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Increased competitiveness thanks to efficient use of composites

Composites already form the basis for a number of eye-catching innovations in the aerospace and automotive sectors among others. They are lighter and more energy-efficient, have a higher performance level, and provide for greater design freedom. Their use makes unique combinations of a host of properties possible. Making the right choices is key to the breakthrough of optimally designed lightweight components, with each of the substructures being made of the most appropriate material. 

The Sirris Leuven-Gent Composites Application Lab (SLC Lab) was set up to meet this rising demand. Companies can go there to develop their composite materials and these materials' applications. Experiments are carried out in close cooperation with KU Leuven and Ghent University.

Projects in 2016

Improved composites with sensor technology

2016 saw the end of the SBO project Self-Sensing Composites, whose objective was to develop embedded sensors and stretchable electronics with innovative properties that could be integrated into various types of composite materials. Four promising sensor technologies have been developed: micro-structured optical fibers, polymer waveguides, dielectric sensors, and one-time use stretchable electronics. With use over time, the sensors have the potential to cut the pre-production cost of composites. They will be also be used to enhance structural composite components and will boost confidence in composite technology in general. Furthermore, a new measurement method was developed, which enables accurate, precise, robust, and fast measurements to be made of otherwise distorted signals. The developed technologies were checked using 'technology evaluators' and through various industrial cases.

Companies increase their competitiveness by making efficient use of composites

With six highly relevant themes the CompositeBoost project partners want to provide the missing tools and methodologies for designers and OEMs to make the right choices of materials. Masterclasses, demonstrators and exploratory cases will be used to transform composite processors into reliable manufacturing companies and partners. In this way Belgian companies can keep maintaining and strengthening their position in the face of competition from abroad. In 2016, as well as launching a host of industrial projects, we organized a series of crash courses on composites and a first masterclass.

Closed material loops also for composites

OVAM teamed up with Sirris, VKC and Vito to embark on research into recycling thermosetting composite materials. The aim of this study was to close the loop for composites by means of, for example, a sustainable design, re-use and recycling, waste-stream optimization, improved collaboration within the value chain, and appropriate regulations. The research can be found in the form of a report published by the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM). This report provides a picture of the current market for fiber-reinforced thermosetting plastics in terms of applications, used materials and quantities, production techniques, and processing options for the waste. In addition, the report gives an assessment of market trends and sets out a number of policy recommendations to enhance the quality of recycling of these plastics. Based on this information and details obtained from international companies, the Sirris department dealing with sustainability along with the SLC Lab published two white papers on this subject as part of the CompositeBoost project: