Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


INSPUR Report Summary

Project ID: 711591

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INSPUR (In-Situ Polyurethane Resins)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The main scope of INSPUR project is to provide a reliable process methodology for the solvent-free polyurethane coating of textiles substrates at industrial scale.
The polyurethane coated textiles are widely used by different industries like fashion, upholstery and automotive and are the most relevant raw materials for the manufacturing of artificial leather made products. It is indeed estimated that the overall polyurethane market will worth about 2.04 Billion USD by the 2020 with a 6.8% of CAGR. Currently, most of the commercially viable polyurethanes coated textiles are made using solvent based processes. These processes involve the use of already polymerised polyurethanes dissolved in an organic solvent media that is spread on a transfer paper and then transferred to a textiles substrate – indirect coating process, or directly applied on a textile substrate – direct coating. The used solvents, like DMF – Dimethylformamide, are usually Volatile Organic Component – VOC, and are associated to many relevant environmental impacts and health issues.
The use of DMF, like other VOCs, determines a very large energy consumption due to the drying operation necessary after the coating process. Following the coating phase, the solvent must be dried, convoyed, condensed and transported to be recycled making the life cycle of PU leather unsustainable due to the massive energy consumption and road transportation impacts. The use VOCs like DMF has been also associated to severe health issues and is now being object of a recent ban by the ECHA – REACH.
The objective of the INSPUR project is exactly to provide a reliable, and industrially validated process, able to replace the use of DMF, or other organic solvent, in the PU coating processes.
This objective will be achieved by the technical implementation of INSPUR technology using a bi-component polyurethane manufacturing system that permits the avoidance of solvent use at any stage due to the direct component polymerisation into the final resin of polyurethane bi-components.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

IMA provided to setup and tune its industrial infrastructure to achieve the large-scale capability of manufacturing the INSPUR bi-components resins [Apol], (Biso). IMA had also developed and validated the necessary Quality Control – QC protocols to ensure the final product quality at industrial scale. This led the identification of the most relevant component variables that can affect the overall manufacturing process yield until the final product quality features – WP2.
In the WP2, IMA managed the complete assessment of the existing infrastructure thus identifying the necessary modifications and to permit the large-scale production of the INSPUR. At the same time, the most relevant production parameters have been analysed to setup the process operations permitting a digital control and parametrization of the process flows. IMA is now currently able to manufacture 450 tons / years of INSPUR bi-components resin.
Since the project begin, at M2, IMA also provided to adjust the bi-components formulations [Apol], (Biso) with the aim of improving the quality and technical like abrasion resistances, washing resistance, touch and colour aspect. IMA also spent additional efforts to develop different resin mixtures that will be suitable for applications in the industries of fashion, upholstery and technical and to fulfil a broader market demand – WP3.
At the same time, since the begin of WP4 - M2, VETEX has tuned the dosing for small scale INSPUR batches production. First VETEX started to implement an automatic dosing system, to permit the effective bi-component mixing, then provided to setup an advanced dosing unit also tuning the paper coating methodology according FIFO – First in and First out, logic. This study was aimed at improving the production quality and to avoid any occurrence of defects on large production batches.
After that, VETEX undertook the construction of a solvent free and dedicated coating line to allow the large-scale manufacturing with INSPUR. The new manufacturing line will be completely dedicated to solvent free manufacturing and it demonstrates actual the interest of textile industry in INSPUR technology for a medium-term development outlook.
An effective communication strategy has been also pursued by both partners to illustrate the potential benefit and impacts derived by a large-scale application of INSPUR technology. Project partners have although prioritised the attendance to specialised trade fairs in order to disseminate the achieved results to a specialised audience of industrial stakeholders and potential customers.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

INSPUR represents the first bi-component polyurethane mixture that is suitable for textile coating applications thus permitting the manufacturing of products like artificial leather without requiring a solvent based process.
The implementation of INSPUR technology permits a completely solvent-less, direct and indirect, transfer for the manufacturing of PU coated textile products. This technology will be relevant to produce artificial leather and for the manufacturing of upholstery, automotive accessories or other technical textile products. IMA foresees many advantages by the large-scale adoption of INSPUR technology. INSPUR is indeed expected to determine impacts for many different industrial users, in terms of market and sustainability. This will be further relevant for its market uptake, considering the many consumers worries about the use of animal leather and the alleged abuse of harmful chemicals by the coating industry.
The implementation of a completely solvent free manufacturing process permits indeed to reduce the operative costs, decrease the environmental risks and determines better material performances due to the absence of solvent evaporation phase. A saving of 32% of energy consumption has been demonstrated for the INSPUR based products thus implying a reduction of CO2 emission equal to 9kg CO2eq per m2 of coated textile substrates.
The market viability of INSPUR will although support to maintain within EU a relevant productive infrastructure for the provision of PU coated raw materials that are largely consumed by many European manufacturing industries with a relevant involvement of SME suppliers. This will overcome the worries about a possible disbanding of the existing polyurethane plants due to the pending ban on DMF - Dymethilformamide by ECHA.
To implement the INSPUR technology any major modifications is demanded at plant level allowing the convenient use of INSPUR on the current coating line just by introducing an upstream bi-component mixing and dosing unit. This implies a little investment by plant owners to upgrade the existing infrastructure with a proven ROI. Considering this, it is expected that INSPUR will support the safeguards of jobs by maintaining the capability to manufacture PU coated textiles.
The possibility to perform an easy upgrade of the existing coating plants to permit the use of INSPUR bi-components, has been already demonstrated by VETEX that successfully implemented a completely solvent-free coating line.
The encouraging results obtained until project M9 demonstrated although the suitability of INSPUR use among the existing industrial coating lines where the use of bi-components, and solvent free systems, is permitted by a simple plant upgrade without require large investments thus enhancing sustainability and business opportunities for SME clients.

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