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clean one-stage process free of VOCs and small particles emissions, able to produce properly coated composite pultruded profiles.
After its contraction last year, the market for GRP/FRP pultrusion profiles has stabilised in 2013 and is no longer in decline in Europe.
The main area of application for these components is the construction industry, which is still in a more or less devastated condition, especially in Southern Europe. Much of the growth in this market can be attributed to three factors including increasing energy efficiency requirements from consumers, the escalating need for anti-corrosive applications, and a greater focus on total lifecycle cost of end products as compared to those manufactured from materials such as steel and aluminium.
Additionally, tough regulations on VOC release and styrene emissions are significantly increasing the cost to manufacturers, and are becoming a challenge for the industry.
The remarkable issues that reduce the competitiveness of the pultruded profiles, in comparison to traditional materials are: the limitation of the process by the time required for the polymerisation of the resin inside the die (which results in a low speed process), and when a coating is needed to improve the surface of the profile, then the surface of the profile must be carefully prepared and primed with additional steps (sanding and painting processes) which are expensive, because of the high labour costs and extraction equipment.
To try to solve this problem, the COALINE project, full title Development of an Innovative Manufacturing Process for the in-LINE COAting of Pultruded Composites, is the achievement of an in-line clean one-stage process, free of VOCs and small particles emissions, able to produce properly coated composite pultruded profiles by means of the development of the sensing technology, advanced mould design and microwave aided curing needed to foster an improved composite/coating adhesion with a reduced labour and process cost (figure). Also, COALINE profiles will be joined to other materials by means of a primer type coating, incorporated in-line with bonding on-demand properties.
The project partners consortium are AIMPLAS and FRAUNHOFER, as research organisations, RIGA TEHNISKA UNNIVERSITATE, ACCIONA, MUEGGE, as industrial partners and enterprises like ALKÈ, COMPOSITES ARAGÓN, ECOINNOVA, POLYMEC, RESOLTECH, RESCOLL and SYNTHESITES.
The innovative process developed in COALINE will be able to considerably reduce the necessary steps and emissions to obtain a high quality coated part by means of the integration of the forming, coating and finishing processes in one step, for that reason, it will produce affordable thermoset composite materials suitable for the substitution of traditional structural metallic parts in vehicles, which will reduce its weight, fuel consumption and emissions.
Furthermore, the reduction of the time when producing the high performance coated profiles, will allow the high output and continuous production that the automotive industry demands.
COALINE aims to address the production of valuable coated pultruded profiles by dramatically reducing their cost (up to 35%) and the number of processing steps, significantly increase output and improving their quality in comparison with coated pultruded profiles obtained nowadays by means of the following innovations:
· New multi-stage die design with resin and coating polymerisation separated into a multi cavity structure.
· A microwave heating system inside the die that will reduce the polymerisation time and the energy employed to produce the composites. The MW system developed will be valid independently of the type of fibres employed to produce the composites (glass or carbon).
· New range of modified resins and gel-coats with MW susceptors to improve radiation absorption and achieve a fast curing process.
· An innovative control system to foster the adhesion of the coating to the composite by means of a controlled curing degree in each stage of the process.
· Improvement of the labour conditions by minimising the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions through direct injection of the resin and the coating inside the die and avoiding post-manufacturing treatments of the composite surface.
· The development of innovative fast curing primers to permit the employment of de-bonding on demand adhesives to foster the adhesion between the composite and other metallic part, the recycling and maintenance of the pultruded structure.
All the advantages that composite materials offer will be obtained at a competitive cost thanks to the severe improvement in the manufacturing process and dramatic reduction of secondary operations.
This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 609149
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