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MELT SPUN FIBRES BASED ON COMPOSTABLE BIOPOLYMERS
FOR APPLICATION IN AUTOMOTIVE INTERIORS

Final Report Summary - BIOFIBROCAR (MELT SPUN FIBRES BASED ON COMPOSTABLE BIOPOLYMERS <br/>FOR APPLICATION IN AUTOMOTIVE INTERIORS)

Executive Summary:
The main objective of BIOFIBROCAR project is to manufacture textile substrates (woven or non-woven) for vehicle interiors from renewable resource-based synthetic fibres from Polylactic Acid derivatives that can be used as a substitute for the polyester fibres that are currently used. These biofibres must fulfil the same requirements that the fibres used at the moment including thermal resistance. BIOFIBROCAR objectives will bring innovations in textile and automotive industries. The growing importance of environmental aspects in recent years, coupled with greater public awareness is driving the development of new yarns and textile structures form within the textile industry. The possibility of using fibres from renewable resources and which are also easily biodegradable will be useful for the vehicle interior textile industry, both from the point of view of the strict new recycling regulations that these products must meet and the properties offered by this type of fibre.
BIOFIBROCAR project has had a duration of 30 months, at the moment the project has finished successfully. During the project execution, the partners’ efforts have been focused, first, in the review of the available materials in terms of fibres and fabrics, and their study and characterization under laboratory condition. Those characterization activities assured the fulfilment of the automotive industry standards which have been collected as well by the partners. A complete list of suitable materials has already been collected.

The project results in a prototype which can be used in a car door panels. This prototype was characterized and validated (See figure attached). All of the characterization trials of the prototype demonstrated that the thermal and mechanical properties of the prototype reach the same values than their homologous made of non-renewable sources (Polyster) See Figure of the demonstrator and prototype.

Project Context and Objectives:

CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVES

The automotive sector currently generates large volumes of solid waste particularly at the end of the vehicle’s life. This makes the substitution of different plastic textile components for others that are more environmentally friendly one of the ways in which the industry is trying to reduce its environmental impact as well as adding new value-adding functionalities to new products. This initiative aims to develop much more environmentally-friendly materials, with new properties that can be used in textile components to add value but at the same time meet all current safety legislation with respect to odour and volatile particle emissions for vehicle interior components.

The main objective of BIOFIBROCAR project is to manufacture textile substrates (woven or non-woven) for vehicle interiors from renewable resource-based synthetic fibres from Polylactic Acid derivatives that can be used as a substitute for the polyester fibres that are currently used. These biofibres must fulfil the same requirements that the fibres used at the moment including thermal resistance. BIOFIBROCAR objectives will bring innovations in textile and automotive industries. The growing importance of environmental aspects in recent years, coupled with greater public awareness is driving the development of new yarns and textile structures form within the textile industry. The possibility of using fibres from renewable resources and which are also easily biodegradable will be useful for the vehicle interior textile industry, both from the point of view of the strict new recycling regulations that these products must meet and the properties offered by this type of fibre.
Such innovations will be directed to maintain competitive positions in the area of technical products and technical applications, always with a high added-value. Research efforts are focused on:

• Improved recyclability of the different components that make up a vehicle, substituting polyester or polyamide for biodegradable PLA.
• The development of new textiles for the car industry with improved fireproofing properties by the addition of expansion additives that improve fireproofing and therefore the safety of the vehicles.
• The application of new added value for different textile components using new additives on the fibers that have been developed. The additivation of certain compounds on the polymer chains used in the manufacture of the synthetic fibers may be one of the ways to reduce or eliminate odors’ in vehicle interiors which are provoked by certain elements within a vehicle.
• The use of new bicomponent core/sheath textile fibers in textiles for the car industry that will improve abrasion resistance through the additivation of relatively cheap nanoparticles in the sheath.
• The development of a biocompound with the same properties as the polyesters currently used on fiber applications.

