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IT solutions for stable supply chains © pixabay
30.11.2021

IT solutions for stable supply chains

Global supply chains comprise complex networks, making them particularly vulnerable. The UK is a prime example of this, where logistics problems are currently resulting in empty supermarket shelves and closed gas stations. Fraunhofer experts provide IT solutions that counteract supply bottlenecks in international goods traffic and maintain robust supply chains.

Earthquakes in South America, floods in Germany or political unrest in Asia: all compromise supply chains. A research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM is developing mathematical methods that can be used to calculate how to minimize risks to supply chains. “Mathematically speaking,” explains Dr. Heiner Ackermann, Deputy Head of Optimization – Operations Research, “these disruptive events create a multidimensional decision problem.”    

Global supply chains comprise complex networks, making them particularly vulnerable. The UK is a prime example of this, where logistics problems are currently resulting in empty supermarket shelves and closed gas stations. Fraunhofer experts provide IT solutions that counteract supply bottlenecks in international goods traffic and maintain robust supply chains.

Earthquakes in South America, floods in Germany or political unrest in Asia: all compromise supply chains. A research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM is developing mathematical methods that can be used to calculate how to minimize risks to supply chains. “Mathematically speaking,” explains Dr. Heiner Ackermann, Deputy Head of Optimization – Operations Research, “these disruptive events create a multidimensional decision problem.”    

Cushioning risks without additional costs
Ackermann’s team of experts analyze the properties of supply chains using mathematical models. The failure scenarios simulated on the basis of these calculations show at which points there is a greater need for action. In the second step, the researchers focus on holistic optimization – for a more robust supply chain that can cushion risks without incurring major costs. The experts package all variables into a multicriteria optimization problem. In this way, they determine the best possible solution for the triad of resilience, cost and risk. Algorithms calculate the optimum balance and with it various options for raw materials, suppliers and warehousing. Even the use of alternative materials is considered. The top priority: as few assumptions as possible. “Our work has set the ball rolling – companies that previously relied on Excel spreadsheets and their gut feeling are now engaging in very fruitful discussions,” explains Ackermann, adding: “Whether you are dealing with supply chains or supply networks, mathematics is a universal and very effective tool.”

Early detection of potential supply shortages
The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML also offers highly effective support for testing and optimizing supply chains with its Order-To-Delivery-NETwork (OTD-NET) simulator. Thanks to this tool, planning and material flow processes from order to delivery can be continuously assessed. “OTD-NET maps even highly complex supply chains in full and at all levels, including the planning and information flow processes. Using various parameters, it is possible to accurately model cooperation between supply chain partners on the computer,” specifies Marco Motta, Head of Supply Chain Engineering at Fraunhofer IML.
 
Combining digital twins of supply chains with simulations
The tool set examines networks particularly with regard to customer promises in terms of delivery reliability and quality, etc., costs, environmental considerations and, in the analysis of alternative scenarios, resilience. “In the simulation, I can easily play around with demand peaks, a slump in the respective market or scenarios in which production is disrupted,” explains the Fraunhofer IML expert. In this way, forecasts can be made about how a supply chain will react in a state of emergency. Logistics assistance systems that combine a digital twin of the supply chain with simulations show dispatchers which cargo ships have loaded which parts, where these are located and when the consignment will be available at the required location. Supply for the next 20–30 weeks can thus be depicted for global networks, enabling potential bottlenecks to be detected early on. Tracking is also a distinguishing feature of the solution for demand and capacity management. Not only is the number of parts affected displayed but planners can also directly see the impact of this on the whole of production.
 
Most recently, both the automotive and medical sectors have suffered from supply bottlenecks. Saskia Sardesai, Senior Scientist at Fraunhofer IML, is leading different research projects in which OTD-NET is being used to increase resilience in value creation networks for medical supplies. “Especially smaller and medium-sized companies were addressing this problem using existing spreadsheet analysis tools. However, this approach does not identify dynamics.” This is where OTD-NET comes into play: The simulation dynamically shows over a long period whether all parts will be at the right location at the right time. “If all parts are available except for those from my transatlantic supplier and there is no alternative supplier in Europe, I will quickly have a break in my chain lasting over a month,” outlines the specialist.

Increasing the European manufacturing sector’s resilience to future pandemics In the European research project “CO-VERSATILE”, overseen by Sardesai, participants are doing everything in their power to increase the European manufacturing sector’s resilience to future pandemics. The supply chain should be able to react quickly and effectively to a sudden spike in demand for strategic medical supplies. To that end, experts at Fraunhofer IML have developed a simulation model that takes into account future peaks and fluctuations in demand as well as supplier risks. Companies are immediately given an overview of which effects they will have to face. “We have created very simple models to facilitate rapid feedback and implementation for a variety of companies,” explains the project manager. Particular attention was paid to capacities, lead times, transportation frequency and possible supply restrictions. Users can see how individual factors interplay – an invaluable advantage compared to the long-standing Excel solution.

Foto: Pixabay
09.11.2021

NGST - Next Generation Protective Textiles

  • Efficient Production of Novel, High-Quality Infection-Protective Textiles

 
Considerable shortages of protective textiles, especially respirators, occurred during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which were exacerbated by the lack of sufficient production capacity in Germany and the EU at the time. Short-term retooling at EU companies as well as importing goods often did not lead to success, as these protective textiles were of highly variable quality, which had a negative impact on safety.

The "Next Generation Protective Textiles" initiative aims to remedy this situation by researching new approaches for the production of high-quality protective textiles.

The "NGST" project is divided into several subtasks
The project includes:

  • Efficient Production of Novel, High-Quality Infection-Protective Textiles

 
Considerable shortages of protective textiles, especially respirators, occurred during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which were exacerbated by the lack of sufficient production capacity in Germany and the EU at the time. Short-term retooling at EU companies as well as importing goods often did not lead to success, as these protective textiles were of highly variable quality, which had a negative impact on safety.

The "Next Generation Protective Textiles" initiative aims to remedy this situation by researching new approaches for the production of high-quality protective textiles.

The "NGST" project is divided into several subtasks
The project includes:

  • qualified selection of basic materials
  • studies on up-scaling to create the conditions for a rapid expansion of production capacities
  • development of novel antiviral coatings
  • comprehensive biological and material science analysis to verify the improved properties and also to open up new methods of quality control.

The protective textiles to be developed in the project have a wide range of applications beyond use in the medical field and in civil protection. In principle, wherever immediate cleaning and disinfection are difficult or special filtration tasks are necessary, such as in mobile or stationary filter systems for air purification or for individual personal protection.

In this project, the Fraunhofer IGCV is researching the development of a manufacturing process for nonwovens as a basis for infection protection and filtration media based on wet nonwoven technology. Compared to the state of the art (meltblown technology), this is potentially characterised by significantly increased production capacities as well as increased flexibility with regard to material variety. The main challenges here are the very high quality requirements based on low basis weights for processing the finest possible micro-staple fibres..
          
Pursuing novel approaches to increase quality and productivity in the production of protective textiles
The aim is to provide optimised nonwoven materials as a starting material for subsequent antiviral coatings, and to assess and demonstrate the high technological potential of wet nonwoven technology in this field of application.

For this purpose, an existing pilot wetlaid nonwoven line was specifically modified on a pilot plant scale. This makes it possible to produce nonwoven materials from micro-staple fibres in the required very high quality in terms of uniformity, basis weight, blending and thickness profile with high reproducibility. A standard PP nonwoven was used as a comparison system, which was produced according to the current state of the art using meltblown technology. In addition to the PP comparison variants, however, the processing of PLA, viscose and PET staple fibres, among others, was also investigated. The focus here is on maximum fibre fineness (microfibres) in each case in order to achieve the largest possible specific fibre surface or effective area in the nonwoven. In order to emphasise the significantly increased flexibility of wetlaid technology, particularly innovative variants based on modified bi-component fibres with maximised fibre surface area as well as split fibres are also being conceptually tested.

In addition to aspects of direct material and process development, the scale of the pilot plant provides a comprehensive data basis for estimating a later scaling up to an industrial series. This should create a technological starting point for the ramp-up of an efficient, national production of fleece-based infection control materials based on wet-laying technology.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

(c) Messe Düsseldorf / ctillmann
26.10.2021

A+A 2021: Restart for Trade Fairs in Düsseldorf

  • World's leading trade fair for safe and healthy working offers central platform for personal exchange within the industry

The responsible handling of the issues of safety and health at work has once again moved into the focus of society and politics due to the pandemic. At A+A 2021, which begins on 26, October 2021, these topics have been the focus since its premiere. Under the motto "People matter", A+A 2021 will present everything to do with personal protection, occupational safety and health at work from 26 to 29 October. More than 1,200 exhibitors from 56 nations will present themselves to trade visitors in 10 halls at the Düsseldorf exhibition centre.

