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An automotive seat back using recycled carbon fiber

News International-French

13 Sep 2017

The Composite Recycling Technology Center and ELG Carbon Fibre Ltd of the UK jointly demonstrated the manufacture of an automotive seatback made from recycled carbon fiber composite.

An automotive seat back using recycled carbon fiber

The tooling was supplied in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The goal of the project was to demonstrate manufacturability of the materials, to test flow and compaction into the various features, and to provide samples for non-destructive and destructive testing. The project addressed all issues to develop final prototypes. It will lead the way forward to entering production in automotive interiors with fast-cycle molding of recycled carbon fiber/thermoplastic materials at highly competitive costing. ELG, CRTC, and IACMI look forward to the next steps in the development efforts and pursuing production opportunities in high-volume applications.

“This is a very exciting project and I am very proud of the entire team who worked hard to turn this seat from a vision into reality,” said David Walter, CRTC CEO. “The close collaboration with the team from IACMI and ELG made this project a big success.”

The bucket-style seatback is approximately 24-inches high and 19-inches wide, with side flanges of nearly 5-inches at their deepest. It utilized 1.3 kg of ELG’s Carbiso TM PA6 60% SM45D. The recycled fiber/nylon 6 resin was molded at CRTC in a hot compression cycle at 435 F, using their Wabash/MPI 300-ton hot-platen press. The seatback was molded in IACMI’s aluminum tool that was previously developed for a pre-production prototype evaluation project.

From its new, state-of-the-art facility leased from the Port of Port Angeles, the CRTC has pioneered the recycling and reuse of tons of uncured carbon fiber composite scrap that would otherwise go to landfills. The CRTC’s focus is to create jobs and drive economic development in Clallam County.

About 50 million pounds of carbon fiber scrap are produced annually, with approximately 2 million pounds per year produced in Washington state – a volume expected to double over the next five to eight years, with the expansion of regional manufacturing.

Under a new contract with IACMI, the CRTC will pioneer ways to automate processing of this scrap and remanufacture it into new consumer products. This technology breakthrough is essential so carbon fiber scrap can be processed in high volumes, fulfilling the enormous potential for energy savings and carbon reduction and creating a global composites recycling industry.

For its technological innovation and new market creation, CRTC earned the Silver Award for Sustainability from Seattle Business Magazine in 2017. The company has created 16 jobs and more than $3 million in new economic activity over the past year, garnering a 2016 Award of Excellence from the Clallam County Economic Development Corporation.

The CRTC has a multi-faceted agreement with Toray Composite Materials America for scrap carbon fiber supply and materials development, and continues to work very collaboratively with this strategic partner.

Funding for the CRTC recycling facility and campus was provided by the Port of Port Angeles, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Clallam County Opportunity Fund and the City of Port Angeles.

The CRTC campus also houses Peninsula College’s Advanced Manufacturing Composite Technology program with classrooms, offices, and lab facilities. The program gives students hands-on training in advanced materials recycling and remanufacturing techniques. Co-location with CRTC provides students with unequaled opportunities for internships, manufacturing and R&D experience, and exposure to production operations.