomer, which can also impregnate complex textile systems, and then polymerization
also takes place in the mold .
Materials 2018,11, 2140; doi:10.3390/ma11112140 www.mdpi.com/journal/materials
Materials 2018,11, 2140 2 of 9
This technology is known as thermoplastic-resin transfer molding (T-RTM), which combines low
viscosity to form the complex reinforcement-based structures and the recyclability of thermoplastics.
The low-viscosity reactive caprolactam system used in the T-RTM technology completely wets the
reinforcement, then polymerizes in the temperature-controlled mold in a few minutes, creating the
polyamide 6 polymer. This technology makes it possible to manufacture composite parts at low
injection pressure, and with cycle times as short as 1–2 min. The ﬁrst step of manufacturing is cutting
the required geometry from the reinforcement. The layers are placed on top of each other with a binder
and preformed in a press. The type of binder has to be chosen so that it does not impair the adhesion
between the ﬁbers and the matrix. The preformed parts are cut around their contour and placed in the
T-RTM mold. The preheated material reaches the heated mold through a mixing head (Figure 1).
Scheme of the T-RTM process (A—nitrogen source; B—dosing unit; C—cold trap; D—vacuum
pump; E—dynamic mixing head; F—mold carrier; G—metal mold; H—textile preform; I—tank with
ε-caprolactam + initiator; K—tank with ε-caprolactam + activator .
Some of the ﬁrst industrial parts for the T-RTM technology were produced by injection molding
machine developers, such as KraussMaffei [
] and Engel [
]. KraussMaffei produced some
demonstration parts for the automotive industry, such as a hybrid ﬁber-reinforced car roof cover
frame and a B-pillar [
]. They reached 58 to 70 percent ﬁber content with a cycle time of 2 to 5 min.
This demonstration project also involved a compression phase in the process, when the ﬁlling phase
was ﬁnished. With this uniform holding phase, their goal was to reduce shrinkage and void content,
and also to improve surface quality. Wakeman et al. [
] also used the advantage of this compression
method, where a small gap was maintained in the mold to provide space for injecting extra melt
The edge of products produced by T-RTM have to be either cut off or molded around, due to the
characteristics of the technology. The products are typically ﬂat, with a simple geometry, and their
required rigidity can be achieved by overmolding ribs on them. As a result, overmolding will be
especially important as a supplementary technology of T-RTM. The thermoplastic-based continuous
ﬁber-reinforced preforms and overmolding on them are spreading because of the low mass of the
hybrid structure, short cycle times, and because the process can be automated very well and recycled
materials can be used. Interfacial adhesion is determined by the temperature of the welding zone,
the pressure in the mold cavity, and the intensity of the cooling of the welding zone [11–13].
Multi-component hybrid thermoplastic parts can have overmolded parts all over the product or
overmolded parts, for example ribs, in just some parts. To examine the mechanical properties of the
two different parts, Joppich et al. [
] developed two different injection molds. The specimens that
they produced were suitable for pure tensile, pure shear and peeling tests. They performed the tensile
and peeling tests using a clamping system developed by Weidenmann et al. [
]. The results of the
tensile tests had high standard deviation; they explained this by claiming that local defects greatly
inﬂuence the measurement results, and also when the samples were prepared, some elements may
Materials 2018,11, 2140 3 of 9
have been weakened during cutting, and perhaps in the relatively small welding areas there may
have been differences in the morphology of the preform. They claimed that grouping the samples
according to the ﬂow path would have decreased the standard deviation of the measurement results,
but later—as opposed to this—they pointed out that they could not differentiate the samples right after
the gate or at the end of the ﬂow. The variance of the pure shear test was far lower, which indicates
good reproducibility, and suggests that due to the larger connecting surface, local defects affect the
shear strength of the structure to a lesser extent. They performed the peeling test of the overmolded
rib according to the DIN EN 6033 standard. The results had little standard deviation, which shows
good reproducibility, and proves that the method can be used in the testing of overmolding.
Kisslinger et al. [
] designed an injection mold which had an insert that could be moved when
the mold was closed, and had it manufactured. With this mold, they produced specimens with which
they examined the bonding strength between various materials. After the ﬁrst component was injected
and solidiﬁed, the inserts were pulled back while the mold was still closed, and in the space thus
freed up, the second component was injected, whose melt front reached the cooled surface of the ﬁrst
component. The authors claimed that the interphase of overmolded parts can be characterized by
Computed Tomography (CT) and Raman spectroscopy effectively, which they performed, but they
came to their conclusions after testing only one pair of materials with each method without trying
Giusti and Lucchetta [
] worked out a method to determine the bonding strength between the
components of in-mold forming (IMF) hybrid composites. The matrix of the specimen they made
for the tensile tests was PA6 and its preform was a composite plate with fabric as reinforcement.
The overmolded component was 50% long ﬁber PA66. However, their preform was not large enough.
They examined seven specimens with each setting at a crosshead speed of 50 mm/min, but before the
test, they discarded visibly delaminated specimens, which was a mistake because they did not explain
the cause of the defect and did not specify how many defective specimens they had at each setting.
