Project: Eco-friendly composite parts for luggage and consumer electronics cases

This combined project will develop novel, environmentally friendly, ultra-lightweight parts for luggage and consumer electronics by developing and using high performance, natural, biodegradable and recyclable composite materials and very low energy transformation process technologies. This will significantly reduce the environmental impact of these mass produced, high value products, which often have relatively short life-spans due to rapid changes in fashion and technology._x000D__x000D_Two families of materials will be developed and adopted - biocomposites and self-reinforced plastics. Firstly, high performance, lightweight biocomposites consisting of natural fibres (flax, jute etc.) and biopolymers (PLA, PHA, bioderived PA11 etc.) which will be 100% renewable and biodegradable. Secondly, impact resistant, lightweight self-reinforced plastics (based on PP, PE and PET) which will be 100% recyclable and can even be made from recycled/waste polymers. The low weight and high performance of these materials will mean that the products will be much thinner and lighter than what is currently on the market._x000D__x000D_These 100% bio-based, recyclable materials will be transformed into products for the luggage and consumer electronics industries using very fast, low energy moulding processes to minimise environmental impact during manufacturing. The transformation processes will utilise the unique 3iTech® technology which is based on specific induction heating and is a rapid, very low energy, efficient heating and moulding technique. This combination of material and process has the potential to be an ideal match because the rapid induction heating and cooling minimises thermal degradation, which is always a major issue for natural fibres. _x000D__x000D_In addition, the project will develop products with excellent surface finish direct from the mould, thereby eliminating the need for painting and varnishing, which generally adds significant cost and environmental impact to the finished products, due to additional processes and the use of solvents etc. The materials under investigation will be developed to have excellent surface finish and aesthetics and the project will also develop in-mould coatings to achieve special colours, patterns and textures direct from the mould._x000D__x000D_We plan to set up two pilot units, one at NetComposites for producing the materials and one at RocTool for the moulding process._x000D__x000D_The consortium will be made up of 2 companies, each bringing their know how._x000D_1. RocTool will be the leader of the project and will bring its portfolio of patents on the process of mould surface heating by induction, as well as its know how in fast molding processes._x000D_2. NetComposites will be the P and will bring its technologies for innovative and organic composites materials using natural fibers, biopolymers and self-reinforced plastics._x000D_

Acronym ECOCASE (Reference Number: 6385)
Duration 01/08/2011 - 31/01/2013
Project Topic To develop low environmental impact luggage and consumer electronics parts from high performance, lightweight, natural and recycled composite materials (biocomposites and self-reinforced plastics) and novel low energy, rapid production processes (induction heating technology).
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The process allow us to manufacture complete parts with perfect surface quality and with a cycle production duration matching industrial manufacturing._x000D_The materials developed have an overall quality similar to that of the materials currently in the market, that is the most important thing given that our first priority was to create an indivisible process/material duo. On top of that, SrPP, besides being much cheaper, and coupled with our rapid heat&cool process (this flexible material not being compatible with infrared oven/transfer/stamping) makes it very attractive for the targeted markets._x000D_Similarly, natural fiber materials show interesting characteristics (mechanical properties/density), but still it is our rapid heat&cool process that allow the industrial application of these materials.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 6

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
2 RocTool SA Coordinator France
2 NetComposites Ltd Partner United Kingdom