Rigid, impact-resistant and durable small load carriers made from recycled transport boxes and old PET bottles

Press release / 

 

Researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have collaborated with an industrial partner on the production of injection-molded transport boxes that are more rigid than conventional small load carriers but nevertheless still impact-resistant. For the production, they used discarded transport boxes as well as recycled PET fibers in order to close the material cycle.

 

Researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI, in collaboration with project partner ISOCO Plastics Technology GmbH, have succeeded in improving the performance capabilities of thin-walled components which are manufactured by means of injection molding. The cooperation partners have successfully developed a material that is impact resistant but offers improved rigidity compared to the current series material. For this, they combined higher-melting polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers (as fiber reinforcement) with low-melting polypropylene (PP) in order to create a composite plastic. The researchers tested their material development in the form of a small load carrier (SLC), which is a reusable transport container utilized in the logistics sector. SLCs are currently series-produced using non-reinforced PP.

“The fact that we have been able to produce a stronger and more rigid transport container using injection molding means that it will be possible to use less material in the future. This material saving has ecological and economic advantages,” explained Carsten Aßhoff, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer WKI.

The photo shows three new transport boxes on a conveyor belt.

Furthermore, the researchers have examined and improved the durability of the SLCs, which are subjected to severe environmental and ambient influences during use. In addition to the production environment, in which the containers come into contact with oil or fuel, for example, environmental influences and washing-process cycles at 60 °C with cleaning agents also lead to an accelerated embrittlement of the conventional series material. “These influences make the SLCs considerably more sensitive to impact and shock and lead to damage over the course of time. The damaged SLCs are discarded, as they are no longer suitable for the safe transport of goods. In our project, we therefore wanted to try to close the material cycle; for this, we investigated whether we could use the discarded SLCs as a recycling source of raw materials,” explained Mr. Aßhoff.

The graphic representation shows the material cycle.

For the production of their SLC, the researchers tested the use of already discarded transport boxes as well as recycled PET fibers, for example from non-refillable beverage bottles. For this purpose, they investigated SLC material flows, among other aspects. Suitable PP residues were identified and used as starting materials in order to add PET-fiber reinforcement to the recycled PP.

The project partners also tested the behavior of the materials in cascade use and ascertained what findings could be derived regarding, for example, the material or product quality. Both the newly developed material and the existing SLCs were subjected to comparative testing by means of exposure to UV weathering and high temperature/damp-cold cycles. “The results show that our SLCs are more durable and resistant than conventional transport containers, even though they are made from recyclates,” said Mr. Aßhoff.

The material and process adaptations developed during the research project provide a significant contribution towards improving the material performance, economy and ecology of the reusable container in the expanding logistics sector. The new material could be used, for example, to produce fruit, vegetable and bread containers, fish and meat containers, beverage crates, mail containers, containers for large mail-order companies, or storage boxes for everyday use. The findings could also be applied to numerous applications outside the logistics sector. Impact-sensitive exterior components for the automotive industry, which simultaneously require a higher level of rigidity and strength than a non-reinforced plastic can provide, could also be produced from the new recycled material.

 

Funding

The project “Verbesserung der mechanischen Eigenschaften und Langzeitstabilität von rezyklierten Polymeren durch PET-Faserverstärkungen – rPET2rPo” (Improvement of the mechanical properties and long-term stability of recycled polymers through PET-fiber reinforcements – rPET2rPo) was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) via Project Management Jülich.

https://www.wki.fraunhofer.de/en/press-media/2022/PI_2022-07_recycling-small-load-carriers.html

VELOSIONE returns bicycle frame production to Germany

Commercial launch of the first injection-molded open-mold Carbon City-eBike Frame.

This landmark outcome is result of 5 years of cutting edge development from experts from VELOSIONE, PlasticInnovation and COLEO DESIGN. With the combination of carbon composite materials and fluid molding-technology in injection-molding, VELOSIONE is now capable of producing lightweight, very stiff frames with hollow-tube geometry with until now unseen design-freedom. The frames are 100% recyclable, and have a 50% reduction in carbon emissions during manufacture compared with the current state of the art technology.

General Manager Harald Schweitzer: “We have finally reached a defining milestone in the production of bicycle frames. With our first open-mold Carbon City-eBike Frame, VELOSIONE proves that just-in-time economical production of light-weight, class-A surface frames with very high stiffness in Germany is possible. VELOSIONE produces 1000 frames a day per mold; with a single operator a complete frame is produced in just below 90 seconds, ready for assembly with an excellent surface finish, without welding lines. With high production volumes, VELOSIONE’s production cost drastically undercuts the production cost of traditional aluminium frames in Asia, while reducing the CO2 footprint by more than 50%. At the same time, the frames provide higher stiffness than aluminium frames in comparable geometry. This is a revolution in production technology for bicycle frames. With this, we have brought back bicycle frame production from Asia to Germany, environment-friendly, and in large scales. Our plant in Saalfeld, Thuringia, today already has installed machine capacity to produce up to 3 million bike frames per year. We are looking forward to seeing the extraordinary impact this will have on the industry!”

VELOSIONE commercially launched its open-mold frame ‘CARBON ECOBIKE1’.

Complete test-bikes are also available.

VELOSIONE provides turnkey solutions for OEMs, including frame development, frame simulation, mold design, mold manufacturing, process optimisation and mass production in Germany. VELOSIONE focuses on City, Trekking, Urban and Children eBikes, and exclusively manufactures in Germany.

Requests please to marketing@velosione.com