The composites and techno-polymers pilot will demonstrate that the DigiPrime platform can unlock a sustainable business case targeting the recovery and reuse of composites (CFRP-Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic and GFRP-Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic) and both thermoplastic and thermoset polymers (PA, PC, PBT, PP, ABS, UP, PU, …) with a cross-sectorial approach linking the automotive, the construction, the renewable energy, and the design sectors.
Current waste management practices in thermoset composites are dominated by landfilling which is still a relatively cheap option but doesn’t comply with the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC); while thermoplastic composites already have recycling and material recovery chains.
The demand for GFRP and CFRP as lightweight functional components for the automotive and aeronautical industry grew steadily over the last years. Furthermore, the continuous expansion of the use of renewable energy sources, especially the intensified utilization of wind power plants, has further increased the need for GFRPs and CFRPs. The mobility sector (including automotive, locomotive and aeronautical) as well as the construction and infrastructure sector (including wind energy) each consume approximately one third of the European GFRP production. Similar trends are observed in the global consumption of CFRP, particularly in aeronautical, automotive and wind energy applications.
Composites components from these industrial sectors have relatively long life cycles, which complicates the localization of end-of-life waste.
Composite materials can be recycled following mainly three family of processes:
- Mechanical, aiming at directly reuse the material after size reduction processes.
- Thermal, through which, increasing the temperature in a controlled environment, is it possible to obtain clean fibers.
- Chemical, able to dissolve the resin matrix through solvents leaving clean fibers.
Even if a degradation of mechanical and physical properties appears after each of these processes, the implementation of a cross-sectorial approach allows to reuse recycled materials in high-added value products. in this context, the role of data is fundamental to overcome several issues as the lack of information sharing, the demand and supply matching, the scarcity of testing and verification protocols and the heterogeneity in legislation at different levels, from regional to European.
The most relevant value-chain oriented services for Composites and Techno-polymers Pilot aim to:
- Support the design and production phases of new products embedding recycled material.
- Facilitate the matching between demand and supply of End-of-Life products and materials.
- Establish robust circular value-chains in composites sector.
- Facilitate the adoption of products embedding recycled material.
The most relevant operational services for Composites and Techno-polymers Pilot aim to:
- Define a Decision Support System to identify the best disassembly and demanufacturing strategy.
- Continuously support the established circular value-chains.
- Favor the adoption of well-defined testing and certification protocols.
Through the exploitation of the DigiPrime platform, the Composites and Techno-polymers Pilot will demonstrate the possibility to establish robust and well-defined circular value-chains in different sectors, demonstrating the power of the cross-sectorial approach and favoring the multiplication of the adopted solutions. Exploiting all the identified services, the pilot will develop several demonstrators mainly in automotive, wind energy, construction and design sectors through the use of both mechanical and thermal recycling.
The overall approach of the DigiPrime platform in the composites sector, is to define a complete value chain starting from the End of Service of a specific product to a new, recycled or embedding recycled material, product. Along the value chain the platform figures out all the actors and stakeholder necessary to let the material flows and the business start. Digital services are developed for each actor along the process chain to help and support the specific activities of the actor/company itself.
- 90% recovery rate in the cross-sectorial reuse of materials.
- 40% recycled fiber content embedded in new products.
- 85% energy savings compared to virgin fibers production.