Venture Industries Inc. will debut in 2002 on a U.S. production application its new lightweight, high-strength Sandwiform material — a recyclable composite consisting of two thermoplastic skins reinforced with glass and polypropylene.

Venture currently supplies Sandwiform to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Renault SA and Volkswagen AG in Europe for load floor and spare tire cover applications. “This material has passed the load test, dimensioning test and impact test requirements” for automakers, says Frank Brandish, director of advanced composite systems development at Venture.

But Mr. Brandish won't say what automaker or vehicle will use Sandwiform in the U.S. next year. Its performance capabilities also include engine shields, trunk panels, backrests, skid plates and bumpers. A similar application will follow the introductory load floor component.

The Fraser, MI-based supplier says a Sandwiform cargo load floor is 50% lighter and can be produced twice as fast as its plywood counterpart. “The strength of Sandwiform lies in its simplicity,” Mr. Brandish says. “But the real advantage is its short lead time — four to eight weeks for a prototype — and its simple, inexpensive manufacturing process.”

Venture uses a thermo compression method that makes production a one-step process completed in 1 minute. Synchronized introduction to pressure changes and heat alters the “sandwich” makeup to a thermoplastic composite. The method generates high strength-to-weight and high stiffness-to-weight properties as well as a product that is extremely resistant to corrosion, temperature extremes and collisions.

Sandwiform ranges in thickness between 0.2 ins. (5 mm) to 1.18 ins. (30 mm), subject to the materials being used. “Sandwiform may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but we're confident it's a material you'll see used increasingly in various vehicle applications,” says Mr. Brandish.

Venture may end up eating its competitors' lunch with its “sandwich” design, which it also is using to make a material called Moldite with composites developer Moldite Inc. Unlike other composites, the Moldite core materials can be engineered to exceed the tensile strength of flanking long fiber materials, including carbon, glass or aramid fibers, the companies say. The use of Moldite can reduce weight by as much as 90% — compared to steel — and it is six times stiffer than steel. The thermal-set resin composite can be compression molded or pultruded, the companies claim. “You can use it to make floor pans and seat backs. You can produce hollow structures, too,” says Lloyd Hilligoss, director of advanced composite systems development at Venture. “This (Moldite) opens the door to all types of applications.