  • World's leading trade fair for safe and healthy working offers central platform for personal exchange within the industry

The responsible handling of the issues of safety and health at work has once again moved into the focus of society and politics due to the pandemic. At A+A 2021, which begins on 26, October 2021, these topics have been the focus since its premiere. Under the motto "People matter", A+A 2021 will present everything to do with personal protection, occupational safety and health at work from 26 to 29 October. More than 1,200 exhibitors from 56 nations will present themselves to trade visitors in 10 halls at the Düsseldorf exhibition centre.

"The anticipation for the fair was great. This year we were particularly looking forward to the personal exchange with the industry. The positive exhibitor feedback confirms that the players in occupational health and safety want a live platform. And with the A+A we deliver what only a trade fair can offer. Tactile product presentations and innovations as well as planned and accidental encounters with the entire industry," says Birgit Horn, Project Director A+A.

Exciting topics and best practices at the A+A Congress
Parallel to the A+A trade fair, the 37th International Congress for Occupational Safety and Health deals with numerous current topics and challenges of the scene. It is organised by the Federal Working Group for Safety and Health at Work (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Sicherheit und Gesundheit bei der Arbeit, Basi). In more than 25 series of events, well-founded specialist knowledge and current political topics are conveyed and intensively discussed for all stakeholders in matters of safety and health at work, on site and in some cases also digitally. "Even the opening event will be interesting. Social partners and other stakeholders will discuss the impact of the pandemic on occupational safety and health and the return to the 'new normal' that is now beginning," says Basi Managing Director Dr Christian Felten.

At the A+A Congress, renowned experts from the field of occupational safety and health will provide answers to central questions such as: How does the digitalisation of work affect the health and safety of employees? How do I, as an occupational safety specialist, advise companies and employees on this? How should decentralised workplaces be managed in a safe and healthy way? How do you determine a healthy balance between mobile and stationary work? What is the need for occupational prevention in the case of musculoskeletal stress and what is the current need for prevention in the case of activities involving carcinogenic hazardous substances and bio-substances? There are many interesting events on this and many other topics, further information can be found at www.basi.de/kongress. .

Trend topics at the A+A 2021
Digital performance and sustainability determine the current discussion and will continue to strongly influence the future of work. In addition to these two megatrends at A+A 2021, the focus of the framework programme is on solutions for the future (Future Solutions), new working worlds (New Work) and the topic of hygiene and pandemics.

A+A Live: Experience safe and healthy work with all senses
Best practices using state-of-the-art products and processes will be communicated under the label "A+A live" in the Trend Forum, the Theme Park Operational Fire Protection and Emergency Management, the Robotics Park and the Start UP Zone.

In Hall 10, trade visitors will find the Safety and Health Meeting Point, the competence centre for all occupational health and safety issues. This is where Basi's member and partner organisations present themselves..

The Robotics Park is also located in Hall 10, it is divided into the Self Experience Space and the Exoworkathlon. The partner of the Robotics Park is the Fraunhofer IPA from Stuttgart.
In the Self Experience Space, the following manufacturers of exoskeleton solutions will be presenting their products, which visitors can try out for themselves:  Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA, Japet Medical Devices SAS, Iturri, German Bionic Systems GmbH, Ergoschutz GmbH, suitX Inc, hTRIUS GmbH, Levitate Technologies Inc. and Laevo B.V.

The Exoworkathlon is a live study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) and the Institute for Industrial Manufacturing and Management at the University of Stuttgart (IFF) in which young test subjects (trainees and technical students) run through a course once with and once without an exoskeleton. The data collected during the Exoworkathlon is used to scientifically evaluate the extent to which these exoskeletons reduce muscular and skeletal strain and increase performance.

In Hall 4, expert lectures on the topics of digitalisation + safety, digitalisation + health, sustainability, protection and hygiene as well as safe handling of hazardous substances will provide an insight into current developments in the Trend Forum.

The Corporate Fashion Lounge is located in Hall 5. Here, trade visitors can find out about the latest trends in fashionable workwear and experience how versatile modern workwear is today. At the same time, the lounge provides an outlook on the future role that corporate fashion will play at the trade fair from A+A 2023 onwards.

In Hall 6, trade visitors will find the action area on industrial fire protection and emergency management, organised by the Bundesverband Betrieblicher Brandschutz / Werkfeuerwehrverband Deutschland (WFVD). Several live demonstrations will simulate the use of chemical protective suits (CSA) in the event of the escape of toxic substances in the event of an accident and demonstrate the correct prevention.

More information:
A+A
Source:

Messe Düsseldorf

Photo: pixabay
19.10.2021

Micromechanical Simulation of the Resilience of Nonwovens

Nonwovens are an important component of different products of several uses, e.g. transport of humidity in sanitary products, insulation materials or filters. Nonwovens are usually produced on large engineering facilities. For this, experimental studies of design with regard to the optimization of these nonwoven-structures prove to be very difficult.

Influence Design Parameters
There are so many parameters of design, as for example fibers, surface weight or type of nonwoven bonding and finishing that are affecting the properties of nonwovens. For the change of one single parameter, e.g. the material of fiber, it is necessary to adapt the whole process of fabrication from the spinning of the fibers via their stacking to the nonwoven hardening.

Nonwovens are an important component of different products of several uses, e.g. transport of humidity in sanitary products, insulation materials or filters. Nonwovens are usually produced on large engineering facilities. For this, experimental studies of design with regard to the optimization of these nonwoven-structures prove to be very difficult.

Influence Design Parameters
There are so many parameters of design, as for example fibers, surface weight or type of nonwoven bonding and finishing that are affecting the properties of nonwovens. For the change of one single parameter, e.g. the material of fiber, it is necessary to adapt the whole process of fabrication from the spinning of the fibers via their stacking to the nonwoven hardening.

Following the production of such a prototype a time consuming and cost-intensive characterization of the properties of nonwovens carried out experimentally has to be done.  Therefore, for this reason detailed studies considering several parameters of design are uneconomic.

Thus, micromechanical models of simulation are developed at Fraunhofer ITWM in cooperation with Procter & Gamble Service GmbH (P & G). By means of these models it is possible to forecast numerically the effective properties of nonwovens for diverse parameters of design. To virtually modify and optimize individual parameters in this connection it is only necessary to adapt the corresponding inputs of the model.

Fast Predictions Possible
In this case, the focus of the numerical predictions is primarily lying on the time-dependent behavior of the nonwovens.  The dynamic properties can be determined by means of numerical simulation of cyclic measurements. In doing so, a good correspondence of simulation and measurements is obtained.

Compared to experiments the required time of simulation for the behavior in case of low frequencies does not change. Therefore, we can obtain rapid forecasts for the long-term behavior (month till years) and the corresponding resilience of nonwovens using numerical models. A lot of alternatives can be simulated and studied within a few hours.

The fact that not only effective (macroscopic) properties of nonwovens can be computed, but also local physical values such as distribution of tension in binding agents and fibres is a further advantage of this micromechanical  approach. So, the simulation contributes to a better understanding of the properties of nonwovens.

Future designs deal with an extension of the models with regard to simulation of the productionv processes. By this, a fully digitalized layout design of nonwovens, from the manufacturing process till the optimization of functionality is possible.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

Foto: Pixabay
12.10.2021

Making companies crisis-proof: Resilience as an extended security concept

Companies today face a variety of increasingly complex risks. Not least the pandemic has shown how crises can pose an existential threat to companies. The FReE tool of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, allows companies to measure their resilience and subsequently be prepared for upcoming crisis scenarios.
 

Companies today face a variety of increasingly complex risks. Not least the pandemic has shown how crises can pose an existential threat to companies. The FReE tool of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, allows companies to measure their resilience and subsequently be prepared for upcoming crisis scenarios.
 
Our world is highly complex and prone to disruption: Natural disasters, cyberattacks, power outages, terrorist attacks, pandemics and other crisis scenarios can threaten companies existentially. The corona pandemic has shown us how vulnerable the German economy really is: According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2020 the economy fell into a deep recession after ten years of growth; especially in the second quarter of 2020, economic output saw a historic slump. There will be other crises after this pandemic. The classic methods of risk analysis and risk management, which only take into account expected risks, do not adequately protect companies against major losses.

“Companies often only consider the most likely scenarios rather than focusing on possible crisis events,“ says Daniel Hiller, Head of business unit Security and Resilience at Fraunhofer EMI in Freiburg. Teams at Fraunhofer are establishing resilience as a new security concept to help prepare organizations and companies for crises. The results of their research work include the online tool Fraunhofer Resilience Evaluator FReE and the KMU-Lagebild software, both designed to enable companies to measure and evaluate their resilience and to carry out a resilience analysis before, during and after a disruptive event.
 
The five-stage concept “Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover”
The online tool FReE allows companies to plan resilience strategically, to implement the abstract concept in their company and to put it into practice on management level. FReE is based on the five-stage concept “Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover.”  

The software comes with a list of 68 questions related to the five resilience stages. The answers provide the company with some initial information needed to assess resilience. The five stages are ordered chronologically, starting with a what-if scenario. During this Prepare stage companies prepare for disruptive situations, which helps avert damage using preventive measures during the Prevent stage.

