The airline industry's first recyclable catering trolley with a virtually all-plastic design has been introduced by AeroCat B.V., Tilburg, the Netherlands. The innovative Tigris trolley, made of injection and extrusion grades of Radelģ R polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) resin from Solvay Advanced Polymers LLC, Alpharetta, GA, weighs just 16 kg (35 lb) and is claimed to be the lightest in the industry. It boasts at least a 25 percent weight reduction over conventional aluminum trolleys, thus affording airlines a significant payload reduction and major fuel savings.
AeroCat, a full-service trolley manufacturer, was founded in 2006 and later formed a strategic alliance with key industry players including Solvay Advanced Polymers, a maker of high-performance polymers; Bemis Manufacturing Co., Sheboygan Falls, WI, a leading plastics processor; Brussels-based Zetes Industries, an international goods and people identification solutions provider; and gategroup, in Zurich, the leading global provider of above-the-wing services specializing in catering and hospitality, airport handling and logistics, and in-flight solutions.
The essentially all-plastic design, except for some small parts, facilitates closed-loop recycling after the trolley's estimated 10-year lifetime. A highly innovative feature is the incorporation of four passive RFID tags for optimized catering logistics. Other key benefits include reduced maintenance, improved aesthetics and better insulation properties than aluminum which translate into a highly attractive 100 percent return on investment in the first year.
The 4-ft x 14-inch- (157- x 35-cm)-wide trolley features a patented construction which includes 11 injection molded parts and three novel extruded parts. The extrusions set a new standard in terms of length and wall thickness for PPSU, according to Steve Kolste, director of market and business development.
Using standard extrusion equipment, Bemis employed unique die technology to extrude two 39-inch (99-cm)-high C-shaped parts for the body of the trolley. A key challenge was distributing the material evenly along the die, according to Kolste. Here, Radel R PPSU's consistent melt flow played an important role. The hollow, multilayer, ribbed structures are then joined together with a proprietary technology that eliminates fasteners and further reduces overall weight. The 0.5-inch- (1.3-cm)-thick structures are believed to be the largest thin-wall extrusions made of PPSU. The trolley also includes 3-ft x 10-inch (117 x 25-cm) injection molded parts for the front and rear doors.