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Pilot line based on novel manufacturing technologies for cellulose-based electrical insulation components

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NOVUM (Pilot line based on novel manufacturing technologies for cellulose-based electrical insulation components)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

Electrical insulation components, which are used in oil-cooled power distribution transformers, represent a big market globally. Cellulose is a common raw material for these components due to its excellent properties for the end-use. However, when using cellulose sheets as the raw material, the manufacturing process is complex, consists of multiple stages, takes a long time, consumes a lot of energy, is labour-intensive and results in significant material waste. In addition, each transformer unit has usually a very specific and individual design and consequently, for each insulation component geometry an individual metal mould has to be fabricated in a time consuming process. Thus, there is a clear need to improve the manufacturing process of electrical insulation components using cellulose as the raw material, 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.
In the increasing global competition, there is a growing need to develop more efficient and agile manufacturing processes and thus to fortify the competitiveness of the European electrical insulation manufacturing industry. In addition, increasing sustainability demands require the industry to take a closer look on the raw material sourcing, including the circular economy considerations, energy and resource consumption which are linked to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, global warming and end-of-life of products with emphasis on recycling and re-use. With the development of the manufacturing concept for electrical insulation components, the NOVUM project targets at 40% reduced labour time, 20% increase in energy efficiency, 60 % decreased waste generation and 40% lower operating costs compared to the state-of-the art technology.
The main objectives of NOVUM are firstly to develop and demonstrate a compact and feasible pilot line concept based on novel processing technologies for rapid, design driven production of advanced cellulose-based electrical insulation components and secondly, to manufacture two different types of electrical insulation components meeting the technical product requirements in the new pilot line constructed in the project.
In WP1, materials suitable for all the studied process technologies have been found or developed. Around 20 different material formulations have been developed for 3D printing technology and tested for processing in WP2 and for end use purposes in WP3. By the end of the period, none of the tested materials fulfill all the requirements for electrical insulation components although few have shown promise. For this reason, the material development will be continue as an iterative process and feedback from WP3 will be used to refine the material formulations into wanted direction. A patent application has been filed for the cellulose-based material formulation. The task on Circular Economy Considerations was completed but the work will continue in WP5.
In WP2, the different processing technologies, 3D printing, foam forming and thermoforming, have been developed and their suitability for up-scaling as well as for production of electrical insulation components has been considered. 3D printing tests using the materials developed in WP1 were performed and the most potential process, fused deposition modelling (FDM), was identified. The design for the process to be up-scaled for the pilot line was started based on these results. In foam forming, the focus shifted from initial tests in 2D to further tests in 3D and a nozzle for 3D printing of foam was developed for this purpose (invention disclosure filed). It was however concluded that foam forming is not a suitable process for production of electrical insulation components but its applicability for other purposes e.g. sound, vibration insulation will be considered. In thermoforming, the focus was on finding suitable tooling for manufacturing of electrical components using Paboco's fiber bottle manufacturing platform. Bot pliable and non-pliable tools were tested. The outcome of the research was that thermoforming is not considered a suitable processing technology for the purposes of NOVUM due to the low production series expected.
In WP3, the materials developed in WP1 were tested for their oil compatibility, mechanical and electrical properties. Feedback was given to WP1 on the required further refinement of the material properties in order to fulfill the technical requirement specifications for the electrical insulation components.
In the second period, the work in WP4 started as planned with the pilot line design. The pilot line design is now ready and implementation can start.
In WP5, the first versions of the technical feasibility studies, economic validation and sustainability analyses (LCA, LCC) were performed. These will be up-dated later in the project when more information become available.
In WP6, exploitation and dissemination activities of the project have been performed. the commercial key exploitable results (KERs) were defined and will be up-dated throughout the project. Regarding dissemination efforts, more focus was put on social media visibility. Open stakeholder platform has been established to communicate the project achievements to wider public and first industrial workshop was organised for interested stakeholders.
In WP7, day to day management practices of the NOVUM project were performed, including overall management, administration, coordination and execution of the project, consortium and project meetings. Monthly risk tracking telcos are organised in order to monitor the identified risks and recognise the potential unforeseen risks.
Thermoplastic cellulose-based material formulations have been developed which are of interest beyond the end use studied currently in the project. These materials have high potential in replacing fossil-based materials in various applications. Patent application has been filed for the innovation and efforts for commercial exploitation have started. Processing of the developed materials by 3D printing offers a no-waste processing method. In addition, emphasis will be given to the recyclability of the developed materials. Both of these facts will promote the Circular Economy of the component manufacturing.
In foam forming, there is a potential of 40% saving in thermal drying. 3D printing of foam is an interesting opportunity for development of fiber-based insulation materials e.g. for noise dampening.
The outcome of the project will be an automated and flexible pilot line for the production of cellulose- based components by 3D printing. The pilot line will offer interested stakeholders an opportunity to test their materials or demonstrate their end use cases without the need to invest heavily at this point.
Test Rig Framework