“An aluminum processing plant, for example, might want to protect its premises with security fences and cameras, because thieves usually break in at night to steal aluminum,“ says Hiller, illustrating the first two stages using a classic example. The Protect stage, as the name suggests, aims to protect; this might include safeguarding important infrastructures or buildings with additional concrete layers or walls. If it was not possible to stave off the disaster, the Respond stage comes into play. It is now important to quickly identify the cause and extent of the damage and to preserve critical supply functions. After the incident, companies should systematically draw lessons from the crisis in order to be better able to avert future risks and to boost their resilience in a cyclical iterative process – researchers call this stage Learn and Adapt.
 
The FReE tool takes the user through the list of questions, which are ordered chronologically into the sections before, during and after a disruption and cover all company divisions. These including personnel, finance, infrastructure and technology. The tool allows you to filter by division during the evaluation process. “For example, a controller can set the filter such that only results related to finance are shown,” says Hiller. Possible questions include: “Is there a disaster manager in the event of a disruption?“, “What are their qualifications and powers?” or “What are the financial reserves for emergencies?” The evaluation is shown in the radar chart, with the worst result being at zero percent in the graticule.

FReE is available in three versions: The free web-based quick version includes 15 questions. The full version, which includes the complete list of 68 questions, is available on a project basis. The accompanying consulting project is based on the paid version. As part of the consulting project, Hiller and his team work together with the companies to develop appropriate measures to boost resilience and eliminate weak spots. Furthermore, additional questions can be added to the FReE tool to adapt it to the needs of specific industries. Many SMEs are already using the quick version and are planning to update it to the full version.

KMU-Lagebild project
While FReE enables companies to assess their resilience on their own, the KMU-Lagebild project supports them in carrying out a comprehensive resilience assessment. The researchers model all procedures and processes on the computer using the available data. By inputting hypothetical disruption scenarios, you can see how the system reacts to them and which countermeasures have to be taken. “By asking yourself not only what the most likely disruptions are, but also what potential incidents there are, you broaden your view of the risks. What’s more, resilient companies exhibit a high level of adaptability and flexibility,” says Hiller in summary.

More information:
SMEs resilience corona crisis
Source:

Fraunhofer-Institut für Kurzzeitdynamik, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI [Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI]

Photo: pixabay
21.09.2021

Virtual Quality Inspection Optimizes Production of Filter Nonwovens

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

The abbreviation »ProQuIV« stands for »Production and Quality Optimization of Nonwoven Infection Protection Clothing«. This is because bottlenecks in the production of these materials were particularly evident at the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis. For the meltblown nonwovens, this optimization of the product quality is also particularly difficult because the textiles react very sensitively to fluctuations in the manufacturing processes and material impurities.

Digital Twin Keeps an Eye on the Big Picture
»Meltblown« is the name of the industrial manufacturing process whose ultra-fine fiber nonwovens are responsible for providing the crucial filtering function in face masks. In this process, the molten polymer is forced through nozzles into a forward-flowing, high-speed stream. It is stretched and cooled in a highly turbulent air flow.

»The overall process of filter media production – from the polymer melt to the filter medium – presents a major challenge in simulation,« explains Dr. Konrad Steiner, head of the »Flow and Materials Simulation« department. »In the project, we kept the big picture in mind and developed a completely integrated evaluation chain as a digital twin. In doing so, we take several key components into account at once: We simulate the typical production processes of nonwovens, the formation of the fiber structures and then the material properties – here, in particular, the filter efficiency. This allows us to quantitatively evaluate the influences of the manufacturing process on the product properties.« In each of these individual areas, Fraunhofer ITWM and its experts are among the leading research groups internationally.

Homogeneity of the Material – Fewer Clouds in the Simulation Sky
In the meltblown process, a key factor is the behavior of the filaments in the turbulent, hot and fast air flow. The properties of the filaments are strongly influenced by this air flow. The quality of the filaments – and thus the quality of the nonwovens – is influenced by many factors. Dr. Dietmar Hietel, head of the »Transport Processes« department, knows what this means more precisely in practice. His team has been working at Fraunhofer ITWM for years on the simulation of various processes involving filaments, threads, and fibers. »The focus of the project is the so-called cloudiness, i.e. the non-uniformity of the fiber distributions in the nonwoven,« explains Hietel. »We are investigating the question: How homogeneous is the fabric? Because the quality of the products can be greatly improved if we increase the uniformity. Our simulations help figure out how to do that.«

Objective Evaluation of the Homogeneity of Nonwovens
The researchers also use appropriate image analysis techniques to quantify this cloudiness. The power spectrum plays a special role here. »The cloudiness index (CLI) describes homogeneity complementary to local basis weight and its variance,« describes Dr. Katja Schladitz. She brings her expertise in image processing to the project. »Our CLI ensures a robust assessment of the homogeneity and can thus be used for different material classes and imaging techniques to be used as an objective measure.« The frequencies that go into the CLI calculation can be chosen so that the CLI is meaningful for the particular application area.

Filtration: How Efficient Are the Filters?
For the upscaling to industrial processes such as mask production, the ITWM expertise in filters is also included in the project. The »Filtration and Separation« team led by Dr. Ralf Kirsch has been working for years on the mathematical modeling and simulation of various separation processes.

»What's special about this project is that we calculated the efficiency of the filters for fluctuations of varying degrees in the fiber volume fraction,« emphasizes Kirsch. »This allows us to specify up to what level of cloudiness the required filter efficiency can be achieved at all.« As a current example of this, the figure depicts in the graphic the efficiency of a filter material for N95 masks as a function of the inhomogeneity of the nonwoven.

ITMW Methods Support Across the Entire Process Chain
In »ProQuIV«, digital twins and calculations from Fraunhofer ITWM support a holistic view and better understanding of the processes. The production of technical textiles thus not only becomes more efficient, but the nonwovens can be developed virtually without having to realize this in advance in a test facility. In this way, production capacities can be increased while maintaining or even increase the quality. Together with long-term partners from industry, the research can be put into practice quickly and efficiently.

Simulations save textile companies experiments, allow new insights, enable systematic parameter variations and solve upscaling problems that can otherwise lead to bad investments during the transition from laboratory plant to industrial plant. However, virtual implementation of nonwoven production also opens up new opportunities for optimization at other levels. For example, acoustic insulating nonwovens or even hygiene nonwovens can also be optimized in terms of their product quality precisely with regard to the material properties to be achieved – while taking into account the process fluctuations that occur.

The project is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's »Fraunhofer versus Corona« program and was completed in April 2021. The results will flow into several follow-up projects with the nonwovens industry.

Textile Prototyping Lab The modules from the prototyping kit can be used to create a variety of e-textiles © Textile Prototyping Lab
14.09.2021

Art meets Science: Prototyping Lab for textile electronics

Anyone who thinks of research laboratories only in terms of protective suits and clean rooms is not quite right: Since April, patterns, seams and mannequins have not been uncommon in the new Textile Prototyping Lab (TPL) at Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin. With the TPL, there is now a place where creative high-tech textiles are produced and which already distinguishes itself from the style of usual research laboratories by its design. As a collaborative project with the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin, textile-integrated electronics are created here for a wide range of applications from architecture to medicine.

Anyone who thinks of research laboratories only in terms of protective suits and clean rooms is not quite right: Since April, patterns, seams and mannequins have not been uncommon in the new Textile Prototyping Lab (TPL) at Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin. With the TPL, there is now a place where creative high-tech textiles are produced and which already distinguishes itself from the style of usual research laboratories by its design. As a collaborative project with the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin, textile-integrated electronics are created here for a wide range of applications from architecture to medicine.

Since its opening, the lab has been available to designers and product developers to prototype individual visions in the field of e-textiles. The possibilities are virtually unlimited: From interfaces between textiles and electronics to the testing of process chains, parts of the laboratory or even the entire laboratory can be used freely. In addition to the pure development and construction work, the premises can be converted in a few moves and repurposed for workshops or exhibitions.

Malte von Krshiwoblozki, who is providing scientific support for the project at Fraunhofer IZM, cited other advantages: “Not only the modular workstations and the meeting area are attractive for joint project work, especially the machinery offers a wide range for interested parties. The ‘sewing and embroidery’ work area, for example, is equipped with several sewing machines as well as a computer-controlled embroidery machine. It thus becomes central to the TPL, as textile finishing with small-format machines is the focus of this lab's work.” Another work area covers “Cutting & Separating” with a laser cutter and a cutting plotter. In addition, there are several presses and laminators, a soldering station and a 3D printer.

In the TPL, beginners can also try their hand at e-textiles and expand their knowledge: The prototyping kit developed at Fraunhofer IZM, which includes a series of electronic modules, LEDs and sensors that can be embroidered by hand as well as by machine, is particularly helpful in this regard.

“For particularly durable electronic textiles, the textile bonder developed and built by Fraunhofer IZM researchers can also be used in cooperative projects of the Textile Prototyping Lab. The versatile modules of the prototyping kit are deliberately designed so that integration into the textile can take place not only with classic textile technology such as embroidery during the prototyping phase, but also for subsequent, more industrial implementations using the textile bonder. In keeping with the motto ‘sharing is caring’ and the principle of interdisciplinarity, we at Fraunhofer IZM are available to provide advice and support during the realization of the textile projects, so that the artists' ideas can be enriched using such new technology,” said Malte von Krshiwoblozki.

