The Composites of Tomorrow

Composite materials find their greatest potential in applications where weight reduction is required without compromising rigidity and resistance of the material. Despite the high performance of these materials, their sustainability is still a major concern.

Tooling market is composed of about 70% of Polyurethanes (PU), 25% of Epoxies, and the remaining of other foamed or solid polymer components (Grand View Research, 2020). According to these values, more than 95% of the market is inherently non-recyclable, being composed of thermosetting materials typically landfilled after their function is over. Furthermore, the originating chemistry relies on components that pose serious health issues (isocyanates, epichlorohydrin – ECH, bisphenol A – BPA). Against these problems and great limitations, the TOOL4LIFE project was conceived, with the target of addressing the issues of sustainability in a fundamental pre-processing step for the composite manufacturing, substantially contributing to the global sustainability.

TOOL4LIFE aims to design and manufacture tooling in thermoplastic materials with hybrid technology (AM followed by milling and in-mould coating). During the project new water-based formulations for in-mould sealant, demoulding and finishing agents will be developed in order to reach a fully retrofittable solution. The process will enable the use of 20% to 25% polymer material reducing up to the 80% the volume of material used, 33% less energy and emits only the 9,2% of the CO2 equivalent against the current benchmark. The developed tooling will be completely recyclable after use.

The Objectives

  • To develop, adapt and positively demonstrate a hybrid (Additive Manufacturing and Milling) technology for manufacturing tooling for composites with minimum dimension of 1000 x 2000 mm, capable of producing virtually any 3D surface;

  • To reduce up to the 80% the volume of material used;

  • To cut energy consumption by 33%;

  • To reach a target of 9,2% CO2 equivalent emission;

  • To develop fully retrofittable and complete recyclable product.