Composite materials make it possible to reduce weight without compromising stiffness and resistance wherever they are applied. However, their actual sustainability has been highly questioned, as it is intrinsically difficult to recycle thermoset resin matrices.
Sustainability is defined by the circularity of materials throughout their value chain: the pre-processing of composites relies on the use of tools as moulds. Thermoset foam has a major impact on the global composites balance sheet, as it is intrinsically non-recyclable and is usually landfilled after its function has ended.
This issue is yet to be resolved.
The TOOL4LIFE project produces tools in thermoplastic materials with hybrid technology (AM followed by milling and in-mould coating). The process allows 20% to 25% polymer material to be used, reducing material use by up to 80%, consuming 33% less energy and emitting only 9.2% CO2 equivalent compared to the current benchmark. Moreover, the thermoplastic materials are fully recyclable after use.
The solution is fully retrofittable in composite processing thanks to its in-mould sealant, demoulding and finishing agents, which are specially developed on a water-based basis.
The project actively contributes to effectively reducing CO2 emissions, saving energy, reducing landfill and creating a healthier world for citizens.
The project, which will be implemented at the facilities of BERCELLA, an Italian composites producer, is expected to pay for itself already in the short term, thanks to the savings and revenue multiplication related to the reduced market cost of composites.
Third-party production is expected to lead to saturation of production capacity in the medium term. Long-term exploitation envisages installations at licensors. Such accelerated rollout outside the original site is expected to generate revenue and rapidly increase the pace of deployment.
The project is funded by the EU Programme for Environment and Climate Action (LIFE)