Development of an innovative recycling process line for carbon fibers
Although carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) have been a focus of attention for some time now, the costs for CFRP components are currently still about six times higher than those for components made from steel. An analysis of the total expense for a CFRP component shows that approximately 30 % of the costs are attributed to processes and an additional 40 % to fibers. The MAI RecyTape joint research project therefore aims to significantly reduce fiber costs through the use of recycled carbon fibers. The plan is to utilize the large amount of carbon fibers that is inevitably generated as waste and scrap during the production of CFRP components.
Both industry and research have already taken several approaches to manufacturing various semi-finished products from recycled carbon fibers (RCF), primarily in the area of producing non-woven fabrics. However, the problem here is that the orientation of the carbon fibers and the distribution evenness in these non-woven fabrics are very low. As a result, this subsequently reduces the strength and stability of the components made from recycled fibers.
The development of new recycling processes could eliminate this disadvantage as compared to non-recycled carbon fibers. The goal is to produce tapes from highly oriented carbon fibers as a substitute material for the currently used tapes. Further advantages include the fact that, in principle, already produced semi-finished RCF products could also be recycled and that substantially less waste and scrap accumulates when tapes are produced instead of semi-finished products with large surface areas.
Figure: Schematic representation of the planned recycling process for carbon fibers
Overall, the project aims to set up an entire process chain and to validate, at an industrial scale, the suitability of the RCF tapes produced with this equipment. The MAI RecyTape project thus contributes to maximizing material recovery and reducing value loss in the recycling process. In combination this should result in significantly reduced costs for carbon fiber components.