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Esprit, a new project with partners drawn from across Europe, is developing Self Reinforced Plastics to allow radical new methods of manufacture and processing.
Self Reinforced Plastics (SRP’s) are now maturing into materials suitable for commercial exploitation in applications requiring lightweight, stiff and impact resistant mouldings, as well as possessing excellent recyclability. They are comprised of a thermoplastic fibre and matrix in a similar manner to conventional composites but with the added benefit that the fibre and matrix are derived from a common polymer. This has the environmental advantage that at the end of its life the moulding can ground down and re-used without further treatment. Self Reinforced polypropylene (SRPP) is a commercial reality and has begun to make in-roads into certain market sectors such as automotive, Personal Protective Equipment, ballistics panels and other impact sensitive areas.
Esprit, an EC FP7 funded project, is a three and a half year project which aims to take SRP technology to a new level by modifying the fibre and matrix and by radically improving the processing methods. The aim is to develop production-ready technology which improves the selective melting process, allowing the materials to be flow-moulded without affecting the reinforcing fibre properties. The materials to be used are Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Nylon (PA) and Polyethylene (PE) as well as other more unusual thermoplastics. Material usage and component weight is expected to be reduced by 30% for equivalent stiffness over conventional materials, resulting in energy saving in both manufacture and in use through, for example, lighter vehicles.
The kick-off meeting for the project was held at the premises of the Institut fuer Verbundwerkstoffe GmbH (IVW) in Kaiserslautern, Germany and was attended by all the partners as well as the European Commission representatives. In addition to IVW the consortium consists of Aimplas, AVK (EATC), Comfil, Future Advanced Composites and Technology, Fibroline, Fricke und Mallah Microwave Technology, NetComposites (coordinator), PEMU, Polisilk, Promolding, Regloplas and StructoForm. The consortium has been selected to encompass skills in material modification, machinery building, testing, processing and manufacture resulting in a strong team of participants.
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