The achievement of the above mentioned objectives will result in an increase of the competitiveness of the participating SMEs which represent the different types of SMEs involved in the micro-irrigation market:

• Compounders will increase their knowledge by the use of processes that until now have not been widely developed at industrial scale, such as the structural changes between different biodegradable materials and other additives to obtain the final formulation to be processed and fulfil the requirement established.
• Additives’ manufacturer will diversify their offer by giving to their profile an added value with the achievement of the fibre’s properties such as odour less, fire-resistance, friction protection, etc.
• Manufacturer who will be able to offer their customers new textile fibres with the advantage of its biodegradability, maintaining all the properties of current polyester fibres.
• Weaving and laminating manufacturer will benefit from the biodegradability of the fabric substrates which will provide temperature resistance, mechanical and environmental properties.

Other potential sectors where SMEs can be benefited are, for instance; raw material manufacturers and automotive suppliers, as the development of new fibres of biodegradable material will represent the expansion of their market since these products will be used in an application where nowadays are not present; or other transport manufacturers in sectors such as aviation or trains. Furthermore, the automotive sector aims to offer environmentally friendly products which help the sustainability of the planet. The biodegradable fibre developed constitutes the key point to achieve it by offering these add valued products. The SMEs companies will impact on the sustainable development of vehicles with its capability for weight savings, its strength and durability and its biodegradability. Different recyclers will participate in recycling and biodegrading the PLA fibres and contribute to avoid the landfill disposal of the products. BIOFIBROCAR can become their solution, enlarging the market share of the SMEs involved in the project.

Project Results:
OBTAINED RESULTS
The project results in a prototype which can be used in a car door panels. This prototype was characterized and validated (See figure attached). All of the characterization trials of the prototype demonstrated that the thermal and mechanical properties of the prototype reach the same values than their homologous made of non-renewable sources (Polyster) See Figure of the demonstrator and prototype.
The project results and activities can be structured attending to the workpackage in which have been carried.

Work Package 1 Definition of requirements and selection of materials
WP 1 included an exhaustive study concerning the requirements for the products developed during this work package: the used materials, their transformation, processing and the experiments employed. It defined the principal materials to be used throughout the project for experimental trials and included furthermore a comprehensive state-of-the-art analysis of the filaments and fibres to be chosen and provided a structured basis for the research and development activities by identifying and validating the filaments and fibres suitable for the fabric production (wovens and nonwovens) in the subsequent work packages. The most suitable filaments, fibres and fibre blends as well as the most suitable fabric structures and their best production technologies were selected. At first, basic studies on PLA (polylactic acid) fibres and filaments and requirements on their properties and temperature behaviour in the manufacturing process and during the life time cycle were of essential interest. Textile substrates (wovens and nonwovens) for car interiors from renewable resource-based synthetic PLA materials were identified which to be used as substitute for currently applied fibres or filaments. Woven fabrics were produced from yarns made of 100 % PLA filaments. Different yarn constructions (for instance core-sheath) were investigated for different applications such as decorative fabrics. Two main directions had to be taken into consideration for nonwoven structures: The first was to produce nonwovens of 100 % PLA fibres to be applied as soft touch layer (as sound absorbing material for composite structures in door panels) and secondly to use thermoplastic PLA fibres in blends with natural fibres (such as hemp) for moulded parts (doors panels). Investigations in expected side-effects which might be occurring (such as odour, flammability or reduction in weight) have been also part of this WP. The final part mainly regarded to the materials selection and the processing, transformation and experimental techniques to be used. At the end of WP1, a decision on the fibres, filaments and textile structures that are finally applied were defined on the basis of all gathered requirements and information. These findings were needed for the correct execution of the project as well as for WP2 and WP3 both of them focused on the development of the biodegradable thermoplastic fibres and the PLA compounding. Finally, the structure for a demonstrator was developed and first sample demonstrators were produced in WP1. Findings of WP1 have been also the basis for WP4 (Optimization of biodegradable fabrics).

