New high-performance structural compounds may soon emerge
from a recent compounding collaboration between Boeing and RTP Co., a global
compounder of custom-engineered thermoplastics.
Large amounts of carbon-fiber composite scrap are
beginning to emerge from the aircraft industry, which has been ramping up
carbon-composite content. The biggest new generator of material is the Boeing
787 Dreamliner, which will be moving into full production mode in the
not-too-distant future. It was disclosed at a recent Society of Plastics
Engineers meeting that Boeing has enlisted RTP to help
find a useful outlet for growing amounts of scrap.
According to an article by
Tony Deligio for Plastics Today,
Boeing is buying blue-chip grades of carbon fiber at a cost of $5-$50/lb. Kevin
Gaw, a plastics engineer at Boeing, says at least two-thirds of the fiber ends
up as scrap. Pyrolysis is used to extract fibers from epoxy matrices in a
process that can affect the fibers' surface properties.
In a statement to Design
News, RTP said it is developing high-performance structural compounds
utilizing these reclaimed fibers in a variety of engineered thermoplastic resins
including prime, bioplastic, post-industrial and post-consumer recycled
feedstock. Initial evaluations showed that mechanical performance of these
engineered structural compounds with the reclaimed carbon fiber was excellent.
"One of the goals of this project was to evaluate the use
of these valuable materials for our development partner, Boeing," says Dave
Sterling, RTP application development engineer.
Eric Lee, RTP structural products manager, added, "By
applying RTP Co.'s compounding and formulation expertise we have been able to develop
some new high-performance structural compounds for injection molding that have
great potential in a number of applications and markets."
RTP's target markets for these materials include defense,
aerospace, sporting goods, automotive and industrial.
Boeing says an increasing number of decommissioned
aircraft have potentially useful scrap material. Some estimates place the
number of aircraft that will be retired over the next 20 years at close to
6,000. A potentially even bigger factor is the ramp-up of the Dreamliner, which
was originally expected to become commercial in May 2008. Boeing now hopes the
planes will enter service by the end of this year. Production is scheduled to expand
to 10 per month in 2013.
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Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
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