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Development of equipment for composite recycling process of uncured material

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RECYCOMP (Development of equipment for composite recycling process of uncured material)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-10-31

The aeronautical sector through Clean Sky 2 Work Programme aims at contributing to one of the key Societal Challenge ‘smart, green and integrated transport’ defined in Horizon 2020, enabling cutting edge solutions to decrease the environmental impact of the sector and to achieve the ACARE goals, facilitating the first steps to the Flightpath 2050 targets that include 75% cut of CO2 and 90% of NOx consumptions as well as 65% noise reduction; also improving the mobility within the EU.
Clean Sky 2 affords the development of different technology demonstrators to advance towards the mentioned objectives. The AIRFRAME ITD (Integrated Technology Demonstrator) is devoted to the develop and validate technologies that affect the global vehicle level on energy and environmental efficiency, industrial leadership and enhanced mobility; through a strong progress on the airframe to fulfil market requirements and contribution to growth.
The AIRFRAME ITD focuses in the development of 9 major technology streams to advance with the main objectives of the Clean Sky 2 programme. The activity of this project is mainly linked to the stream related to Advanced Fuselage. Furthermore, due to the large scope of technologies undertaken by this ITD and to the full range of aeronautical portfolio, it is structured in 3 activity lines. The RECYCOMP project corresponds to the activity Line 2, devoted to the demonstration of airframe technologies focused toward High Versatility and Cost Efficiency (HVE) devoted to technology demonstrations on reference aircraft operating at lower speed and lower altitude flight conditions, with shorter range, and turbo-propeller power plant. In this sense, the Advanced Fuselage within the WP B-4.3 “More Affordable composite fuselage” aims at introducing innovation in fuselages thought the cost effectiveness (manufacturing & assembly) and environmental footprint reduction, especially for the manufacturing of wing and its subcomponents.
The use of composite materials provides suitable components according to weight and design flexibility but faces some challenges in the area of manufacturing and assembly with the need of special processes, hand operations and large lead time. The automation of the manufacturing of composite material, with processes like Automated Tape Laying (ATL) and Automated Fibre Placement (AFP), allows the improvement of the manufacturing lead time and product quality; but, on the other hand, the processes produce significant quantities of unused scrap material after cutting the Carbon Fibre (CF) pre-impregnated materials during lamination.
The RECYCOMP project is focused in the reutilization of uncured scrap material, aiming at preparing it for a subsequent reuse for the manufacturing of functional components. The main activity focuses on the development of an equipment able to recover the uncured scraps coming from lamination process, avoiding the degradation (associated to undesired curing) and preparing the material in a suitable form for the generation of new pre-impregnated material useful for the lamination process of new components.
The main objective of the RECYCOMP project is to develop a machine for the recovery and recycling of CFRP uncured scraps, taking the surplus material coming from lamination and generating new useful pre-impregnated material in a suitable format.
The RECYCOMP equipment involves a combination of technologies to achieve the main objective, and it includes 3 main modules able to: Identification module to identify the scraps area and fibre orientation; Cutting module to cut the scrap in rectangular chips; and Distribution module to pick and place the chips in a new backing material for the subsequent use.
Considering the activity of the project, the objectives of the RECYCOMP project do not directly contribute to meet the ACARE targets, but the use of recycled material could help to introduce this high-performance material in components where a cost reduction is needed, thus leading to weight savings and to the reduction of emissions during the operation of the aircraft.
Keywords: CFRP, Recycling, PrePreg, Machine vision, robot, pick-place, cutting
The activity performed has been related to the definition of the requirements and specifications, followed by the preliminary design of the RECYCOMP recycling equipment.
The preliminary design allowed the definition of the different modules and subsystems required in the RECYCOMP recycling equipment, and the work has been focused on the development of those modules and subsystem, making trade off test to select suitable solutions.
In this sense, the identification module activities have dealt with the definition of the scenario, the selection of the cameras and the evaluation of different illumination systems. Different illumination and camera subsystems were tested. Finally, a solution based on two cameras has been selected. A first full field camera identifies the scrap pieces’ shape and position; and then a second macro camera mounted in an XY movement stage move to each scrap to analyse the fibre orientation, that required an image with a higher zoom.
The work related to the cutting module is under development. The main configuration ad elements of the module have been defined (axes configuration, cutting head…). A suitable solution for the cutting support has not been defined yet, as the sticking between the support and the prepreg material affects negatively the pick and placing processes in the distribution module.
Regarding the distribution module, the configuration and main elements have been selected and designed. The advance in this activity is pending on the results from the cutting module related to the selection of a suitable cutting support material.
Finally, the preliminary design of the integrated equipment with the different module has been performed, including the enclosure for maintaining the ambient conditions and the whole process definition.
The main results can be summarized as:
• Global configuration of the system and its modules
• Development of the camera and illumination systems for the identification module.
• Development of the gripper for the distribution module.
• Advance in the development of the cutting module.
The main advances beyond the state of the art are related to the following aspects:
• Definition of the configuration of the equipment to perform the recycling of uncured prepreg scraps.
• Development of the identification module with fibre orientation measurement.
• Development of a pick and place gripper to work with uncured prepreg chips.
• Definition of an ordered pattern for the chips of recycled prepreg.
RECYCOMP equipment conceptual design