M30 ECOBULK Project Update

M30 Consortium Meeting in Pozzuoli

The EcoBulk consortium met in Pozzuoli, kindly hosted by partner IPCB-CNR. The aim of the meeting was mainly to discuss the plans and progress towards the implementation of the demonstrators, which are due to be in place in 2020. Following the three chosen industries, each partner presented their work towards their respective demonstrations.

Furniture Industry

Moretti have been refining their modular furniture concept. Several improvements have been made to the original concept after testing. The original design used screws and glue to hold the elements together but using the fastener tool they have found a suitable replacement plastic mechanical fastener which makes disassembly much easier and economical. The upholstery for the seats will use Velcro to attach for ease of maintenance and refurbishment.

The modular furniture units will be demonstrated at Warwick University and Coventry University in the UK, at the University of Camerino in Italy, and at the Lipor offices in Portugal. They will be used for student accommodation furniture as well as general office use. For office purposes, Moretti will be producing a bigger unit (50cm cube) to create a bigger desk surface.

Moretti Compact Module Furniture Bedroom
New particleboard formulations were tested in Kastamonu Entegre Adana labs containing 25% to 50% recycled particleboard material.

To further improve the circularity of the furniture, new particleboards have been formulated to increase the amount of recycled particle board they may contain. Usually there is a limit of how much recycled particleboard can be used due to the formaldehyde emissions which must be avoided. By using new binders developed by AkzoNobel, KEAS Kastamonu has been able to produce new boards that include up to 50% recycled particleboard – which compared to the standard 25% currently used in Italy by Moretti is a huge step forward. Cranfield has been experimenting with bio-based binder resins that can use 100% recycled particle board but only for one cycle.

Automotive Industry

MAIER has finished production of the test injection mould and is now able to produce samples for their dual layer central fascia component concept. This is where the fascia component will have a virgin material front side for aesthetic purposes and a circular back side from recycled materials. The production has been set up as a fully automated production line in the same way normal parts would be produced.

MAIER will be testing the produced components and validating its ability to re-manufacture the same component using the same materials through several cycles of EOL recovery. The fascia components will be on display in their showroom so that their clients can be informed of the developments towards a more circular approach to automotive components.

MicroCab has continued its development of the new vehicle life extension model by maintaining ownership and providing the vehicle as a service. Their model includes regular maintenance and refurbishment, so it not only maintains the original function but also maintains the value by ensuring that aged components are replaced to keep the vehicle in top condition.

The MicroCab 20 year vehicle lifecycle breaks down the expected longevity of subsystems and schedules timely replacement and refurbishment.

The lifecycle of the vehicle has been analysed based on the expectations for each constituent part. In this way, a schedule can be made for the timely and preventive replacement of parts to keep the vehicle not only in working order, but also at a high economic value through refurbishments. Oakdene Hollins conducted a comparison in total cost of ownership, per mile, between this model and a standard lease model for a comparable small internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. The initial cost of production for the MicroCab vehicle is very high compared to the ICE model, but even so over a 20 year life-span the cost per mile evens out and becomes competitive. Even at parity costs, the MicroCab concept should prove to be more valuable in the long run as the initial cost of production can be drastically reduced if done at scale, and also because the ICE model needs to be fully replaced in 10 years which comes with other environmental costs currently unaccounted for in the model.

MicroCab will also integrate EcoBulk materials into its assemblies. They will use a compression moulded dashboard fascia switch module which will be using the natural jute LFT pellets being produced by Coventive. They are testing the PLA based materials that could replace commercial ABS parts. Finally they are also looking to integrate the airlaid non-wovens developed by NTT for NVH purposes (Noise/Vibration/Hardness). They have good thermal insulation properties which is useful in electric vehicles which do not generate much spare heat like ICE vehicles.

Construction Industry

Conenor has continued to perfect its agglomeration process to create materials that can be extruded into construction products for the demonstrations. This process also might be able to provide materials that can be compounded into pellets for injection moulding, AIMPLAS will be conducting tests for that. The multi-layer extrusion products will be demonstrated in several places across Europe by the ECOBULK partners. Designs have been completed for a variety of outdoor constructions according to the local needs, and production of the required products has started.

The demonstrators should be assembled and ready for use an testing by the summer of 2020 at the latest. Each demonstration will be tested according to its function as well as its circular potential. This will include performance in durability and resistance, but also human factors like comfort and aesthetic factors. As part of the tracking system for materials for future re-manufcturing, the products will also be foreseen with a QR code that will link to the Decision Support System (DSS) which will be able to specify the materials and circular options available for the product.

To prove the circularity of the new materials, it is necessary to return some of the products back for remanufacturing and further testing. After one year in demonstration, the chosen installations in three different climate conditions (Lipor-PT /  Warwick-UK / KymiRing-FI) will be disassembled
and the components sent back for remanufacturing at Conenor. Received components will be downsized by shredding and then  remanufactured by
extrusion. The new test specimens will be sent to IPCB-CNR for mechanical testing. Based on observed processing performance, the formulation might change with extra added plastics or other additives to try to maintain the same performance of the original materials.

Next Steps

The Demonstrators will be ready starting from 2020 onwards. Please refer back to the website, or follow the project through our newsletter and social media to keep up to date with the latest development. If you would like to know more about any of the demonstrations for the project please contact us!