Objectives and ambition
VITAL’s objetive is to develop innovative processing solutions for foamed b-bTPs, based on three processing value chains choosed based in some commercial scale processing requirements.
The FIM process consists of a granulated thermoplastic that is blended with a blowing agent, which expands the material, and this blend is injected into a mould. For this kind of process, significant work has been undertaken on the use of supercritical fluid. Otherwise, biopolymers processing variables and characterisation information are still scarce, reducing the implementation of b-bTPs in this value chain.
To address the scarcity of b-TPs information, VITAL will create a unique database of foamed b-bTPs properties that will be critical for future commercial exploitation, while also developing a FIM processing approach based on a Digital Twin with virtual AI control to handle the final characteristics of foam produced.
Bead foaming of b-bTPs.
Bead foaming produces small beads that can be moulded into complex parts by welding the beads, usually with steam. This method is used for polypropylene and polystyrene. However, b-bTPs show problems with the use of steam due to hydrolysis-sensibility that causes degradation.
VITAL aims to create a bead foaming process for b-bTPs based on radio frequency. The development of radio frequency moulding technology will increase the use of b-bTPs into the bead foaming process because it removes steam and reduces hydrolysis while reducing energy usage.
3D b-bTPs foam printing.
3D printing is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a digital 3D model without needing a pre-existing mould. Those objects could be made of steel or polymers, and there is a different process of 3D printing. The Fused deposition modelling uses filaments of thermoplastic material and is the most common 3D printing process in 2022.
The production of 3D foam printing using b-TPs as raw materials are not developed, so VITAL aims to have achieved a globally unique 3D printing process which uses granulate feedstock and produce foams of different densities
First Objective: To develop Three different bio-based thermoplastics manufacturing processes across 3 different value chains
These Value chains are 3D foam printing, bead foaming, Foam Injection Moulding (FIM).
1.1 A 3D printing process based on granulated feedstocks for foamed products of variable foam densities and outputs. Final system will demonstrate a 3D foam printing flow prediction tool based on computational fluid dynamics that enables rapid selection of printing parameters, and is thus a necessary step in the automation of variable density printing.
1.2 A bead foaming process for b-bTPs using radio-frequency heating that can produce components of size in a specific time range, using up less energy than steam moulding and eliminate the use of water and risk of hydrolysis.
1.3 A FIM processing approach for b-bTPs based on a Digital Twin with virtual AI control to predict the FIM process behaviour and resultant cellular distribution and cellular average size, that will enable:
- Optimised mould designs and processing parameters/strategies to be determined during initial design.
- Real-time, smart logic control models to monitor critical process parameters. It will also be used for quality control combininig useful information to reduce or eliminate degradation.
- Final system will demonstrate this using a lab-scale FIM process with dosing control of b-bTPs and chemical blowing agents, controlled using a control logic.
Second Objective: To develop a digitally optimised mechanical recycling approach for b-bTPs.
For intelligent optimisation of engineering features. Lab-scale demonstration will be performed.
Third Objective: To develop an optimised recycling additives package.
In order to minimise degradation and maintain original properties as high as possible to obtain high recyclate rate of >30% for reuse in new components.
Fourth Objective: To develop b-bTP blends with optimised carbon balance.
This has an important industrial impact. The aim is a high technical performance, while lowering the environmental footprint.
Fifth Objective: To create a database of foamed b-bTPs parameters.
This globally unique database will cover different relevant information such as rheological and thermodynamic characterization, physical, thermal and mechanical properties, recycling details and so on. Up to date, no such database exists.
Sixth objective: To create Circular/Sustainable by Design Business Models.
With this objective, the aim is to support commercial adoption of b-bTPs through generation of a Life Cycle Analysis, Techno Economic Analysis and Social Impact Analysis in accordance with ISO-14040 and ISO-14044 and through validating carbon footprint and sustainability of new materials. VITAL will work towards standardisation, creating a standardisation recommendation report and roadmap.
Seventh objective: To up-skill workforce through creating a VITAL “Learning Factories”.
It will develop a specific vocational training programme (to support the creation of a skilled workforce), covering bio-based foamed thermoplastics and processing as a part of a “circular by design” approach.
Eighth objective: To industrially manufacture chemically or physically foamed b-bTPs.
These b-bTPs will be used as substitutes for traditional materials with similar or better mechanical, physical and chemical properties and demonstrate lower environmental footprint (sustainable, non-toxic and recyclable) when compared to non-bio-based materials. There are seven use cases that will apply the entire methodology implemented for the defined value chains. For more information please visit “Use Cases” section.