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Werner Paddles of Sultan, Washington, US, a manufacturer of fine handcrafted boating paddles, has overcome aesthetic issues with its smooth, jet-black kayak paddle blades thanks to new blades made from recycled carbon fibre.
According to Werner, the blades are designed to look as good as they perform. “The carbon fibre compound Werner used for the blades is more commonly found in the manufacture of structural components where surface quality is not a priority,” explained Tim Bailey, Engineering Manager of Werner’s moulder, KASO Plastics of Vancouver, Washington, US. “For Werner, the cosmetics of the material were as important as the strength, rigidity, and other physical properties.” The challenge was to find a way to deliver both performance and aesthetics.
Bailey explains that he and his engineering team tried upwards of a dozen different materials from several suppliers without success until they connected with custom compounder RTP Company who recommended a recycled content material. The material, a carbon fibre reinforced compound, was developed by RTP Company with assistance from aircraft manufacturer Boeing who introduced them to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, an emerging composite recycling network that Boeing helped establish. According to Pete George, Boeing’s Aircraft Composites Recycling Principal Investigator, “We looked to RTP Company for high-end applications to use carbon fibre reclaimed from manufacturing scrap from our 787 Dreamliner airplane production.”
The premium, aircraft grade carbon fibre delivered the physical characteristics required at a lower fibre loading, allowing KASO to meet aesthetic requirements, something none of the virgin materials were able to do. “In addition,” said Bailey, “The material is actually a little bit easier to process, and the system cost between the recycled content carbon fibre compound and virgin alternatives is insignificant.”
“Werner’s kayak paddle is a great example of Boeing’s sustainable manufacturing strategy at work, where post-industrial scrap from aircraft production provides a high-performance solution for a consumer product,” said Bill Carberry, Boeing’s Aircraft Recycling Project Manager.
Pleased with the both the look and performance of the new blades, Werner says it knows that using recycled content in the manufacture of the blades will be especially attractive to the company’s dedicated customer base of environmentally conscious outdoor enthusiasts.
Moulder KASO has worked with RTP Company on several projects over the years, and says it is very appreciative of the service they provide. Bailey noted, “Their technical support is superior, and that is very important to us. We mould highly engineered parts that are very demanding and selection of materials is critical to success. Many suppliers have application engineers that can help to a certain extent, but we’ve never seen anyone as knowledgeable and spot on as the people at RTP Company.”
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