Work Package 2 Development of the base PLA compound for textile production.
In WP2 it is included all aspects related to the development of the new PLA based biocompound: selection of the best additives, materials and its combinations, selection of the best equipment, processability of these different materials in order to obtain the final compound, optimization of this process and the machine parameters, etc. This PLA based compound is the base material of the new biofibres comprising the prototype developed in the BIOFIBROCAR project.
During the first period of the project, efforts were focused on the development and improvement of the best materials combinations (blends). First trials with selected materials were carried out and, even the thermal resistance was successfully increased, different problems were observed.
In the second period different approaches were followed for the development of the compounds in order to achieve the desired properties. However, some of the were due to different problems, and new approaches not foreseen initially in the project, were included.

Work Package 3 Development/optimisation of biodegradable thermoplastic fibres

WorkPackage 3 consists of establishing the parameters (temperature and velocity) that will be adjusted to suit requirements established in Work Package 1 for yarns to woven and nonwovens, employing diverse analytical techniques to achieve these requirements, to meet the requirements for yarns (for woven and nonwovens).

The main objectives of the Work Package 3 “Development/optimisation of biodegradable thermoplastic fibres” were:

• The development of biodegradable synthetic textile fibres from different PLA compounds using melt spinning.
• The manufacture of PLA-based Core-Sheath fibres with improved abrasion resistance from the different nano compounds prepared in the previous stage.
• The functionalisation of different PLA fibres, by the additivation of PLA polymers with odour-absorbing particles or with improved fireproofing capability, to produce innovative automobile fibres.

The above objectives were achieved during the first project period (M1-M12) and were continued and extended by the following activities in the second project period from M13-M30:

• The main objective is to develop new PLA-based fibres chemically modified or blended with other biopolymers, with the aim of enhancing their thermal properties using a highly crystallised polymer to increase its Vicat temperature (over 100ºC).
• Fibre is a functionalisation with different additives to avoid undesirable odours from the fibre.

After the different blends or compounds have been manufactured and analysed in the previous WP2, the compounds that are most appropriate to be spun into fibres, and that will offer the best possible results were identified. These compounds were developed into fibres (using a pilot extrusion plant). Once this was achieved, the fibres were analysed mechanically and optically to establish comparisons between them and existing textile fibres (non-renewable origin).

Work Package 4 Development / optimisation of biodegradable fabrics
PLA-PHB blends and stereocomplex PLA were successfully spun into filaments and further developed into fabrics and nonwovens (WP3). The trials in the project BIOFIBROCAR for the development of woven and nonwoven prototypes from PLA fibres have been successfully witin WP4.

The prototypes have been manufactured with the parameters of the reference products in the automotive industry in consultation with the industry partners. The prototypes have been tested for their mechanical and functional properties and benchmarked against the reference products for requirements in the automotive industry.

The mechanical performance of the stereocomplex PLA has found to be superior to the reference polyester fabrics. The abrasion, pilling, light fastness and flammability are above the requirements of the automotive industry. Therefore, the reference fabrics have a potential for application in the automotive industry as seat cover fabrics.
Furthermore, a demonstrator door panel has been developed with the nonwoven and woven fabric developed in this work package

Work Package 5 Environmental, Economic and Regulatory Studies.
WP5 comprises an exhaustive study concerning environmental aspects, economic analysis and regulatory issues of the products developed during the BIOFIBROCAR project.
Environmental study.
The methodology selected in order to analyze the environmental impact of the new biodegradable fibers developed has been the LCA (Life-cycle assessment). This is a technique that takes into account all the stages of a product’s life from cradle to grave (i.e. from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling).

Analysis of the new thermoplastics fibers’ recyclability.
As recyclability is a very important property on plastic material, the regrinding tests carried out in this task have been oriented to study the reprocessability of industrial scrap. Furthermore, this issue is very critical for PLA because this material is highly sensible to degradation and loss of rheological properties.
Test have been performed in order to establish if the recycled material may be incorporated to some extent, without influencing negatively the properties of new materials. Different experiments were carried out on developed biocompound and on 100% grinded scrap.
Samples obtained were characterized and results showed a small decrease in MFI and vicat temperature, as a consequence of thermal degradation suffered by the material during reprocessing. However, the difference is small and MFI and thermal resistance were still suitable for EMS process and accomplish automotive applications requirements.

