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7th November 2017, Renens

NTPT to work on high-performance micro speakers

North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT), a leader in lightweight prepreg materials, has recently begun a new collaboration with 4a manufacturing, a specialist in thin foams and micro sandwich materials for acoustic and lightweighting applications.

NTPT and 4a began to work together earlier this year when 4a sought to increase the stiffness of the aluminium sandwich skins in materials for high-performance micro speakers typically used in mobile devices such as lap tops, mobile phones, and tablet computers.

4a microspeaker. © North Thin Ply Technology

One of the main challenges for prepreg materials in these thin sandwich materials is maintaining uniformity of the carbon fibre layers, become an even more critical property as ply weights decrease, the company explains.

Natural partnership

“We were delighted when 4a manufacturing first approached us for help developing ultra-thin carbon fibre skins for their Cimera sandwich materials, it’s a natural partnership to bring together the world leaders in thin ply prepreg and thin core technologies,” commented James Austin, CEO, North Thin Ply Technology.

NTPT’s fibre spreading capability facilitates a highly uniform UD prepreg tapes with areal weights as low as 15gsm, and it was this thickness control, and expertise with ultra-high modulus fibres (>300GPa), that led to the development of a unique new Cimera micro sandwich using a 20gsm (0.02mm thickness) prepreg and a total thickness lower than 0.2 mm.

New state of the art product

For more than 10 years, 4a manufacturing has been producing tight tolerance hard foam sheets - under the Millifoam brand – down to a thickness of 0.2 mm and combining them with metal skins to form ultra-thin Cimera sandwich materials. 

Cimera sandwich material. © North Thin Ply Technology

4a materials are used to increase stiffness with no added weight, or to maintain stiffness whilst reducing weight and saving material across an extremely diverse range of markets from micro speakers in consumer electronics to ultra-light sports equipment.

“We were so pleased to find a company with such a strong expertise in producing UD tapes at very low weight and such a good fibre distribution. Without their quality, it would have been impossible to develop this new state of the art product,” said Domenico Foglio, Head of Sales, 4a manufacturing.

Solutions on offer

The two companies can offer customers flat panel carbon fibre Cimera micro sandwich laminates (direct from 4a manufacturing) or a materials package of NTPT thin ply prepregs and Millifoam cores for those wishing to mould their own ultra-thin 3D sandwich components. 

TPT preforms, stacks of unidirectional prepreg plies laid down by machine (ATL) at precisely the angles defined by NTPT engineers and the customers’ technical team, can also be used with 4a manufacturing cores to improve accuracy and reducing mould draping time for lightweight sandwich parts.

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