We regularly participate in publicly funded research projects in the field of remanufacturing.
Politecnico di Milano
prof. Gianmarco Griffini
Associate Professor, Materials Science and Technology
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101058756.
Our ambition is to provide a competitive advantage to the European manufacturing industry by bringing innovative technologies to life that will enable the circularity of complex composite materials, turning what we consider nowadays end-of-life composite waste into feedstock for profitable.
The main objective of the RECREATE project is to develop a set of innovative technologies aimed at exploiting the potential of end-of-life complex composite waste (mainly carbon fiber reinforced composites, and glass fiber reinforced composites) as a feedstock for profitable reuse of parts and materials in the manufacturing industry.
The EU composites market size is foreseen to grow steadily with an annual growth rate of 7.5% in the next few years. Legislation is progressively banning landfilling in many countries and the amount of composite waste to be recycled and reused is growing, expected to exceed 80,000 tons in 2025, what represents a huge potential for the manufacturing industry across the EU. On the other side, there is an increasing market demand of high-performance fiber materials (especially carbon) at affordable costs in many sectors like automotive and transportation and in general for the lightweight design field. It is therefore crucial that new technologies evolve and penetrate key industry value chains. These new technologies should, in the first place, substitute the more consolidated mechanical grinding and pyrolysis to allow the recovery and reuse of materials and components without compromise to downcycling, this creating significant circularity effects, providing both convincing environmental sustainability and economic profitability.
There is a massive potential for replication and multiplication of the RECREATE solution at world-wide scale. Through its demonstrators RECREATE directly affects 70% of the composite consumption sectors (EU Composite industry market size equalled €16 Bn in 2019, growing at 8.8% worldwide (CAGR 2021-2025), including transportation (14% in value, represented by EDAG), wind energy (14%, represented by RES-T), aerospace (15%, represented by Invent and Geven), consumer goods (24%), with Head as our main demonstrator. Moreover, in terms of geographical distribution of composite use in manufacturing, the RECREATE covers the 90% of the European market distribution.
In the light of these considerations, the ambition of RECREATE project is:
To develop and validate in relevant environment (TRL6) novel reuse strategies for current generation, large EoL composite parts (including complex multimaterial composites) based on smart recognition and inspection for sorting (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy – LIBS), high precision dismantling (laser-shock) and repair, T-assisted reshaping, design for disassembly based on reversible joints, AI-assisted decision support systems;
To develop and validate in relevant environment (TRL6) innovative physico-chemical upcycling technologies (catalyst-assisted green solvolysis, electrofragmentation) allowing simultaneous recovery of high quality, integer, clean fibers and of an organic resin fraction reusable as coating material, at the very end of the multiple reuse processes of parts;
To demonstrate at TRL6 the use of smart and green reversible thermoset resins as enabling materials for the realization of the next generation of fiber-reinforced composites (FRCs) with easier repairability and enhanced reusability, facilitating the transition towards recyclable-by-design composite materials and structures.
Moreover, RECREATE addresses another key objective, that is the development of a set of new digital tools for:
The quantitative evaluation of the environmental and economic performance of the proposed technologies (LCA/LCC) as well as their circularity assessment;
The co-design of innovative digital learning resources, including the realization of MOOCS, serious games and digital twins of some specialty technologies developed in the project, with easy adoption and high replicability.
The objectives and the ambition of RECREATE are fully compliant with the general requirements of the Horizon Europe – Digital, Industry and Space 2021 Work Programme, and with the specific requirements of the call Horizon-CL4-2021-Resilience-01-01.
About the project
Large scale demonstration of new circular economy value-chains based on the reuse of end-of-life fiber reinforced composites.
Glass and carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites (GFRP and CFRP) are increasingly used as structural materials in many manufacturing sectors like transport, constructions and energy due to their better lightweight and corrosion resistance compared to metals. Composite recycling is a challenging task. Although mechanical grinding and pyrolysis reached a quite high TRL, landfilling of EoL composites is still widespread since no significant added value in the reuse and remanufacturing of composites is demonstrated.
FiberEUse (GA No. H2020-730323-1) aims at integrating different innovation actions through a holistic approach to enhance profitability of composite recycling and reuse in value-added products. Through new cloud-based ICT solutions for value-chain integration, scouting of new markets, analysis of legislation barriers, life cycle assessment for different reverse logistic options, FiberEUse will support industry in the transition to a circular economy model for composites. FiberEUse is a €9.8 million research project funded by the European Union since June 2017 and collaborating with 20 partners from 7 EU countries.
(i) The integration of innovative remanufacturing technologies addressed to develop profitable reuse options for mechanically or thermally recycled EoL GFRP and CFRP composites, enabling ease of operation, significant cost reduction, compliance with EU Directives with minimization of environmental impacts. New value chains will be created leading to the realization of several demo-cases covering different manufacturing sectors. They will be subjected to a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA, ISO 14044/44) and to the EU Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) programme.
(ii) The development of an innovation strategy for mobilization and networking of stakeholders from all the sectors related to composites, from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to tier 1 suppliers, logistical operators, technology providers and exploiters, designers, and end-user associations, providing a platform for communication and dissemination of results. This will help to overcome cross-cutting barriers to innovation by i) developing a common roadmap for the alignment of regional legislations, regulation and pricing methodologies and ii) demonstrating the economic benefits and profitability of the proposed remanufacturing options. This also will promote a paradigm shift in perception from simple “recycling” to “valorisation through reuse and remanufacturing”.
FiberEUse will demonstrate at a large scale a set of environmentally and simultaneously economically profitable solutions for the treatment and valorization of EoL composite waste deriving from different manufacturing sectors. A holistic approach based on the synergistic use of different enabling technologies will be implemented in the realization of three large scale use-cases. Each of these large use-cases will generate several other demo-cases to close the loop of composite lifecycle in different industrial sectors from a circular economy viewpoint. Interconnections among the various use-cases are also foreseen to further widen the extent of circularization of the composite sector.
The project is based on the realization of three macro use-cases, further detailed in eight demonstrators:
Use-case 1 (yellow in image below): Mechanical recycling of short GFRP and re-use in added-value customized applications, including furniture, sport and creative products. Emerging manufacturing technologies like UV-assisted 3D-printing and metallization by Physical Vapor Deposition will be used.
Use-case 2 (green in image below): Thermal recycling of long fibers (glass and carbon) and re-use in high-tech, high-resistance applications. The input product will be EoL wind turbine and aerospace components. The re-use of composites in automotive (aesthetical and structural components) and building will be demonstrated by applying controlled pyrolysis and custom remanufacturing.
Use-case 3 (blue in image below): Inspection, repair and remanufacturing for EoL CFRP products in high-tech applications. Adaptive design and manufacturing criteria will be implemented to allow for a complete circular economy demonstration in the automotive sector.
Through new cloud-based ICT solutions for value-chain integration, scouting of new markets, analysis of legislation barriers, life cycle assessment for different reverse logistic options, FiberEUse will support industry in the transition to a circular economy model for composites.
Politecnico di Milano
prof. Marcello Colledani
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Technology and Production Systems Lab
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. H2020-730323-1.