Evaluation of biodegradation of the full textile substrates in laboratory scale test.
In order to verify the biodegradable condition of the new developments (compound/fibres/prototype), test samples were evaluated according to the standards EN 13432:2000, specifically the ISO 14855-1:2005 “Determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials under controlled composting conditions – Method by analysis of evolved carbon dioxide – Part 1: General method”.
Two different samples were evaluated:
- Sample 1: Carded nonwoven of cross-linked compound obtained during the first period of the project.
- Sample 2: Carded nonwoven prototype made with final formulation selected.

Criterion: > 90% absolute or relative biodegradation.
Both samples showed biodegradation percentages > 90% under composting conditions after 80-85 days, so both of them are biodegradable.
Furthermore, as sample 1 contained Zn in its composition, a Zinc Metal Analysis has been done in order to check the amount of metal present in the formulation.
Economic analysis.
In order to evaluate the economic viability of the prototype developed, a study of material and product costs has been done. Only the final PLA formulation selected has been assessed to make an estimation of the product cost.
The evaluation has been carried out taking into account the price of the commercial components used for the elaboration of the different layers of the prototype and the processing cost data at pilot plant level. However, aspects like disposal and removal cost and market evolution have been taken into account. The results have been compared with reference material currently used for car interior components.
Regulatory analysis.
Since the new developments of BIOFIBROCAR project (fibres/door panel) have to fulfil the related EC Directives for automotive components, a compilation of these directives has been collected and presented into a report. Each partner and RTD has collaborated in this task in order to have represented the entire value chain of the products.
European regulations (REACH regulation), specific regulations for the development of car parts provided by validator partners, and end-of-life vehicles aspects have been taken into account.
Safety issues.
In order to complete the regulatory analysis, definition of safety criteria has been carried out. All standards and legislation aspects related to the new fibres/prototype, like VOC emissions or formaldehyde content, has been considered. All the information has been gathered in D5.16.

Work Package 6 Industrial scale up and Product Validation.

In Work Package 6, we developed and produced the different prototypes using the textile fibres and fabrics developed in the previous Work Packages and taking into account the technical specifications required for this equipment. These prototypes have been tested and analysed according to the standards relevant to this kind of article.
The main objectives of the Work Package 6 “Industrial scale up and Product Validation” were:
• The transfer of the processes developed to an industrial scale.
• The development of the first industrial-scale prototypes.
The activities planned in WP6 were subdivided into different tasks:

PROTOTYPE DEVELOPMENT
In this task, all the partners were charge on the development, design and manufacture of different articles and products on an industrial scale, that served as prototypes and that possessed innovative functional characteristics for the car industry and in particular, for vehicle interiors.

CHARACTERISATION
A battery of tests were performed on the prototypes installed in vehicles, to evaluate the prototype performance
Work Package 7 Training, Dissemination and Exploitation of Results.

Dissemination of the project helps to increase the opportunities of exploitation of the foreground generated in BIOFIBROCAR project. The definition and implementation of an efficient dissemination strategy that will ensure the EU industry awareness of the project developments were one of the activities performed during the first period of the project. Also a draft version of Plan of the Use and Dissemination of the Foreground and different activities were carried out by the different partners of the consortium.
In this second period a final version of the PUDF was drawn up. All dissemination activities have been compiled and included in it. The document provides a detailed overview of all dissemination activities carried out in the lifetime of the project. Also gives a general view of the exploitable project results and related planned exploitation activities of the partners.

Different activities like training events and redaction of a Best practices guideline have been carried out in order to make an effective transmission of the information obtained during the project. In order to ensure the efficient technology transfer of the BIOFIBROCAR project developments a set of training events have been imparted to train the technical staff of the SMEs. The idea was to transmit the information obtained during the project (materials, structures, processes) with these training activities. Each RTD performer prepared a set of training materials (PowerPoint/pdf presentations) based on the results achieved and the trials performed in the project.

