The ThermoPlastic composites Research Center (TPRC) in partnership with the Fokker business unit of GKN and TenCate Advanced Composites have jointly won the JEC 2016 Innovation award for Aeronautics with their Carbon / PPS (C/PPS) leading edge access door panel, made utilizing recycled thermoplastic composites.
This success demonstrates the viability of integrating recycled thermoplastic composites into an existing manufacturing process. The access door panel is made using TenCate Cetex TC1100 (C/PPS) woven thermoplastic composite material, reclaimed during the production of the main rudder that is then chopped and compression molded, then incorporated into the overall rudder structure, thus forming a closed-loop recycling process. This novel use of reclaimed materials further strengthens the optimization of secondary processes for thermoplastic composites that also include welding, overmoulding and spin-welding inserts. The award was presented during the JEC Americas awards ceremony on Wednesday May 4th 2016 in Atlanta, GA, United States.
Designed by Fokker, the access door panel demonstrates a number of interesting design features. These include molded stiffening ribs, thickness variations and in-molded holes with bosses. The reclaimed and chopped C/PPS semi-preg allows for an increased design freedom, resulting in a lightweight component with a large degree of function integration.
A key advantage of thermoplastic composites is their capacity to be recycled, which is increasingly important factor when selecting material solutions in an environmentally aware supply chain. Nick Tiffin, European Director of Sales & Marketing of TenCate Advanced Composites stated: “We are delighted to support this project and applaud the outcome and recognition as it demonstrates the end-of-life possibilities alongside optimising “buy to fly” recycling options for thermoplastic composite materials.”
TPRC researcher Iqbal Rasheed on the collaboration between the partners: “It is a fruitful outcome of the excellent collaborative effort between TPRC and its members. The diverse expertise of the involved partners has led to this innovation, which wouldn’t have been possible without the significant contribution from TenCate Advanced Composites and Fokker. At TPRC we developed the process and designed the mold suitable for the chopped woven C/PPS prepreg, TenCate Cetex, material. The material used in this process is actual reclaimed material from the production process at Fokker.”