M18 ECOBULK Project Update

ECOBULK - Business Models Workshop - Valencia

The consortium gathered in Valencia for their regular 6 monthly meeting, hosted by partner ITENE at their offices in Paterna. After 18 months of hard work, the partners shared their progress, and collaborated on workshops designed to enhance the ECOBULK prototypes and demonstrations. 

Business and Design

The full first day was spent on intensive workshops specifically designed to challenge and stimulate the partners to further refine the business models for their circular prototypes. These workshops were a follow up to the previous circular design workshops in Koblenz (M12 – 06/2018) where the first concepts for the prototypes were crafted based on different circular strategies.

EOCBULK Business Model Ambition versus Circularity

The circular design process, perhaps by its very nature in having to integrate solutions from both up and down the value chain, requires an iterative approach where the original designs and concepts are revisited to ensure that the partial solutions being integrated are well matched and adjusted to each other where necessary. While this redesign iteration focused on the business model, the next ones will revisit and optimize material choices and then recovery options at end of life. Read more about the workshops.

ECOBULK Fastener Finder
The Fastener Finder developed by TUDelft

The meeting also featured presentations of some of the many deliverables due at this stage of the project. One of these was the finalised Circular Design framework developed by TUDelft, and a great new tool, the Fastener Finder, specifically designed to search for and provide information on the circularity of a wide range of fasteners and joining options for designers and manufacturers. This enables smarter, more circular choices to be made already at design time that make the flow of products and materials easier in the subsequent steps of the circular chain.

Materials

Of course, an essential part of circular design has to do with materials – which ones to choose and how to improve them for circular scenarios. In Valencia the partners presented the latest developments in this area. Granta has been working on the Materials Explorer database, which enables designers and manufacturers to choose from a wealth of materials and the resulting circular impact on the product from those choices. Further, our materials partners have continued developing and improving new materials for the ECOBULK project, based on pultrusion (Coventive), compounding (Tecnaro), agglomeration (Conenor), Airlaid (NTT) and hot press (KEAS/AKZO/CU) processes. These target different applications for the demonstrations, and are all now testing and improving their formulations for production.

PartnerTechnologyMaterialsApplication
CoventivePultrusionRecycled PP Natural Fibre - LFT PelletsAutomotive Interior Components
TecnaroCompoundingRecylced PP + Natural FibresAutomotive Interior Components
ConenorAgglomerationRecycled PE/PP + narural fibres, G-FRP wasteConstruction and outdoor furniture
NTTAirlaid TechnologyPL + PU, PL + Wood scrapsAutomotive (floor carpets), Furniture (upholstery), Construction (insulation)
KEAS/AKZO/CUHot PressingParticle Boards (increased recycled content)Furniture

Afterwards, IRIS as lead of the task on material conditioning for recycled streams, presented the advances on DMSO based cleaning processes and plasma activation for plastic surfaces that will help to eliminate impurities and improve the adhesion to both other materials as well as paints for a higher quality finish on recycled plastic materials.

ECOBULK Plasma Treatment for Plastics

Systems and Services

UPC, along with partners Exergy, ITENE, Granta and IRIS have been hard at work developing the digital systems support that will be necessary to enable the efficient circular flow of materials and products. Along with the required databases that will house the enormous amounts of data for the materials, their properties and their availability, they are also starting to design a decision support system that will help to make the most appropriate and efficient decisions at each stage of the circular chain. The system will first help in identifying the product or components, and then based on a reported failure mode can then propose possible actions such as repair, refurbishment or recycling by taking into account both economic and environmental costs of each action. 

Next Steps

During the next few months, the prototypes will be further refined and developed. They will go into production towards in 2019 so that they can be deployed to the demonstration sites by the end of next year. As the plans for the demonstrations become more concrete, we will be posting more information on what, where and how you will be able to experience the ECOBULK demo products.

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