Even before the opening of the laboratory, the collaboration between the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin and Fraunhofer IZM had already produced developments that combine art and research in revolutionary ways. For example, a light rail for lamps that is made of a soft and conductive textile belt was created in cooperation with the designer Stefan Diez. For the Hans Riegel Foundation's Touch Tomorrow educational project, an interactive jacket was developed that can control the color of integrated LEDs via arm movements. The team of the Textile Prototyping Lab is looking forward to upcoming, exciting and agile projects and is open for ideas from start-ups, SMEs as well as industry partners.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM

Photo: pixabay
17.08.2021

Innovative wound care: Customized wound dressings made from tropoelastin

Customized, biomedically applicable materials based on tropoelastin are being developed in a joint project by Skinomics GmbH from Halle, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS. The material combines biocompatibility, durability, biodegradability and favorable mechanical properties similar to those of skin. Preclinical tests have confirmed that it is suitable for use as a wound dressing material used in the treatment of chronic and complex wounds.

Customized, biomedically applicable materials based on tropoelastin are being developed in a joint project by Skinomics GmbH from Halle, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS. The material combines biocompatibility, durability, biodegradability and favorable mechanical properties similar to those of skin. Preclinical tests have confirmed that it is suitable for use as a wound dressing material used in the treatment of chronic and complex wounds.

Particularly in the context of an aging society, special wound dressings are gaining in importance. The treatment of complex wound diseases such as venous ulcers, leg ulcers, or foot ulcers is challenging for medical staff, long-term and painful for those affected and cost-intensive for the healthcare system. Innovative protein-based materials are now being used for the treatment of such wounds. However, since they are made from animal tissues, they carry increased risks of infection or can result in undesirable immune reactions. In addition, there are increasing reservations in the population about medical products of animal origin.

In the joint research project, the project partners are currently developing customized, biomedically applicable materials based on human tropoelastin. This precursor protein is converted in the body to elastin, a vital and long-lived structural biopolymer that has exceptional mechanical properties and thus gives the skin and other organs the elasticity and resilience they need to function.

“Elastin is chemically and enzymatically extremely stable, biocompatible and does not produce immunological rejections when used as a biomaterial in humans. Therefore, we want to create new and innovative solutions for the treatment of complex wounds based on human tropoelastin,” says Dr. Christian Schmelzer, Head of the Department of Biological and Macromolecular Materials at Fraunhofer IMWS.

Individual wound treatment
As part of the research project led by Prof. Dr. Markus Pietzsch of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the researchers succeeded in developing a biotechnological process for modifying tropoelastin. The modified tropoelastin is processed at Fraunhofer IMWS. Here, an electrospinning procedure is used to produce ultra-thin nanofibers with diameters of only a few hundred nanometers. The resulting nonwovens are further crosslinked to stabilize them for the respective application. The procedures developed have been optimized so that biomedical parameters such as pore size, stability and mechanical properties are variable and can thus be customized to meet the requirements of the respective wound treatment. The materials produced using the new procedures are being investigated by Skinomics GmbH in initial preclinical tests with regard to their skin compatibility and have already achieved promising results.

At the end of the project by the end of this year, applications for intellectual property rights are to be filed, building the basis for a subsequent product development phase for certified medical products.

Photo: pixabay
10.08.2021

Stand-up paddle board made from renewable lightweight mater

Stand-up paddling has become a popular sport. However, conventional surfboards are made of petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin and polyurethane.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI, want to replace plastic boards with sustainable sports equipment: They are developing a stand-up paddle board that is made from one hundred percent renewable raw materials. The ecological lightweight material can be used in many ways, such as in the construction of buildings, cars and ships.

Stand-up paddling has become a popular sport. However, conventional surfboards are made of petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin and polyurethane.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI, want to replace plastic boards with sustainable sports equipment: They are developing a stand-up paddle board that is made from one hundred percent renewable raw materials. The ecological lightweight material can be used in many ways, such as in the construction of buildings, cars and ships.

Stand-up paddling (SUP) is a sport that is close to nature, but the plastic boards are anything but environmentally friendly. As a rule, petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin, polyester resin, polyurethane and expanded or extruded polystyrene are used in combination with fiberglass and carbon fiber fabrics to produce the sports equipment. In many parts of the world, these plastics are not recycled, let alone disposed of correctly. Large quantities of plastic end up in the sea and collect in huge ocean eddies. For Christoph Pöhler, a scientist at Fraunhofer WKI and an avid stand-up paddler, this prompted him to think about a sustainable alternative. In the ecoSUP project, he is driving the development of a stand-up paddle board that is made from 100 percent renewable raw materials and which is also particularly strong and durable. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW is accompanying the research work, with TU Braunschweig acting as project partner.

Recovering balsa wood from rotor blades
“In standard boards, a polystyrene core, which we know as styrofoam, is reinforced with fiberglass and sealed with an epoxy resin. We, instead, use bio-based lightweight material,” says the civil engineer. Pöhler and his colleagues use recycled balsa wood for the core. This has a very low density, i.e. it is light yet mechanically stressable. Balsa wood grows mainly in Papua New Guinea and Ecuador, where it has been used in large quantities in wind turbines for many years – up to six cubic meters of the material can be found in a rotor blade. Many of the systems are currently being disconnected from the grid. In 2020 alone, 6000 were dismantled. A large proportion of this is burnt. It would make more sense to recover the material from the rotor blade and recycle it in accordance with the circular economy. “This was exactly our thinking. The valuable wood is too good to burn,” says Pöhler.

Since the entire sandwich material used in conventional boards is to be completely replaced, the shell of the ecological board is also made from one hundred percent bio-based polymer. It is reinforced with flax fibers grown in Europe, which are characterized by very good mechanical properties. To pull the shell over the balsa wood core, Pöhler and his team use the hand lay-up and vacuum infusion processes. Feasibility studies are still underway to determine the optimal method. The first demonstrator of the ecological board should be available by the end of 2022. “In the interests of environmental protection and resource conservation, we want to use natural fibers and bio-based polymers wherever it is technically possible. In many places, GFRP is used even though a bio-based counterpart could do the same,” Pöhler sums up.

Patented technology for the production of wood foam
But how is it possible to recover the balsa wood from the rotor blade — after all, it is firmly bonded to the glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) of the outer shell? First, the wood is separated from the composite material in an impact mill. The density differences can be used to split the mixed-material structures into their individual components using a wind sifter. The balsa wood fibers, which are available as chips and fragments, are then finely ground. “We need this very fine starting material to produce wood foam. Fraunhofer WKI has a patented technology for this,” explains the researcher. In this process, the wood particles are suspended to form a kind of cake batter and processed into a light yet firm wood foam that holds together thanks to the wood’s own binding forces. The addition of adhesive is not required. The density and strength of the foam can be adjusted. “This is important because the density should not be too high. Otherwise, the stand-up paddle board would be too heavy to transport.”

Initially, the researchers are focusing on stand-up paddle boards. However, the hybrid material is also suitable for all other boards, such as skateboards. The future range of applications is broad: For example, it could be used as a facade element in the thermal insulation of buildings. The technology can also be used in the construction of vehicles, ships and trains.

(c) Fraunhofer ITWM
27.07.2021

Simulation Software TexMath - Simulating Technical Textiles realistically

From high-performance textiles to compression and sportswear: The modular software program »TexMath« of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM enables both the simulation of mechanical material properties and the optimization of textile products.

Accelerated development and optimized design of technical textiles while reducing experiments? The demand for techniques that can realize this is especially high in areas such as the sports, medical, and clothing industries. The »Technical Textiles« team of the  »Flow and Material Simulation« department at Fraunhofer ITWM has taken up this challenge and is developing simulation methods that allow efficient prediction of textile behavior under stretching, shear, bending, torsion, or compression. It is also possible to simulate wrinkling under stretching as well as shrinkage of yarns or critical shear angles throughout the manufacturing process.

From high-performance textiles to compression and sportswear: The modular software program »TexMath« of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM enables both the simulation of mechanical material properties and the optimization of textile products.

Accelerated development and optimized design of technical textiles while reducing experiments? The demand for techniques that can realize this is especially high in areas such as the sports, medical, and clothing industries. The »Technical Textiles« team of the  »Flow and Material Simulation« department at Fraunhofer ITWM has taken up this challenge and is developing simulation methods that allow efficient prediction of textile behavior under stretching, shear, bending, torsion, or compression. It is also possible to simulate wrinkling under stretching as well as shrinkage of yarns or critical shear angles throughout the manufacturing process.