Potential Impact:
The first concern of the SME participants within BIOFIBROCAR is that the project resulted in strengthening their own competitiveness and resulte in a growth in volume, turnover and profit margins based on the novel products that can make the difference in the economic environment.
There are indeed good foresights that the envisioned products and processes will become a success.
First of all, it must however be quoted that the project is not specificly aiming at a “reduced cost product” if compared to standard bedding products. Competing at such a level seems quite impossible for the European textile manufacturers, given the strong competition from developing countries. Instead, BIOFIBROCAR, targets high added value products of high quality, which are healthy to use for consumers and which have a high eco-friendly aspect.
These latter aspects, ecological and human safety concern are the main drivers for the project and were the basis for starting the project. The presence of potentially toxic products in current bedding materials is a major concern within the community and more and more end-users are asking for safe alternatives.
The use of a new materials which are gaining a foothold in the textile industry in applications where recyclability is limited owing to the presence of plastic-mix materials and where biodegradability and composting may be important, without adversely affecting the product’s properties.

The objectives achieved by using biodegradable materials in the car industry are summed up as follows:

• The development of more environmentally-friendly products and processes.
• The development of processes that allow the use of alternative raw materials to petroleum-based ones, with the consequent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
• The manufacture of fibres with similar properties to polyester-based ones.
• PLA density is lower than that of PET so the total weight of the artefact is smaller.

Research has been focussed on the modification of PLA-based polymer formulations for textile applications in the following areas:

- The improvements of the abrasion resistant properties in fabrics designed for vehicle interiors.
- The improvements of the fireproofing and fire behavioural properties in non-wovens used in side panels in vehicle interiors through the incorporation of different types of anti-corrosive additives and nanoparticles with enhanced effects.
- Increases in temperature resistance of existing PLA fibres using reactive extrusion.
- Reductions in odours, whether by the inherent properties of the fibres themselves or by functionalising them to absorb internal odours generated inside the vehicle.
- The development of PLA-based bicomponents to improve technical aspects such as strength vs. abrasion, mechanical properties and even reductions.

