Replacing brass with sustainable plastics

Metal replacment case
Metal replacement case

Thermoplastic replaces brass in attachments for forklift trucks

Thermoplastics are a substitute for brass and make it easier to fit forklift truck attachments manufactured by KAUP GmbH & Co. KG. Thermoplastics and fibre-reinforced plastics are proving to be a viable alternative to conventional materials such as brass. Together with KAUP GmbH & Co. KG (KAUP), a leading manufacturer of forklift truck attachments, Technoform launched a pilot test in November 2023. The objective was to use plastic profiles as a substitute for brass profiles in certain categories of forklift truck attachment. The plastic profiles were to exhibit the same non-friction properties, load-bearing capacity and abrasion resistance as the metal profiles previously used. 

“We had been looking for a substitute for brass profiles in the higher tonnages of certain attachment types for some time,” says Maik Krüger from KAUP’s central purchasing department. “Technoform advised us on the choice of materials, and developed the profile.” 

The test 

The glass fibre-reinforced plastic profile used fulfilled the same function as the previous brass profile, and passed the three-month endurance test. The plastic profile underwent around 10,000 cycles with and without lubricant in the sliding test. This test was carried out under a range of loads. In the friction test, the thermoplastic material (PA 66 GF30) yielded the best results. It also delivers further decisive benefits in daily use and service.

The benefit

"The plastic profile results in less pressure being required for displacement of the moving parts on the KAUP forklift truck attachment. This substantially reduces the energy consumed,” says Sebastian Groh, design engineer at KAUP. 

“This significantly reduces the cost for our customers,” he says. “Furthermore, forklift truck attachments with a plastic profile can also be used in food applications, where lubrication-free systems are standard.” 

“Even though the cost aspect is main reason for using plastic rather than brass overall, the issue of sustainability is nevertheless becoming increasingly important.” Michel Lauterbach, Technoform Product Engineer

Kaup fork lift
Metal replacement project
Kaup metal replacment case

The next step: working together towards greater sustainability

Thermoplastics constitute an environmentally responsible alternative to brass in the manufacturing process. The production of thermoplastics generally has a lower environmental impact, as less energy is required for manufacture. In addition, many types of thermoplastics are recyclable and have a lower GWP than brass. 

“We recommend the use of recycled plastic as the next step, in order to optimise the global warming potential, or GWP. This is a value used to calculate a material’s CO2 footprint. The use of recycled plastic reduces the GWP by a factor of five,” says Michel Lauterbach. 

A brass profile has a GWP value of 20.9 kg CO2eq per metre of profile. By contrast, the GWP of thermoplastics is 4.3 CO2eq per metre of profile. By contrast, the GWP of thermoplastics is 4.3 CO2eq per metre of profile. This is not accompanied by any loss of functionality or increases in cost. 

“We see potential here to minimise our ecological footprint significantly, , and to implement the change to a new material cost-effectively and with no impact on functionality,” explains Sebastian Groh for KAUP.


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