The »TexMath« simulation software they developed ensures that process chains in production can be adapted to new materials in advance. Complicated patterns and layers can be mapped with the help of the software and a direct connection to the textile machine can be made. Desired woven, knitted and warp-knitted products are accurately simulated with the software and their material properties computed. In addition to evaluating a particular textile design using simulation, the tools also provide optimization of performance characteristics for different design variations. The goal of the software, according to team leader Dr. Julia Orlik, is to »realize the design according to product properties and target criteria.«

TexMath consists of several components: »MeshUp«, »FibreFEM« and »FIFST«. Each of the components included in TexMath has its specific field of application. In addition, the tools have interfaces to each other as well as connections to the software »GeoDict®« of the Fraunhofer spin-off Math2Market, which can be used, for example, to perform fluid mechanical simulations on the textiles.

One area of application for the TexMath software is the optimization of compression textiles for the medical sector or for sports. For optimal effectiveness, the fit of the material is particularly important. For example, the knitting process can be simulated with TexMath to create a bandage with predefined compression properties and thus design the optimal knitted fabric. This virtual bandage is then loaded in another simulation and put on a virtual arm or leg. Thanks to TexMath, the calculated pressure profile makes it possible to evaluate the compression properties of the bandage in advance and also to directly control the knitting machine according to the optimal design.

»TexMath can also be used to design spacer textiles, such as those used for the upper material of sports shoes and for the production of high-performance textiles, and to optimize them in advance in terms of structure and fluid mechanics,« say Dr. Julia Orlik and department head Dr. Konrad Steiner, naming further areas of application for the software.

The newly developed input interface is particularly user-friendly. The textile class (i.e. knitted, warp-knitted, woven and spacer fabrics) can be easily set. The new graphic interface allows simple and fast configuration.

MeshUp for Structure Generation of Woven Patterns and Stitches
Knitted and woven fabrics are produced with the aid of knitting or weaving machines. Each textile is based on a looping diagramm, which is read into the machine or is firmly pre-defined in the machine. MeshUp is the software module of TexMath, in which looping diagramm for various woven and knitted fabrics with different types of binding, the yarn path and all contact points between different yarns are created, graphically displayed and translated into the corresponding input formats for further simulations in TexMath with FISFT and FiberFEM. In addition, MeshUp also provides the geometry as volume data (voxel format) for calculation tools such as GeoDict and FeelMath.

FiberFEM to Calculate Effective Mechanical Properties of a Periodic Textile Structure
With FiberFEM, woven and braided textiles, spacer fabrics, scrims and trusses can be calculated and optimized regarding their effective mechanical material properties. A special feature of FiberFEM is that, in addition to tensile and shear properties, effective bending and torsional properties of textiles can also be determined based on their textile structure and yarn properties.

As input variables FiberFEM requires the microstructure description from MeshUp, the fiber cross-section geometry, as well as mechanical fiber properties such as tensile stiffness and friction. As output the effective mechanical textile quantities are calculated. Besides the calculation of the effective mechanical material properties for already existing woven or knitted textiles for technical and medical applications, the approach also offers the potential for the targeted design and optimization of new textiles with a given mechanical property profile.

For example, the relaxation behavior of a textile can be determined from the weave or knit pattern and the yarn relaxation times for viscoelastic yarns. Coefficients of friction between the yarns are also taken into account and are directly included in the simulation of the effective properties or identified from the experimental validation with the fabric.

FIFST to Calculate the Deformation and Load of Textiles
The tool FIFST is specialized for dynamic simulations of stretchable knitted fabrics and teir production. For example, the knitting process can be simulated, the pull-off from the knitting machine, the shrinkage to a relaxed textile and also the further deformation during tightening can be calculated. This means that the design of the knitted fabric can also be adapted to predefined tension profiles and individualized machine control is possible for the production of personalized textiles or product-specific designs.

The numerical implementation uses the finite element method with non-linear truss elements, which has been extended for contact problems by an additional internal variable - the sliding of threads at contact nodes. The friction law is implemented with the Euler-Eutelwein model, which was extended by an additional adhesion term. Adhesion thus allows different pre-strains in the respective meshes. The elastic energy is calculated directly from the yarn force-elongation curves.  

One of the most important unique selling points of FIFST is the special technology of assigning several elements to specific threads and their arrangement in the thread as well as the simultaneous contact sliding at millions of nodes. Thus FIFST enables multi-scale simulation of large knitted or woven shell components, taking into account the local textile structure.

Another functionality of the software is to virtually drag textiles over a surface triangulation given in STL format. In the video, woven mask (knitted is also possible) is extended in the plane at 6 points and pulled against the face surface. Its knots are projected onto the face and continue to slide on the surface until the mask is fully in place. If you know frictional properties of yarns on the face, you can investigate further folding formation and also influence it specifically. As a further potential for optimization, FIFST allows to minimize pore sizes of dressed textiles on particularly curved surface areas. This can be achieved by increasing the pre-tension in yarns or by modifying the lapping diagram or the binding cartridge.


For a Test demoversion, please contact

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM
Fraunhofer-Platz 1
67663 Kaiserslautern

Phone: +49 631 31600-4342

texmath@itwm.fraunhofer.de    

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

Photo: pixabay
20.07.2021

Closed-Loop Recycling Pilot Project for Single Use Face Masks

  • Circular economy for plastics: Fraunhofer, SABIC, and Procter & Gamble join forces

The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE and its Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have developed an advanced recycling process for used plastics. The pilot project with SABIC and Procter & Gamble serves to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling for single-use facemasks.

The transformation from a linear to a circular plastics economy can only succeed with a multi-stakeholder approach. The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE combines the competencies of six institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and cooperates closely with partners from industry. Together, we work on systemic, technical and social innovations and keep an eye on the entire life cycle of plastic products.  

  • Circular economy for plastics: Fraunhofer, SABIC, and Procter & Gamble join forces

The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE and its Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have developed an advanced recycling process for used plastics. The pilot project with SABIC and Procter & Gamble serves to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling for single-use facemasks.

The transformation from a linear to a circular plastics economy can only succeed with a multi-stakeholder approach. The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE combines the competencies of six institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and cooperates closely with partners from industry. Together, we work on systemic, technical and social innovations and keep an eye on the entire life cycle of plastic products.  

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT is a pioneer in sustainable energy and raw materials management by supplying and transferring scientific results into companies, society and politics. Together with partners, the dedicated UMSICHT team researches and develops sustainable products, processes and services which inspire.

Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT, SABIC and Procter & Gamble (P&G) are collaborating in an innovative circular economy pilot project which aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling of single-use facemasks.

Due to COVID-19, use of billions of disposable facemasks is raising environmental concerns especially when they are thoughtlessly discarded in public spaces, including - parks, open-air venues and beaches. Apart from the challenge of dealing with such huge volumes of essential personal healthcare items in a sustainable way, simply throwing the used masks away for disposal on landfill sites or in incineration plants represents a loss of valuable feedstock for new material.

“Recognizing the challenge, we set out to explore how used facemasks could potentially be returned into the value chain of new facemask production,” says Dr. Peter Dziezok, Director R&D Open Innovation at P&G. “But creating a true circular solution from both a sustainable and an economically feasible perspective takes partners. Therefore, we teamed up with Fraunhofer CCPE and Fraunhofer UMSICHT’s expert scientists and SABIC’s T&I specialists to investigate potential solutions.”

As part of the pilot, P&G collected used facemasks worn by employees or given to visitors at its manufacturing and research sites in Germany. Although those masks are always disposed of responsibly, there was no ideal route in place to recycle them efficiently. To help demonstrate a potential step change in this scenario, special collection bins were set up, and the collected used masks were sent to Fraunhofer for further processing in a dedicated research pyrolysis plant.

“A single-use medical product such as a face mask has high hygiene requirements, both in terms of disposal and production. Mechanical recycling, would have not done the job” explains Dr. Alexander Hofmann, Head of Department Recycling Management at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. “In our solution, therefore, the masks were first automatically shredded and then thermochemically converted to pyrolysis oil.

Pyrolysis breaks the plastic down into molecular fragments under pressure and heat, which will also destroy any residual pollutants or pathogens, such as the Coronavirus. In this way it is possible to produce feedstock for new plastics in virgin quality that can also meet the requirements for medical products” adds Hofmann, who is also Head of Research Department “Advanced Recycling” at Fraunhofer CCPE.

The pyrolysis oil was then sent to SABIC to be used as feedstock for the production of new PP resin. The resins were produced using the widely recognized principle of mass balance to combine the alternative feedstock with fossil-based feedstock in the production process. Mass balance is considered a crucial bridge between today’s linear economy and the more sustainable circular economy of the future.

“The high-quality circular PP polymer obtained in this pilot clearly demonstrates that closed-loop recycling is achievable through active collaboration of players from across the value chain,” emphasizes Mark Vester, Global Circular Economy Leader at SABIC. “The circular material is part of our TRUCIRCLE™ portfolio, aimed at preventing valuable used plastic from becoming waste and at mitigating the depletion of fossil resources.”

Finally, to close the loop, the PP polymer was supplied to P&G, where it was processed into non-woven fibers material. “This pilot project has helped us to assess if the close loop approach could work for hygienic and medical grade plastics.” says Hansjörg Reick, P&G Senior Director Open Innovation. “Of course, further work is needed but the results so far have been very encouraging”.

