Composite recycling, reprocessing and remanufacturing
The Centre has worked with a range of companies to help assess options and opportunities available for improved reprocessing, or recycling options as well as the implementation of remanufacturing techniques within new Circular Economy business models.
This includes working with industry partners on projects such as List-P (see below), investigating the development of composite solutions for the automotive industry, using recyclate as the feedstock, and reprocessing in-house and end-of-life waste.
With a strong history of research into composite recycling, we are part of the Sustainability working group of the Composites Leadership Forum and working with industry on individual projects to tackle the issues around composite recycling, with a particular focus on composites with glass fibre. We have facilities for mechanically grinding materials, zig-zag separator for separation, a lab scale SMC line, compounding equipment and materials analysis and testing.
Research projects include:
Here at Exeter, TARF-LCV aims to develop advanced polymer matrix composites - sheet moulding compounds (SMC) and dough moulding compounds (DMC) using recyclable natural fibres for LCV structures that are light in weight, sustainable, disposable and have similar performance (mechanical, environmental resistance, surface finish etc) to man-made fibre reinforcement.
Partners: Brunel University, University of Manchester, University of Strathclyde, Imperial College, London, University of Nottingham, Coventry University, Oxford Brookes University
Funded by: EPSRC
This project is developing novel lightweight composite sandwich panels, using recyclate, for medium and heavy goods as well as passenger vehicles. The aim is to make the panels recyclable, incorporate novel designs, and manufacturing process and investigate new circular business models. The project brings together experts from across the supply chain in order to provide an end-to-end solution and optimise design and manufacture of future automotive panels.
Funded by: Innovate UK
Partners: Omnia, NCC, Tata Technologies, Arrival, Polymer Industries, Foresight Innovations
Omnia has identified that there is a significant market opportunity for cost-effective lightweight sandwich panels for use in commercial vehicles. To achieve this Omnia, the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the University of Exeter (UOE) are investigating the reuse of polymer waste streams to create innovative Proof of Principle (PoP) composite cores which can be used as structural panels/components in commercial and passenger vehicles. New advanced material formulations will be developed to deliver more sustainable and lightweight products for this industry, providing improved fuel economy, low emissions and increased efficiency.
Partners: Omnia(CS) Ltd, National Composites Centre (NCC), University of Exeter
Funded by: Innovate UK
The European Union End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive requires that 85% of a vehicle (by weight) must be capable of recovery or reuse from Jan 2006 and 95% by 2015. These targets cannot be reached by recycling metals alone. The goal of this project is to develop new, high quality, Sheet and Bulk Moulding compounds (SMC/BMC) materials that are derived from recycled SMC/BMC through a granulation process, where the comminuted materials are then used as fillers in other products. It seeks to understand and develop improved SMC/BMC formulations involving recyclate as an active reinforcing agent, rather than just the passive filler as considered in previous studies.
Partners: Sims, Menzolit, Mitras, Gurit, BPF, SMMT, Brunel University
Funded by: DTi
This collaboration proposes new routes to the recycling and remanufacturing of composite materials, and provides solutions to the current problems in the recycling processes of heterogeneous composite materials. The project will focus on glass fibre, carbon fibre, epoxy, polyester and thermoplastic materials. Novel recycling technologies and composite manufacturing processes will be developed for cross-sector use of heterogeneous scrap material. The microstructure-property relationship in waste materials will be thoroughly investigated. The material, cost, water and energy used will be optimised throughout the entire recycling and remanufacturing processes.
Partners: University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, The University of Manchester
Funded by: EPSRC
The EURECOMP project aims at developing a novel recycling route for thermoset composites through the solvolysis process. EURECOMP gathers together partners from various fields of activity (industrial companies and universities; from material producers through to end users) and will explore both the fundamental processes and practical facility development. In addition, the project will collate the necessary information on upstream and downstream markets, economic efficiency and life cycle assessment.
Partners: Plastic Omnium Auto Exterieur, Volvo Technology Corporation, Xietong Automobile Accessories, SACMO, ECRC (European Composites Recycling Services Company), BPF (British Plastic Federation), URIARTE Safybox, ICAM Nantes, GAIKER, University of Limerick, University of Bristol, COMPOSITEC
Funded By: EU Framework 7 – FP7-SST-2007-RTD-1
Hymid Multi-Shot Ltd is a well-established manufacturer of injection moulded articles, specialising in twin shot applications. The company offers a wide range of materials and services to give its customers increased performance and reliability. Markets include medical, instrumentation and electronic industries.
Hymid is continually looking for ways to achieve its goal of zero waste and the company was particularly concerned with how to recycle a ‘two shot’ injection moulded medical device, which uses a polymer blend with an over-mould of Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE). During the moulding cycle, the TPE is chemically bonded to the polymer blend substrate, which makes it difficult to physically separate the two materials.
CALMARE was able to investigate three different techniques, which demonstrated that, with further development, the materials could be successfully separated and recovered for eventual reuse. It also determined the typical properties that could be achieved for manufacturing parts out of a blend of all the waste material, which could provide an alternative but cost effective solution. The findings give Hymid a large amount of scope for development, which it can include as part of its overall business strategy.
Made from 100% recycled PVC, F-Board is a scaffold platform system, which is the same size as current wooden scaffold boards, but has a number of advantages, including being non-slip, lightweight and stronger than its counterparts. F-Board’s business model includes buying back used boards and recycling the material again for use in a new board. The scaffold is lighter than traditional wooden scaffold boarding, meaning it is more easily transported and assembled.
CALMARE was called in to help F-Board Limited find out whether waste material from other products could be granulated then incorporated into the product without adversely affecting the F-Board scaffolding’s performance. CALMARE evaluated the properties of a range of materials, including a white window material, a shredded fabric coated lorry curtain and a cleaned, black PVC material, using a blend of PVC recycled products.
Polymer Industries is a specialist plastics reprocessing company that collects and reprocesses waste plastics from commercial and industrial sources. The company wanted to find recycling opportunities for a number of components used in the aerospace industry. Currently, the production of these components generates a high percentage of post-industrial waste, and the recycling of these very specialist and high-grade materials is not common, with nearly all of these materials being sent to landfill.
CALMARE was called in to identify the thermal properties and establish the correct reprocessing temperature of some of these specialist materials and as a result of CALMARE’s help, Polymer Industries is actively developing new opportunities and applications for the materials.
Dodwell TJ, Evans KE, Ghita O, Sandhu AS, Savage L. (2016) Quantifying variability of recycled fibres in composites using multilevel Monte Carlo, ECCM 2016 - Proceeding of the 17th European Conference on Composite Materials.
L. Savage, O.R. Ghita, et al (2011) Sheet Moulding Compound (SMC) from Carbon Fibre Recyclate – Composites: Part A) Vol. 41, pp. 1232-1237.