They showed with a one-way analysis of variance that both melt temperature and injection rate have
a considerable effect on welding strength.
2. Materials and Methods
Our goal was to analyze the overmolding of ribs on the PA6 preforms made by in situ
polymerization. For this, we designed our own product geometry (Figure 2), in which a rib of
a basic area of 30 mm
5 mm and a height of 15 mm with a side draft of 2
was overmolded on
a 50 mm
30 mm, 2 mm thick base plate. We designed a manually operated prototype aluminum
mold for the task (Figure 2) in which the rib was formed with a direct sprue.
The mold and the part: left—molding (base plate overmolded with a rib through the gate),
right—the 3-plate-like aluminum prototype mold (half transparent).
We examined preforms of three different materials to obtain information about the effect of the
material and the manufacturing technology of the preform on the bond strength of the rib. The ﬁrst
preform was a large sheet of 2 mm thickness, made by magnesium catalyst-based in situ polymerization
Materials 2018,11, 2140 4 of 9
(IS-A). The second material was the Brüggemann AP-NYLON-based (Versmold, Germany) in situ
polymerization plate where 3% of Brüggemann Brüggolen C10 was used as catalyst and 3% of
Brüggemann Brüggolen C20P was used as activator (IS-B). The third preform was an injection-molded
PA6 (Durethan B30S, Lanxess GmbH, Cologne, Germany) plate of 80 mm
80 mm and its thickness
was also 2 mm (IM).
The material of the overmolded ribs was also PA6 (Durethan B30S, Lanxess GmbH).
The granules—and later on the pre-plates as well—were ﬁrst dried in a Heraeus UT20 hot-air dryer
(Heraeus Holding GmbH, Hanau, Germany) at 80
C for 6 h. The pellets were injection-molded with
an Arburg Allrounder 370S 700-250 injection molding machine (Lossburg, Germany) equipped with
a 30 mm diameter, L/D = 25 screw.
The tensile tests were performed on a Zwick Z005 universal testing machine (Zwick Roell AG,
Ulm, Germany) equipped with a special grip that we designed (Figure 3) to test the debonding force of
the ribs. All tests were executed at room temperature and at a relative humidity of 50%. Five specimens
were tested for each measurement and a 5 mm/min travel speed was used for the experiments.
Figure 3. The special grip for the rib pull-off tests.
3. Results and Discussion
For overmolding, the most important parameters are pressure (ﬁlling pressure too, but mainly
holding pressure) which holds the plate and the rib together, the duration of the pressure (holding time)
and also melt temperature and the preheating temperature of the plate. Based on Differential Scanning
Calorimetry measurements (ISO 11357-3:2018), the melting temperatures of the different types of PA6
C, thus the surface temperature of the pre-plate must reach its melting temperature to have
a welding effect. The suggested melt temperature range for injection molding varies from 260
C, therefore the two limits were tested. The suggested mold temperature range varies from 80
C, but the mold temperature for the prototype mold cannot be controlled precisely, thus it was
controlled externally between the cycles, then the temperature was measured with a thermal imaging
camera right after the cycle. Three different mold temperatures were used; the low mold temperature
was about 30
C, the medium temperature was 50
C, while the high temperature was
70 ±10 ◦C.
With the ﬁrst tests the effect of the melt temperature of the injected material was evaluated.
The base plates were the commercially available plates produced by in situ polymerization. The mold
was cold; all the plates were kept cold for the measurements and prior to injection molding, their surface
was cleaned with acetone. As expected, the pull-off force increased with melt temperature (Figure 4).
Materials 2018,11, 2140 5 of 9
Figure 4. The pull-off force with the low and the high melt temperature.
The holding pressure was set to 200 bar and 400 bar for two series of tests, while holding time
was set to 15 s. Contrary to expectations, increasing holding pressure and holding time decreased
the bonding strength between the plate and the rib (Figure 5). Welding only occurred in the corners,
while the center of the plates only had adhesion.
Figure 5. The pull-off force as a function of holding time.
We performed scanning electron microscopy tests and found two different surfaces where the
base plate and the rib connected. One type was where the overmolded material did not melt the
base plate (Figure 6a), while in the other case the overmolded rib melted the base plate (Figure 6b).
Figure 6a shows an area at the edge of the middle of the rib. The whitish part is the contour of the edge
of the rib, the part above it is the part connected to the rib, while the part below it was covered by the
mold and did not come into contact with the melt. These two parts are identical, which proves that in
these areas connected to the rib the base plate did not melt and so no cohesion occurred between them.
In the case of the other type (Figure 6b) there is a tough break area, which proves that the base plate
melted, and cohesion occurred between the two components. In the individual tests, the proportion of
these two areas, that is, the melted and non-melted areas, changed.
Scanning electron microscopy tests (100
) non-welded; (
) welded areas.
