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Manufacturing materials and methods for greener, more customisable and higher quality products

Researchers are developing a novel process for producing cellulose-based electrical insulation components. This method will reduce operating costs and labour time in manufacturing.

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Rapid infrastructure growth, increased urbanisation, and the expansion of electric power distribution and transmission networks have fuelled the demand for electrical insulation materials. Cellulose, a renewable, non-toxic and abundant natural material, has a wide range of applications, from paper to textile. It’s also commonly used in electrical insulation components such as power distribution transformers. However, the technologies involved in the manufacturing of these products are labour intensive and slow. Enter NOVUM, an EU-funded project that aims to make significant improvements in the way in which cellulose is produced. It’s an industry-driven initiative that will develop and demonstrate a compact and feasible pilot line concept based on novel processing technologies for rapid, design-driven production of cellulose-based electrical insulation components. The project also seeks to manufacture different types of electrical insulation components that meet the technical product requirements in the new pilot line. The researchers say power transformer units using such materials usually have a very specific and individual design, which also influences the design of the insulation components. They note that for each insulation component, an individual metal mould has to be fabricated. This results in hundreds or even thousands of moulds being organised and stored. This process leads to significant material waste. That’s why, they argue, there’s a need to improve the manufacturing process of electrical insulation components, in terms of energy consumption, waste generation, duration and automation. In addition, it would be beneficial if the dependency of the process on moulds, especially metal moulds, could be reduced. The research team hopes to revolutionise the way in which power transformers are designed and produced, and lead to the transition from current manual production to automated production lines. As it explains in a recent press release, this will result in increased resource efficiency, “including a 40 % reduction in labour time and a 60 % reduction in waste generation, 20 % lower energy consumption and a 40 % decrease in operating costs.” In the same press release, NOVUM (Pilot line based on novel manufacturing technologies for cellulose-based electrical insulation components) notes its focus on 3D printing of cellulose-based materials with thermoplastic features and foam forming and thermoforming of cellulose fibres. It says these technologies will be developed in parallel with each other, together with the cellulose materials, to reach an optimal combination for the pilot line concept. “Besides technical feasibility, the decision on the pilot line concept will be based on the end use requirements as well as on economic, social and environmental impacts, including circular economy considerations.” According to the team, the concept will be based on multipliable technologies, which they hope will enable their transition and wide adoption for cellulose-based materials across the process industry and applications in other industrial areas. For more information, please see: NOVUM project webiste



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