Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RECOTRANS (Integrated manufacturing of REciclable hybrid metalthermoplastic COmposites for the TRANSport sector.)

Summary
Transport represents almost a quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in urban areas. Emissions of air pollutants from transport that harm our health and our environment need to be drastically reduced without delay and thus be...

Summary

Transport represents almost a quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in urban areas. Emissions of air pollutants from transport that harm our health and our environment need to be drastically reduced without delay and thus be aligned with the European targets and directives.
Lowering the transport weight not only improves fuel efficiency, reducing air pollutants but also increases vehicle performances, decreasing the load on the brakes and suspension systems and facilitates the introduction of the electric vehicles. Multi-material composites give transport manufacturers the possibility to reduce weight and to build parts with distinct shapes and visual appearances in their vehicles. However, manufacturing companies have been reluctant to introduce multi-material composites into major vehicles components because of high cost, long production times and lack of recyclability.
RECOTRANS project will integrate unconventional manufacturing technologies such as microwave (MW) radiation and laser joining in current resin transfer moulding (RTM) and pultrusion production lines to be able to obtain cost-effective recyclable multi-material composites suitable for the transport sector at high production rates, reducing cost and energy consumption compared to current composites materials.

Work Performed

RECOTRANS project has reached its 18th out of 42 months.
Demonstrators? design for automotive (GESTAMP), railway (Stadler Rail Valencia) and truck (Mercedes Benz Turkey) sectors has been accomplished in WP1, already finished, taking into account transport industry requirements, legal issues, standards, safety considerations and new manufacturing processes demands. Results from adapted acrylic resin characterization (WP2) and from multi-materials characterization obtained at pilot plant level (WP3 & WP4) were used in simulation programs to design the final demonstrators? parts.
In WP2, also finished, acrylic thermoplastic resin was adapted to develop a new resin suitable for the integration of MW radiation and laser joining in RTM and pultrusion production line by the collaboration between ARKEMA (resin selection) and AIMPLAS (additive treatment of the resin with susceptors). WP2 was also devoted to the development of laser assisted metal-polymer joining (LAMP) by TECNOCLAD.
First pilot plant tests using equipment available at pilot plant level in Fraunhofer ICT (RTM) and AIMPLAS (pultrusion) have been started in WP3 & WP4 to evaluate multi-material properties with the microwave technology (Fraunhofer ICT). Moreover, in these workpackages the design and development of auxiliary equipment for MW integration such as demonstrator moulds (FAR UK, GESTAMP, POLYMEC) and in-process monitoring and control system (INEA, SYNTHESITES) for RTM (WP3) and pultrusion (WP4) is under development in order to reach a full integration in production line in WP5 & WP6 (to be started) including LAMP developed in WP2.
Technical developments are being complemented with: environmental, economic and social analysis carried out by CTAG; innovation management, business plan and dissemination; and project management.
Different dissemination activities have been performed including RECOTRANS website http://www.recotransproject.eu/,Twitter and LinkedIn and also some conferences.

Results

The main problem when using thermoplastic matrices for high performance composites for structures or large parts is the difficulty in impregnating the fibrous reinforcement with the high viscosity resin. However, RECOTRANS project will overcome the drawbacks by obtaining multi-materials composites from in-situ polymerization of acrylic resins in low pressure processes, low cycle time production and low equipment investment introducing thermoplastic resin in conventional thermoset processing technologies such as RTM or pultrusion (for continuous profiles fabrication) to obtain cost-effective, high performance and recyclable multi-materials composites.
The use of MW irradiation in curing reactive thermoplastic composites is a less explored field. However, literature also reports the benefits of using MW in polymerization of thermoplastics, decreasing the time considerably, producing the same final quality with lower energy consumption. What is more, FGH and AIMPLAS had patented a process to heat homogeneously materials through high frequency electromagnetic radiation (EP2046093)
In RECOTRANS, microwave susceptors will be mixed with the acrylic resin to improve the interaction to the microwave radiation and transform the irradiated energy into heat in the whole volume of the multi-material composite in order to integrate MW technologies in RTM and pultrusion production lines to reduce cycle times and energy consumption for multi-materials composites manufacturing in transport sector.
Additionally, one of the main challenges in the use of polymer based composite materials in industry is joining metallic to polymeric parts in hybrid structures, since both materials possess significantly different physical, chemical and mechanical properties. Thus, one of the main objectives of RECOTRANS project will be the development of laser joining for multi-material metal-thermoplastic composites in industrial applications in the field of lightweight structures for the transport industry.
Furthermore, RECOTRANS aims to develop a DC-based system measuring the electrical resistivity of multi-material composites (acrylic resins, foam core, honey comb and carbon and glass fibre reinforcement) and advance control systems during MW manufacturing in pultrusion and RTM lines.
Three different production lines will be implemented in RECOTRANS project:
1. Microwave RTM line integrating MW technology, mould and control system followed by laser joining phase for a truck sector demonstrator.
2. Microwave RTM line integrating MW auxiliary equipment, mould and control system for the automotive sector demonstrator.
3. Microwave pultrusion line integrating MW auxiliary equipment, mould and control system followed by laser joining phase for the railway demonstrator.
RECOTRANS multi-material composites will be suitable for the substitution of traditional metallic parts in the trucks, automotive and railway applications, which will reduce their weight, fuel consumption, operation cost and emissions and thus increase their production rates.
Specifically, the metal output, (mainly steel and aluminium) for the European transport industry is over 44 million tonnes of steel a year, accounting for 20% of the global output. RECOTRANS project aims at substituting 2.7 million of components of the metallic components for the innovative multi-material composites.
In addition, the use of the developed multi-material composites, which will be recyclable, means an important reduction of the dependence on fossil resources, without compromising the quality of the derived products. This advantage will allow reducing the impact on the product end-life, in comparison to non-recyclable composites from petrochemical resources.
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