This guide has been created to enable the composites sector to understand the environmental and social impacts associated with composite production and assist with the decisions made about material and process choice. The materials and processes modelled are rated from A (good) through to E (poor). Twelve different environmental impacts are individually scored and totalled to give an overall environmental impact summary rating. Two social impact ratings are also given.
When measuring environmental impact it is important to consider all the influences through the life of the product, the process known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Because this guide concentrates on materials and manufacturing, as opposed to in-service performance, the impacts associated with products beyond the factory gate (the use, maintenance and disposal stages of the life cycle) have not been assessed.
With the system boundaries for the LCA defined, three typical product types have been chosen to reflect a range of different components typically manufactured using composites:
Similarly, production processes and materials have been selected to provide a balance between systems that are commonly used across the majority of the composites industry and emerging materials with the potential to provide an environmental benefit. For this reason, materials such as hemp fibre and self-reinforced polypropylene have been included in the guide, but materials that are more specific to a single sector (for example aramid fibre) have not been included.
Within each specific process there are still many processing variations (eg. mixing, curing and trimming method) in addition to the material choice possibilities. To enable fair comparisons, a base case has been selected for each process and is used throughout the guide to allow the merits of each process variation to be assessed.
Composites Evolution, Bercella and Element Materials Technology (Element) have successfully completed the development and testing of a composite cantilever support for rail passenger seating.
Boeing and Thermwood have employed additive manufacturing technology to produce a large, single-piece tool for the 777X programme. The project is demonstrating that additive manufacturing is ready to produce production quality tooling for the aerospace industry.
UK company Prodrive Composites has developed a process for manufacturing recyclable composite components that can satisfy future end-of-life requirements without any compromise in the performance of the original parts. The company says the P2T (Primary to Tertiary) process not only simplifies recycling, but endows a composite material with the potential to fulfil three or more useful lifetimes.