The entire closed loop pilot project from facemask collection to production was developed and implemented within only seven months. The transferability of advanced recycling to other feedstocks and chemical products is being further researched at Fraunhofer CCPE.

Photo: pixabay
06.07.2021

»Waste4Future«: Today's Waste becomes Tomorrow's Resource

Fraunhofer Institutes pave new ways in plastics recycling

A sustainable society, the renunciation of fossil raw materials, climate-neutral processes - also the chemical industry has committed itself to these goals. For the industry, this means a huge challenge within the next years and decades. This structural change can succeed if all activities - from the raw material base to material flows and process technology to the end of a product's life cycle - are geared towards the goal of sustainable value creation. The key to this is innovation.

Fraunhofer Institutes pave new ways in plastics recycling

A sustainable society, the renunciation of fossil raw materials, climate-neutral processes - also the chemical industry has committed itself to these goals. For the industry, this means a huge challenge within the next years and decades. This structural change can succeed if all activities - from the raw material base to material flows and process technology to the end of a product's life cycle - are geared towards the goal of sustainable value creation. The key to this is innovation.

Plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or polystyrene (PS), which are currently produced almost entirely from fossil raw materials, are fundamental to many everyday products and modern technologies. The carbon contained in plastics is an important resource for the chemical industry. If it is possible to better identify such carbon-containing components in waste, to recycle them more effectively, and to use them again to produce high-quality raw materials for industry, the carbon can be kept in the cycle. This not only reduces the need for fossil resources, but also pollution with CO2 emissions and plastic waste. At the same time, the security of supply for industry is improved because an additional source of carbon is tapped.

The "Waste4Future" lighthouse project therefore aims to create new opportunities for recycling plastics in order to make the carbon they contain available as a "green" resource for the chemical industry. "We are thus paving the way for a carbon circular economy in which valuable new base molecules are obtained from plastic waste and emissions are largely avoided: Today's waste becomes tomorrow's resource," says Dr.-Ing. Sylvia Schattauer, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS, which is heading the project. "With the know-how of the participating institutes, we want to show how the comprehensive recycling of waste containing plastics without loss of carbon is possible and ultimately economical through interlocking, networked processes." The outcome of the project, which will run until the end of 2023, is expected to be innovative recycling technologies for complex waste that can be used to obtain high-quality recyclates.

Specifically, the development of a holistic, entropy-based assessment model is planned (entropy = measure of the disorder of a system), which will reorganize the recycling chain from process-guided to material-guided. A new type of sorting identifies which materials and in particular which plastic fractions are contained in the waste. Based on this analysis, the total stream is separated and a targeted decision is then made for the resulting sub-streams as to which recycling route is the most technically, ecologically and economically sensible for this specific waste quantity. What cannot be further utilized by means of mechanical recycling is available for chemical recycling, always with the aim of preserving the maximum possible amount of carbon compounds. Burning waste containing plastics at the end of the chain is thus eliminated.

The challenges for research and development are considerable. These include the complex evaluation of both input materials and recyclates according to ecological, economic and technical criteria. Mechanical recycling must be optimized, and processes and technologies must be established for the key points in the material utilization of plastic fractions. In addition, suitable sensor technology must be developed that can reliably identify materials in the sorting system. Machine learning methods will also be used, and the aim is to link them to a digital twin that represents the properties of the processed materials.

Another goal of the project is the automated optimization of the formulation development of recyclates from different material streams. Last but not least, an economic evaluation of the new recycling process chain will be carried out, for example with regard to the effects of rising prices for CO2 certificates or new regulatory requirements. The project consortium will also conduct comprehensive life cycle analysis (LCA) studies for the individual recycling technologies to identify potential environmental risks and opportunities.

For the development of the corresponding solutions, the participating institutes are in close exchange with companies from the chemical industry and plastics processing, waste management, recycling plant construction and recycling plant operation, in order to consider the needs of industry in a targeted manner and thus increase the chances of rapid application of the results achieved.

The following Institutes are involved in the Fraunhofer lighthouse project "Waste4Future":

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS (lead)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing IZFP
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategy IWKS
  • Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB
  • Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV
Photo: Pixabay
29.06.2021

A sustainable Circular Economy: Polypropylene Recycling from Carpet Waste

A significant part of carpet waste consists of petroleum-based polypropylene. As a non-recyclable product, disposing of it has previously meant incineration or landfill. However, a new solvent is now making it possible to recover virgin-standard polypropylene from carpet waste — with no perceptible reduction in quality. Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP and its partners, the process also involves costs that are quite competitive. The development has taken place as part of the ISOPREP EU project.

The EU alone produces around 1.6 million tons of carpet waste every year. The majority of this ends up being sent to landfill or incinerated, as carpet is a composite material that is not suitable for purely mechanical recycling methods. With carpet waste analysed in the project consisting of around a quarter polypropylene, a petroleum-based plastic, the result is a great deal of resources going to waste.

A significant part of carpet waste consists of petroleum-based polypropylene. As a non-recyclable product, disposing of it has previously meant incineration or landfill. However, a new solvent is now making it possible to recover virgin-standard polypropylene from carpet waste — with no perceptible reduction in quality. Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP and its partners, the process also involves costs that are quite competitive. The development has taken place as part of the ISOPREP EU project.

The EU alone produces around 1.6 million tons of carpet waste every year. The majority of this ends up being sent to landfill or incinerated, as carpet is a composite material that is not suitable for purely mechanical recycling methods. With carpet waste analysed in the project consisting of around a quarter polypropylene, a petroleum-based plastic, the result is a great deal of resources going to waste.

Carpet recycling now possible thanks to a new process
A team of researchers, including from Fraunhofer IBP, has now developed a new recycling process as part of an EU project named ISOPREP (see logo). “For the first time, this is making it possible to recover polypropylene from carpet waste — and the outcome is virgin-quality,” says Maike Illner, a researcher at Fraunhofer IBP. Not only does this allow the recovered polypropylene to be used in lower-quality products (in a process known as downcycling), but it also means that the quality is similar to that of newly manufactured polypropylene, making the material suitable for high-quality products too.

The process is based on a special solvent in the form of an ionic liquid. With the right components, it is able to selectively extract polypropylene from carpet fibers. Before the team of experts applies the solvent, the carpet waste is cleaned — something which involves removing as much of the backing as possible — and broken down. Once the pretreatment is complete, the waste is fed into a reactor in which it undergoes treatment using the solvent. The polypropylene is selectively dissolved in the solvent, a method that provides an effective way of removing dyes and other additives. The process is already being used on an extensive laboratory scale involving several liters of the solvent — and now, the research consortium has set its sights on scaling the process up to a pilot plant with the ability to recycle a ton of carpet waste per day. The pilot plant is set to commence operation by the end of the project in March 2022.

Costs and environmental impact
A recycling process can only be deployed on a large scale if its costs are competitive. For this application, this means retaining as much of the expensive ionic liquid as possible in the cycle. “If loss rates can be kept to one percent or less, there is potential for the costs of the process to rival those of producing new polypropylene,” explains Illner. “We know this thanks to a preliminary economic analysis that we conducted at Fraunhofer IBP.” The analysis involved the Fraunhofer researchers investigating the quantities of material and energy that would be required for the process and what kind of product would be output, and then calculating the associated costs. The team also considered how the costs would develop over the long term.

Fraunhofer IBP is focusing on the ecological aspects of carpet recycling. It is able to draw conclusions from factors including a lifecycle assessment, which sheds light on the emissions that are produced during the recycling process, for example. If the consortium is able to achieve its aim of keeping solvent loss rates to one percent or less in this case too, primary energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions will remain on a similar scale to those involved in producing new polypropylene.

Potential for transfer to other polypropylene waste streams
While carpet waste is the focus of this particular project, the process that has been developed has potential applications far beyond it. The experts involved believe that it could be transferred to a whole host of waste flows that contain polypropylene and are unsuitable for conventional recycling methods. “One example is polypropylene products that contain dyes and additives,” says Illner. “Until now, it has been difficult to extract them from plastic, which means that the recycled polypropylene has only been suitable for use in lower-quality products.” The new process separates the polypropylene not only from other materials, but also from dyes and other additives, allowing it to be used in high-quality applications.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement no. 820787.

(c) Fraunhofer IAP
08.06.2021

Fraunhofer IAP: Recyclable, Fiber-reinforced Material made from Bio-based Polylactic Acid

"Packaging made from bio-based plastics has long been established. We are now supporting the further development of these materials for new areas of application. If in the future the market also offers plant-based materials for technically demanding tasks such as vehicle construction, the bioeconomy will take a decisive step forward," explained Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in Potsdam. The occasion was the handover of a grant to the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The Fraunhofer IAP wants to develop a composite material that consists entirely of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is significantly easier to recycle than conventional fiber composites.