Based on these results, for the comparison of the materials, the high melt temperature and
the low holding pressure with a short holding time were used. Three different base plates were
Materials 2018,11, 2140 6 of 9
tested; the reference plate was the commercially available plate produced by in situ polymerization,
while the two others were the injection-molded plate and the in situ polymerization-based plate that
we produced. As can be seen, the best results were achieved with the in situ polymerization-based
plates, while the two others showed greatly inferior results (Figure 7).
The pull-off force for the three different plates (IM—injection-molded plates;
IS-A—magnesium catalyst-based in situ polymerization plates; IS-B—Brüggemann AP-NYLON-based
in situ polymerization plates).
The results are in parallel with the residual monomer content of the given materials. It, however,
cannot be proved that this is the root course of the welding problems. We used thermogravimetric
analysis (TGA, Q500, TA Instruments, New Castle, DE, USA) to measure the monomer content of the
plates at 200
C and the lowest monomer content was found in the commercially available in situ
polymerization plate, which was 1.34%. The next was the injection-molded material, which had 1.49%
of monomer content, while the worst results came from the test version of the in situ polymerization
material, where the residual monomer content reached 1.82%.
As can be seen in Figure 7, the mechanical properties of the IS-B material
(Brüggemann AP-NYLON-based in situ polymerization plate with 3% catalyst and 3% activator) are
extremely weak. This phenomenon is a consequence of the degradation (depolymerization) of the
material over its melting temperature, as can be seen in Figure 8in the TGA results. Contrary to
the two consumer materials (IS-A, IM), the material we produced does not contain a stabilizer,
thus signiﬁcant degradation occurred over its melting temperature.
Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) curves for
the three different plates.
Although we used an aluminum prototype mold without a cooling system, the approximate
mold temperature was controlled externally between the cycles, then the temperature was measured
with a thermal imaging camera right after the cycle. The low mold temperature was about 20–40
the medium temperature was 40–60
C, while the high temperature was 60–80
C. With increasing
mold temperature, the possible monomer content of the surface of the plates increase, thus the pull-off
Materials 2018,11, 2140 7 of 9
forces decrease accordingly. Also, standard deviation decreases as mold temperature increases because
the possible monomer content on the surface more uniformly decreases the binding force (Figure 9).
The pull-off force as a function of mold temperature (commercially available in situ PA6 plate
(IS-A); holding pressure was 200 bar and holding time was 1 s).
To verify the results obtained in this paper, we designed a mold suitable for overmolding,
which can overmold a 70 mm
50 mm rib on an 80 mm
80 mm preform (Figure 10). The mold
was designed to incorporate two pressure sensors and three infrared (IR) temperature sensors for the
analysis of the welding environment. The temperature of the welding environment can be analyzed
with the help of the temperature sensors, both from the side of the preform and the side of the rib,
close to the actual surface of welding. Also, temperature control of the mold and the inserts were
designed so that the temperature of the preform could be controlled well and the temperature could
be set over 100 ◦C as well.
Injection mold for the overmolding investigation equipped with pressure and infrared
Our goal was to investigate the reinforcement of products manufactured by in situ polymerization
with injection-molded ribs. To this end, we developed a prototype product and mold which made it
possible to overmold on different preforms with different technological parameter settings. We used
three different materials for the plate preforms. The ﬁrst preform was from a material made by
in situ polymerization and with a magnesium catalyst. The second material was a Brüggemann
AP-NYLON-based in situ polymerization plate. The third preform was an injection-molded PA6
(Durethan B30S, Lanxess GmbH) plate.
Through the pull-off test of the overmolded ribs, we pointed out that in most cases,
most technological settings produce an effect opposite to what is expected. The only exception was
Materials 2018,11, 2140 8 of 9
melting temperature; increasing melt temperature improved binding strength between the rib and the
plate. On the other hand, increasing holding pressure and holding time impaired the quality of welding.
We assume that there is a connection between monomer migration and binding strength in the case of
the individual materials. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) showed that the most stable material is
the Polyamide (PA) made by in situ polymerization and with a magnesium catalyst—it showed the best
welding properties in the investigated range of technological parameters. Increasing mold temperature
also impaired the efﬁciency of binding, which is presumably also connected to the depolymerization
processes of the base material.
We designed an injection mold suitable for producing overmolded parts. We are going to
investigate the effect of injection molding parameters on the binding strength between the preform and
the overmolded part with the help of pressure and temperature sensors designed to be in the mold.
The research was conceived by J.G.K., R.B. and P.K.R. The methodology was planned by
J.G.K. and R.B. Injection molding was performed by R.B. and J.G.K. Experimental tests were performed by P.K.R.
and R.B. The manuscript was written by R.B. and P.K.R. with support from J.G.K.
The project is funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation (NKFIH) Fund, Project
title: “Production of polymer products by a short cycle time, automatized production technology for automotive
applications, with exceptional focus on the complexity and recyclability of the composite parts”; The application
ID number: NVKP_16-1-2016-0046. The developers are grateful for the support.
Conﬂicts of Interest: The authors declare no conﬂict of interest.
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