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New Project Develops Future Generations of Plastics

22 April 2008

A multi-partner UK project, FuturePlas, is developing the next generation of innovative, sustainable self-reinforced plastics, with funding support from the Technology Strategy Board.

The FuturePlas project is one and a half years through its two and half year programme and is making good progress in its objectives of developing the next generation of Self-Reinforced Plastics (SRP’s) and processes. SRP’s are composites with high tenacity polymer fibres reinforcing a matrix of the same polymer, and are configured in such a way as to allow the moulding of components without losing the fibres’ excellent mechanical properties. In this way inexpensive, lightweight, stiff components can be moulded with complete recyclability, as they can be ground back down and re-used without further treatment.

Self-reinforced polypropylene (SRPP) is already commercially available in sheet form and has begun to make in-roads into market sectors such as automotive, personal protective equipment, ballistics and other impact sensitive areas.

The FuturePlas project is developing the range of SRP’s to include Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Nylon (PA) and Polyethylene (PE) and is also broadening the processing possibilities to include injection moulding and various sheet and fabric cross-over moulding technologies. The ultimate aim of FuturePlas is to offer a wider range of SRP materials, properties and processes than is currently available, for applications requiring higher mechanical performance, higher temperature resistance and quicker cycle times than those already available. Project Manager Chris Hare of NetComposites says “The progress being made on these new materials is very exciting and promises high performance materials with excellent recycling properties”.

Light, stiff, recyclable moulded components at low cost are now within the grasp of the Futureplas consortium, led by NetComposites, which consists of Bentley Motors, Exel Composites, James Dewhurst, JSP, McKechnie Engineered Plastics, , University of Leeds, and Visteon.

NetComposites was created at the end of 2000 with the specific objective of developing and exploiting new composite materials technologies. The company is active in applied research, development and consultancy, and also has a strong presence in web-based information, all in the field of composite materials. NetComposites is also well-known for its insight into emerging technologies in composites. The company has manufacturing and prototyping capability to cater for almost all fibres, resins and composite materials, with a history of successfully developing demonstrator parts using new technologies. The company is experienced in developing successful, commercially exploitable outcomes from research projects.

The technology developed by NetComposites has led to the creation of Aptiform, a moulding business that has been founded specifically to manufacture components from self-reinforced plastics. Aptiform is dedicated to the manufacture of complex components from self-reinforced plastics - a family of materials that offer a unique balance of properties and cost.

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