In keeping with its mission to respond to the social challenges of sustainable mobility, AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, has been coordinating the European RECOTRANS project, which has made it possible to develop new design-efficient technologies and solutions to reduce vehicle weight.
In particular, new thermoplastic composites have been developed through the integration of microwaves and laser welding. It has been demonstrated that microwaves can be used to optimize the curing process of composites in resin transfer moulding (RTM) and pultrusion, which reduces the energy consumed, shortens manufacturing times and helps produce better-quality parts.
It has also been shown that laser technology can be used to obtain stable joints between the composite and metal, thus making it possible to do without riveted joints, which increase structural weight. Finally, studies were carried out on the recyclability of the thermoplastic composite by using it to manufacture a new part.
These results were validated through the manufacture of three life-size demo samples and one demo sample from the recycling material.
The demo sample of the rear suspension system of a truck cab was manufactured through the integration of microwaves in the RTM process to make a thermoplastic composite with glass fibre, thermoplastic acrylic resin and a composite-metal joint made using laser welding.
An automotive door panel was also manufactured by integrating microwaves in the c-RTM process to make a thermoplastic composite with carbon-fibre reinforcement and thermoplastic acrylic resin. An interior panel was manufactured for the rail industry by using microwaves in the pultrusion process to make composites with glass fibre reinforcement and thermoplastic acrylic resin. The joint between the composite and metal parts was made using laser welding.
In addition, the recyclability of the materials was validated by manufacturing a demo sample of a car door handle made of 50% recycled material.
The RECOTRANS project, which started in October 2017 and ended in September 2021, received funding from the European Union within the framework of the H2020 Programme.
A total of 13 partners from seven countries have taken part: Stadler, Gestamp, Mercedes Benz Türk, Arkema, INEA, Tecnoclad, Synthesites, Far-UK, CTAG, ITU, Fraunhofer, Polymec and AIMPLAS.
The developments made in this project can be applied to other industries.
At AIMPLAS, we help companies apply circular economy criteria to their business models and turn the legislative changes that affect the plastics industry into opportunities to improve company efficiency, reduce environmental impact and increase profitability.
AIMPLAS also does research in areas such as recycling, biodegradable materials and products, and the use of biomass and CO2 with the aim of developing innovative solutions that help solve current environmental challenges.