A better recycling method of excess aircraft composite material

News

Published: 12Aug2020

Invention 2018-075

A better recycling method of excess aircraft composite material

 

A method of reclaiming substantially more of the materials lost as scrap with applications in aerospace and composite material industries.

 

Market Need

During manufacturing processes there is often a substantial amount of excess materials, causing both an environmental issue and lost value. In the aerospace industry, one of the most common materials used for strong, lightweight structures is laminated pre-impregnated (prepreg) carbon fiber. Prepreg materials are cut into predetermined shapes, commonly referred to as “plies”, using an automated ply cutter. This process produces a lot of excess material waste due to design and manufacturing limitations. Almost 50% of the composite matrix and carbon fiber is left over after the cutting process.

 

Technology Summary

While many studies have focused on reclaiming the carbon fiber, the matrix has often been discarded or used as low value filler. As an alternative recycling method making use of both fiber and matrix, this technology transforms recovered prepreg material into a compound useful for complex semi-structural parts. For current methods the issue is based on two processing challenges: inextensible fibers promote fiber locking and hinders bulk material flow, as well as a relatively low resin viscosity may lead to excessive resin loss. This fully automated methodology is able to transform prepreg scrap into a semi-structural compound capable of overcoming those processing challenges.

 

Advantages

  • Repurposes more of the waste produced by aircraft material production
  • Lowers waste, its storage and transportation by capturing both the carbon fiber and matrix material
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