The dissemination activities of the project have been consistent with the originally planned dissemination activities of the project proposal. The partners, as depicted inbelow, have used an array of mediums and tools in order to successfully disseminate the project to the relevant audience. The presentation of prototypes and other relevant technology has been available for partners and has been promoted to customers and other stakeholders. In order to raise public awareness of the proposed technology, the partners have performed pre-marketing stimulation activities such as editorials, conference papers, sales, presentation in fairs and marketing contact with potential customers internationally, through the use of trade press, trade bodies and plant suppliers, approvals bodies, consumer groups and regulatory authorities. Activities include technology demonstration events, major exhibitions, stimulation events, presentations and conference papers, databases and the distribution of project promotional material.
Dissemination activities were made through various communication channels; the main instruments and media that were used for dissemination purposes fall within the following areas:
A) Events (see section 2.2.1)
Events refer to both collaboration and dissemination and include participation in, or organisation of:
• Presentation at conferences
• Workshop for the key stakeholders
• Exhibitions, trade fairs
• Training events
• Networking sessions
• Specialised events
B) Publications (see section 2.2.2)
Publications refer to both electronic and printed media, including:
• Press releases
• Short articles published on the internet or in journals and relevant magazines
• Newsletters and other information material produced by the partners
• Papers published and presented in conferences
C) Electronic media (see section 2.2.3)
Electronic media is primarily concerned with the project’s website and the services made available there:
• Content published on the BIOFIBROCAR website
• Content published on the partners’ company website about the BIOFIBROCAR project
2.2.1 Events
The project was noted with overall success in relation to the participation of the partners in events. A variety of different events took place such as conferences, participation in exhibitions and fairs as well as participation in seminars. The technology of the project has been presented thoroughly and throughout these events, with the partners aiming at maximizing the visibility of the project. The events helped to promote the project towards targeted audiences via personal fair stands and promotional material.
In relation to external conferences, the partners have participated in world-renowned conferences such as: see Table 1.
Specific mention must be made in relation to the type of audience each event was targeted, since the dissemination activities performed approached an array of interested parties, coming from different fields and areas of interest. Universities and academic institutions, technology institutes and industrial partners are some examples of the type of audience the dissemination activities aimed at. Specifically for industrial partner, it is notable to mention that events took place such as participation in conferences, fairs and exhibitions satisfying industry.
As far as project meetings are concerned, the partners met three meetings, as prescribed within the project proposal. The first meeting (kick off meeting) took place in Alcoy Spain, in January 2013, where the partners had the opportunity to present their organizations, describe their involvement in the project and launch the definition of the user requirements with the active involvement of the end users. The second meeting (M6 meeting) took place in Nijverdal, Netherlands in July 2013. The third meeting took place in Valencia (M12 meeting). The fourth took place in Chemitz (M18 meeting). The fifth took place in Aachen (M24) Eventually, the final meeting will be held at AITEX facilities in June. The partners had the opportunity to comment on the work progress and establish internal deadlines. Dissemination and exploitation workshop was also established on this meeting and several telephone conferences between the partners served as a follow up to ensure that all aspects of dissemination and exploitation activities are carefully taken into consideration..
2.2.2 Publications
Publications, either in the form of Press Releases or as scientific papers with the intention of being published and/or in the process of being published, have played a significant role in the dissemination of the project. The project has been disseminated in various newspaper articles, both in hard copy and on the internet. Many articles published concerned the distribution of the project’s press release in notable magazines, scientific journals and industrial blogs.
Press Releases were aimed primarily at the local audience, particularly professionals and industrial stakeholders. This medium has proved particularly useful since it has disseminated the project at large to a wide public which would not be easily identified via standardized methods of dissemination such as events and scientific conferences. All partners have maximized the potential for dissemination and visibility via the project’s press release. As it can be depicted in Table 1: List of Dissemination activities, a variety of academic, online and popular journals have published the BIOFIBROCAR press release
2.2.3 Web sites
The project website (http://biofibrocar.aitex.es/) acts as a dissemination platform with the aim to establish an efficient and effective dissemination and communication tool for the BIOFIBROCAR consortium for the duration of the project. The website construction consists of one of the main dissemination tools of the project, which will ensure the successful use of project results and non-confidential information to the widest possible audience (including the industrial and academic community). The website has a clear structure with two types of webpage navigation depending on the type of user i.e. visitor (public), Consortium member or representative of the European Commission (members area). The potentials for navigation, document uploading and website alterations differ for each type of user. The aim of the website is on one hand to inform general public about the BIOFIBROCAR project and on the other hand to constitute a tool to communicate and to exchange information on the project between partners. The Technical Management of the BIOFIBROCAR website belongs to the Project Coordinator, AITEX. The Project Coordinator updates the website, inserts data and generally regulates the methodology for technically managing the website. Technical management is implemented through the Content Management System and also includes the registration of the website addresses and regular renewal of the subscription as well as any necessary arrangements for the website hosting, including the 2 GB storage capacity in order to ensure that all necessary documents are properly stored either in the Public documents area or in the Members Area.
For the purpose of effectively disseminating the project, the following materials were produced:
• Project logo: A project logo has been designed at the beginning of the project to be used in all dissemination material to enhance easy identification of the project among the members of the target groups. This logo can serve, as well, as product logo in the post-project phase (Annex 1).
• Project leaflet: a three-fold project brochure has been created; it describes the Consortium partners and provides their main contact details as well as the general and technical objectives of the project. The brochure is user-friendly, compact and easy to understand (Annex 2).
During the first period of reporting a draft of the exploitable foreground was elaborated. At that moment, the exploitable foreground that the consortium foresaw was gathered in the PUDF.

List of Websites:
http://biofibrocar.aitex.es/