"Packaging made from bio-based plastics has long been established. We are now supporting the further development of these materials for new areas of application. If in the future the market also offers plant-based materials for technically demanding tasks such as vehicle construction, the bioeconomy will take a decisive step forward," explained Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in Potsdam. The occasion was the handover of a grant to the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The Fraunhofer IAP wants to develop a composite material that consists entirely of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is significantly easier to recycle than conventional fiber composites.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is intensively promoting the development of biomaterials as part of its Renewable Resources funding program. More than 100 projects are currently underway, covering a wide range of topics: from plastics that are degradable in the sea to natural fiber-reinforced lightweight components for the automotive sector. The projects are supported by the Agency for Renewable Resources, the BMEL project management agency responsible for the Renewable Resources funding program.

Easier recycling of fiber-reinforced plastics
PLA is one of the particularly promising bio-based materials. The global market for this polymer is growing by around 10 percent a year. PLA is also used, among other things, as a matrix in fiber-reinforced plastics. In these mechanically resilient plastics, reinforcing fibers are embedded in a plastic matrix.

The Fraunhofer IAP project is now focusing on these reinforcing fibers: "We are further developing our PLA fibers in order to transfer them to industrial scale together with partners from industry. These fibers are ideally suited for reinforcing PLA plastics. The resulting self-reinforcing single-component composite promises great recycling benefits. Since the fiber and the matrix of PLA are chemically identical, complex separation steps are not necessary," explains Dr. André Lehmann, expert for fiber technology at Fraunhofer IAP.

Novel PLA fibers and films are more thermally stable
The challenge with this approach is that conventional PLA has a relatively low temperature resistance. Technical fibers can be produced most economically using the melt spinning process. The Fraunhofer IAP team is now using more thermally stable stereocomplex PLA (sc-PLA) for the fibers. The term stereocomplex refers to a special crystal structure that the PLA molecules can form. Sc-PLA fibers have a melting point that is 40 - 50 °C higher and can therefore withstand the incorporation process in a matrix made of conventional PLA. In the project, the researchers are developing and optimizing a melt spinning process for sc-PLA filament yarns. The partner in this work package is Trevira GmbH, a manufacturer of technical and textile fiber and filament yarn specialties that are in demand from automotive suppliers and contract furnishers, among others. Furthermore, the development of a manufacturing process for sc-PLA reinforced flat films is planned. The international adhesive tape manufacturer tesa SE is participating in this task, and will test the suitability of sc-PLA films as adhesive foils. In a third work package, the Fraunhofer IAP will finally process the filaments in a double pultrusion process to produce granules suitable for injection molding.

Bio-based solutions for the automotive and textile industries
The scientists led by Dr. André Lehmann are certain that the self-reinforced PLA material can conquer many new areas of application. The automotive and textile industries are already showing interest in bio-based materials that are also easier to recycle. In terms of price, PLA would already be competitive here, and now the material is also to be made technically fit for the new tasks.

Professor Alexander Böker, head of Fraunhofer IAP, says: "The steadily growing demand from industry for sustainable solutions underlines how important it is to develop biobased and at the same time high-performance materials. With our research, we are also actively driving the development of a sustainable and functioning circular economy and therefore very much welcome the support from the federal government."

Information on the project is available at fnr.de under the funding code 2220NR297X.

Photo: pixabay
25.05.2021

Water Saving Solution for Textile Industry EC Project Waste2Fresh

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, with its long-term expertise in nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing, contributes to a new EC project for water saving solutions for textile industry. This industry uses a vast amount of water for different steps in the textile dyeing process. It also produces a lot of wastewater, which contains a range of chemicals and dyes.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, with its long-term expertise in nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing, contributes to a new EC project for water saving solutions for textile industry. This industry uses a vast amount of water for different steps in the textile dyeing process. It also produces a lot of wastewater, which contains a range of chemicals and dyes.

Breakthrough innovations are needed in energy intensive industries to recycle water and create closed loops in industrial processes. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing. To reduce the high amount of freshwater used in textile industry, the EC-funded Waste2Fresh project will develop a closed-loop process for textile manufacturing factories in which wastewater is collected, recycled and used again. Novel and innovative catalytic degradation approaches with highly selective separation and extraction techniques will be developed, based on nanotechnology. According to the European Commission, such “closed loops“ would significantly reduce the use of fresh water and improve water availability in the relevant EU water catchment areas, as outlined in the Water Framework Directive.

Closed loop recycling system for wastewater from textile manufacturers
Waste2Fresh meets the above challenges and industry needs by developing and demonstrating (to TRL 7) a closed loop recycling system for wastewater from textile manufacturing factories; to counteract freshwater resource scarcities and water pollution challenges exacerbated by energy intensive industries which are major users of fresh water (for e.g., processing, washing, heating, cooling).

The Waste2Fresh technology is developed to reduce current use of freshwater resources and considerably increases the recovery of water, energy and other resources (organics, salts and heavy metals). The result is a 30% increase in resource and water efficiency compared to the state-of-the-art. The system will ultimately lead to considerable environmental improvements and accordingly reduce the EC and global environmental footprint.

Fraunhofer IBMT expertise in human-toxicity and -safety testing
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT will be primarily responsible for performing nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing during the whole technology process (from development to demonstration), ensuring that the developed system and processes meet relevant safety regulations. The Fraunhofer IBMT collaborates with all consortium partners developing and using to develop approaches for ensuring that the developed nanomaterial-based components meet relevant health and safety standards during their use.

For the hazard assessment of the developed nanomaterials, the Fraunhofer IBMT will perform a set of in vitro toxicity studies using commercially available human cell lines. The results of this toxicity studies will be the basis for the development of relevant safety procedures for handling and using the developed recycling technology.

 

Project funding: H2020-EU.2.1.5.3. - Sustainable, resource-efficient and low-carbon technologies in energy-intensive process industries

Duration: 12/2020- 11/2023

Coordinator:
KONYA TEKNIK UNIVERSITESI, Turkey

Project partners:
CENTRE FOR PROCESS INNOVATION LIMITED LBG, United Kingdom
ERAK GIYIM SANAYI VE TICARET ANONIM SIRKETI, Turkey
FRAUNHOFER GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER ANGEWANDTEN FORSCHUNG E.V., Fraunhofer-Institut für Biomedizinische Technik IBMT, Germany
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH & ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS, Belgium
INSTYTUT MOLEKULYARNOI BIOLOGII I GENETYKY NAN UKRAINY, Ukraine
L'UREDERRA, FUNDACION PARA EL DESARROLLO TECNOLOGICO Y SOCIAL, Spain
NANOFIQUE LIMITED, United Kingdom
NANOGENTECH LTD, United Kingdom
PCI MEMBRANES SPOLKA Z OGRANICZONA ODPOWIEDZIALNOSCIA, Poland
STIFTELSE CSDI WATERTECH, Norway
THE OPEN UNIVERSITY, United Kingdom
ULUDAG CEVRE TEKNOLOJILERI ARGE MERKEZI SANAYI VE TICARET LIMITED SIRKETI, Turkey
UNIVERSIDAD INDUSTRIAL DE SANTANDER, Colombia
UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO, Italy
VEREALA GMBH, Switzerland
VSI SOCIALINES INOVACIJOS SVARESNEI APLINKAI, Lithiani

(c) Porsche AG
04.05.2021

Fraunhofer: Lightweight and Ecology in Automotive Construction

  • The “Bioconcept-Car” moves ahead

In automobile racing, lightweight bodies made from plastic and carbon fibers have been standard for many years because they enable drivers to reach the finish line more quickly. In the future, lightweight-construction solutions could help reduce the energy consumption and emissions of everyday vehicles. The catch is that the production of carbon fibers is not only expensive but also consumes considerable amounts of energy and petroleum. In collaboration with Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have succeeded in replacing the carbon fibers in a car door with natural fibers. This is already being installed in small series at Porsche. The project team is now taking the next step: Together with HOBUM Oleochemicals, they want to maximize the proportion of renewable raw materials in the door and other body parts - using bio-based plastics and paints.

  • The “Bioconcept-Car” moves ahead

In automobile racing, lightweight bodies made from plastic and carbon fibers have been standard for many years because they enable drivers to reach the finish line more quickly. In the future, lightweight-construction solutions could help reduce the energy consumption and emissions of everyday vehicles. The catch is that the production of carbon fibers is not only expensive but also consumes considerable amounts of energy and petroleum. In collaboration with Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have succeeded in replacing the carbon fibers in a car door with natural fibers. This is already being installed in small series at Porsche. The project team is now taking the next step: Together with HOBUM Oleochemicals, they want to maximize the proportion of renewable raw materials in the door and other body parts - using bio-based plastics and paints.

Carbon fibers reinforce plastics and therefore provide lightweight components with the necessary stability. Mass-produced natural fibers are not only more cost-effective but can also be produced in a considerably more sustainable manner. For the “Bioconcept-Car” pilot vehicle, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have developed body parts with 100 percent natural fibers as reinforcing components.

