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Large scale demonstration of new circular economy value-chains based on the reuse of end-of-life fiber reinforced composites.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FiberEUse (Large scale demonstration of new circular economy value-chains based on the reuse of end-of-life fiber reinforced composites.)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-05-31

Glass and carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites (GFRP and CFRP) are increasingly used as structural materials in many manufacturing sectors like transport, constructions and energy due to their better lightweight and corrosion resistance compared to metals. However, their price is a barrier for wider applications.
In the light of the above, the economic impact of the composite sector clearly appears huge and the application of the Circular Economy principles to End of Life (EoL) management of composites is one of the key challenges of modern manufacturing industry. The implementation of a sustainable composite circular economy strategy would reduce the amount of composite waste and, in turn, would support composite price reduction. However, major barriers still existing towards a stable circular value-chain for composites:
• Poor customer acceptance for remanufactured products.
• Lack of circular business models for boosting profitability.
• Unstable and unpredictable EoL products flows.

The FiberEUse project aims at integrating in a holistic approach different innovation actions aimed at enhancing the profitability of composite recycling and reuse in value-added products. These innovation actions will include:
• Bringing together cutting-edge inspection, repair and remanufacturing technologies for the composite sector in a new holistic approach;
• Generating cross-sectorial market opportunities for recyclates, with the organization and documentation of the properties and market value of GF and CF remanufactured goods in an accessible and user-friendly manner so as to enable (i) enhanced decision making on EoL scenarios of recyclates and (ii) symbiosis between sectors such as energy, automotive, aircraft, and marine watercraft, consumer goods.
• Realizing several demo-cases with wide participation of industrial end-users and stakeholder associations, actively involved in the co-design of the remanufactured products.
The specific industrial requirements and the target Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for enabling a proper exploitation of the demonstrators in the market have been collected and made explicit.

Mechanical recycling processes have been investigated. An innovative approach to disassemble components from the input composite material rich products have been developed. A software tool to properly select the disassembly strategy depending on the target properties of the re-usable materials, the distance between material source and treatment centre, the logistics and process costs as well as the specific treatment scenario has been developed and tested. The mechanical size-reduction processes have been optimized based on real-life tests on samples provided by the project industrial partners, also looking at minimizing energy and maintenance/consumables costs.

Thermal recycling processes have been investigated. An experimental activity has been carried out on real-life samples provided by the industrial partners to fine tune and optimize the pyrolysis process in view of a high degree of liberation of the glass and carbon fibers. The quality of the fibers has then been tested and first resizing tests have been realized. The preliminary results show that a very good quality of the recovered glass fibers has been achieved, with a cost that currently exceeds the target threshold.

The re-design of lightweight automotive composite structures for re-use has been investigated. Very interesting results have been achieved leading to the design of modular body structures and car seats for easy detaching of components for remanufacturing and re-use. A very innovative and breakthrough concept of e-vehicle design has been proposed that is currently under modelling, simulation and testing for digital verification of target performance by the automotive industrial partners, before production of a prototype.

Three major co-design activities have been performed with different target groups. First, with professional design experts, specific training related to the re-usable composite material properties have been delivered in order to trigger the inspiration for new design products embedding these materials. Moreover, with students of design courses at university level, co-design workshops have been carried out, leading to the development of 17 prototype concepts. Finally, at large scale, the most promising design products have been showcased to the citizens via a dedicated platform called “Idea manager”, to gather feedback and improvement suggestions before prototype production.
The project is based on the realization of three macro use-cases, further detailed in eight demonstrators, entailing the design and production of new composite made products re-using GFRP and CFRP materials / components:

Use-case 1: Mechanical recycling of short GFRP and re-use in added-value customized applications, including furniture, sport and creative products. The input products will be EoL wind turbine blades and construction components. Emerging manufacturing technologies like UV-assisted 3D-printing and metallization by Physical Vapor Deposition will be used. Three demonstrators will be developed in this use-case:
• Demo-case 1.1: Use of a fraction (at least 40% w/w) of GFRP recyclate in open mould spray applications of GFRP for sanitary products (bath tubs, shower trays);
• Demo-case 1.2: Use of a fraction (at least 30% w/w) of GFRP recyclate for prototyping personalized and creative products (i.e. creative packaging etc).
• Demo-case 1.3: Use of a fraction (at least 10% w/w) of GFRP recyclate to strengthen PU compounds for the realization of sport equipment (e.g. skis).

Use-case 2: Thermal recycling of long fibers (glass and carbon) and re-use in high-tech, high-resistance applications. The input products will be aerospace components and the re-use of composites in automotive (aesthetical and structural components) and construction will be demonstrated by applying controlled pyrolysis and custom remanufacturing solutions. Three demonstrators will be developed in this use-case:
• Demo-case 2.1 use of a fraction (at least 20%) of thermally recycled GF for structural components in automotive.
• Demo-case 2.2 use of a fraction (at least 20%) of thermally recycled CF for structural components in automotive.
• Demo-case 2.3 use of a fraction (at least 30%) of thermally recycled GFRP for the building industry (roofs).

Use-case 3: Inspection, repair and remanufacturing for EoL CFRP products in high-tech applications. Two demonstrators will be developed in this use-case:
• Demo-case 3.1: design and remanufacturing of a CFRP body structure parts composed of detachable and repairable parts.
• Demo-case 3.2: design and remanufacturing of inner modular car structures (e.g. seats) for re-using CFRP components.

The FiberEUse consortium has elaborated a preliminary, value-chain oriented, business plan that shows the expected impacts of the project solution in terms of economic, social and environmental aspects:
• A total increase in value added by 2025 of 0.226 B€/year in three target sectors (automotive, wind energy systems, and aeronautics).
• A total increase in employment triggered by FiberEUse of close to 4500 jobs.
• Total savings of emissions of 1200 kTons CO2/year, of energy of 1.75 TWh/year and of materials, that without FiberEUse would be landfilled, of 33.8kTons/year by 2025.
FiberEUse consortium
FiberEUse value-chain approach
FiberEUse logo
FiberEUse cross-sectorial approach