“We utilize natural fibers, such as those made from hemp, flax or jute. Whilst natural fibers exhibit lower stiffnesses and strengths compared to carbon fibers, the values achieved are nonetheless sufficient for many applications,” explained Ole Hansen, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer WKI. Due to their naturally grown structure, natural fibers dampen sound and vibrations more effectively. Their lesser tendency to splinter can help to reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident. Furthermore, they do not cause skin irritation during processing.

The bio-based composites were successfully tested by the Four Motors racing team in the “Bioconcept-Car” on the racetrack under extreme conditions. Porsche has actually been using natural fiber-reinforced plastics in a small series of the Cayman GT4 Clubsport since 2019. During production, the researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI also conducted an initial ecological assessment based on material and energy data. “We were able to determine that the utilized natural-fiber fabric has a better environmental profile in its production, including the upstream chains, than the fabric made from carbon. Thermal recycling after the end of its service life should also be possible without any problems,” confirmed Ole Hansen.

In the next project phase of the "Bioconcept-Car", the researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI, in collaboration with the cooperation partners HOBUM Oleochemicals GmbH, Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, will develop a vehicle door with a biogenic content of 85 percent in the overall composite consisting of fibers and resin. They intend to achieve this by, amongst other things, utilizing bio-based resin-hardener blends as well as bio-based paint systems. The practicality of the door - and possibly additional components - will again be tested by Four Motors on the racetrack. If the researchers are successful, it may be possible to transfer the acquired knowledge into series production at Porsche.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is funding the “Bioconcept-Car” project via the project-management agency Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (FNR).

Background
Sustainability through the utilization of renewable raw materials has formed the focus at the Fraunhofer WKI for more than 70 years. The institute, with locations in Braunschweig, Hanover and Wolfsburg, specializes in process engineering, natural-fiber composites, surface technology, wood and emission protection, quality assurance of wood products, material and product testing, recycling procedures and the utilization of organic building materials and wood in construction. Virtually all the procedures and materials resulting from the research activities are applied industrially.

 

  • EU Project ALMA: Thinking Ahead to Electromobility

E-mobility and lightweight construction are two crucial building blocks of modern vehicle development to drive the energy transition. They are the focus of the ALMA project (Advanced Light Materials and Processes for the Eco-Design of Electric Vehicles). Nine European organizations are now working in the EU project to develop more energy-efficient and sustainable vehicles. Companies from research and industry are optimizing the efficiency and range of electric vehicles, among other things by reducing the weight of the overall vehicle. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM is providing support with mathematical simulation expertise.

According to the low emissions mobility strategy, the European Union aims to have at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030. Measures to support jobs, growth, investment, and innovation are taken to tackle emissions from the transport sector. To make transport more climate-friendly, EU measures are being taken to promote jobs, investment and innovation. The European Commission's Horizon 2020 project ALMA represents one of these measures.

photo: pixabay
20.04.2021

Biomolecules from renewable Raw Materials for the Textile Industry

Water-repellent and more: coating textiles sustainably with chitosan

Textiles can be coated with the biopolymer chitosan and thus made water-repellent by binding hydrophobic molecules. The good thing is that this can also replace toxic and petroleum-based substances that are currently used for textile finishing. In the last few years Fraunhofer IGB and partners in the HydroFichi project have researched how this can be done: A technology has been developed to provide fibers with the desired properties using biotechnological processes and chitosan.

Water-repellent and more: coating textiles sustainably with chitosan

Textiles can be coated with the biopolymer chitosan and thus made water-repellent by binding hydrophobic molecules. The good thing is that this can also replace toxic and petroleum-based substances that are currently used for textile finishing. In the last few years Fraunhofer IGB and partners in the HydroFichi project have researched how this can be done: A technology has been developed to provide fibers with the desired properties using biotechnological processes and chitosan.

The manufacture of textiles is, even nowadays, still largely characterized by the use of chemicals: biotechnological processes, enzymes and renewable raw materials have so far played a subordinate role. For example, at present chiefly perfluorinated chemicals are used when finishing textiles to obtain water- and oil-repellent properties. These are harmful to health and also only degradable to a small degree, which is why they remain in the environment for so long.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB has been researching sustainable biobased alternatives for some time. In the HydroFichi project – short for Hydrophobic Finishing with Chitosan – which was completed at the end of January 2021, researchers at the institute developed a way of producing chitosan from waste streams and using the biopolymer not only as a sizing agent in the processing of yarns, but also for the functionalization of textiles in the finishing process.

Chitosan from waste for environmental protection, medical purposes or textiles
Chitosan is a renewable raw material that is derived from chitin; after cellulose, it is the second most common naturally occurring biopolymer. Sources of the nitrogen-containing polysaccharide can be crab shells from fishing waste, insect skins and shells that result from the production of animal feed, or – as a vegan variant – the cell walls of mushrooms. The structure of the two molecules is very similar; the only difference is an acetyl group, which is removed when it is converted to chitosan. Chitin is insoluble in water and most organic solvents. Chitosan is also not readily soluble; however, the addition of mild acids makes the biopolymer water-soluble and it can therefore be used as a textile auxiliary.

In order to isolate chitosan from a particular waste stream, chitin must first be obtained from the starting materials by means of demineralization and deproteinization and then its derivative chitosan. The properties of chitosan can be individually adapted by choosing the appropriate conditions. The biomolecule produced in this way can be used directly in a wide variety of practical applications – for example as a flocculant in wastewater treatment or as a drug carrier in medicines.

There are also numerous conceivable uses for chitosan in the textile industry. In sizing, for example, the efficiency of the natural substance has proved convincing in pilot scale tests carried out by the German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf. Here, the effectiveness was shown in the significantly lower roughness of the yarns after weaving textile fabrics. The values achieved with chitosan from insects were comparable to those from commercial crab shells. In the future, this fact will enable completely new possibilities of extraction in line with the bioeconomy.

As a renewable raw material, chitosan replaces fossil chemicals
“Our aim in the HydroFichi project was to provide the textile industry with a raw material for a wide variety of applications that can be obtained from renewable educts, at the same time avoiding chemicals that damage the environment and health,” explains project manager Dr. Achim Weber, deputy head of the innovation field Functional Surfaces and Materials at Fraunhofer IGB. “In addition to simple coating with chitosan, which protects the fibers, we were also able to use the substance as an anchor molecule to create cross-linking points for a wide variety of functional groups and thus to provide textiles with specific properties such as making them water-repellent. Chitosan can therefore function as a matrix material or template at the same time, and this can be done with a wide variety of fiber materials.”

The finishes were evaluated using standardized tests, but also with specially designed test stands and methods. For example, measurements on treated textiles showed contact angles of over 140°. This means that the fabrics are very water-repellent and confirms that the processing of the textiles has been successful. In a next step, the technology developed at the IGB is to be transferred from the laboratory scale to the much larger pilot scale in order to make the sustainable biomolecule ready for market use as quickly as possible, for example in the sports and outdoor sector.

For the first time biotechnological processes in textile finishing
In the project, the IGB scientists and four partners from the textile industry – the German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf (DITF), J.G. Knopf's Sohn GmbH, Helmbrechts, and Textilchemie Dr. Petry, Reutlingen – were able for the first time to establish biotechnological processes in raw material extraction and finishing that have proven to be compatible with all textile processes. So far, this is a unique selling point in the finishing of textiles. “We have all recognized the great potential of chitosan for efficient hydrophobization and as a functional carrier. And, thanks to the good cooperation, we were able to successfully establish techniques for tailor-made functionalization of textiles,” adds Dr. Thomas Hahn, who conducts research in the innovation field of Industrial Biotechnology at the IGB. “In addition, other fields of application for the biopolymer are very promising. That is why we initiated the follow-up project ExpandChi immediately after HydroFichi, in which together with our partners techniques are to be developed to use biobased chitosan as a functional carrier to replace other synthetic polymers, for example for a special anti-wrinkle or flame-retardant coating. The textile industry is very interested in utilizing such a sustainable biomolecule as quickly as possible.“

The “HydroFichi” project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under promotional reference 031B0341A; the follow-up project “ExpandChi”, which began in February 2021, is funded under promotional reference 031B1047A.

08.12.2020

Fraunhofer FEP: Boosting Innovations for COVID-19 Diagnostic, Prevention and Surveillance

The recently launched 6.1 million Euro project INNO4COV-19, funded by the European Commission (grant agreement no. 101016203), will support the marketing of new products to combat COVID-19 over the next two years, throughout Europe. The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP is contributing its know-how in sterilization using accelerated electrons and on near-to-eye visualization.

The €6.1 million project INNO4COV-19 is committed to supporting the commercialization of new products across Europe for combatting COVID-19 over the next two years. Looking for the fast development of products – from medical technologies to surveillance solutions - the project will boost innovation to tackle the new coronavirus, reinforcing Europe's technological leadership, and invigorating an industrial sector capable of protecting citizens' safety and well-being.

The recently launched 6.1 million Euro project INNO4COV-19, funded by the European Commission (grant agreement no. 101016203), will support the marketing of new products to combat COVID-19 over the next two years, throughout Europe. The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP is contributing its know-how in sterilization using accelerated electrons and on near-to-eye visualization.

The €6.1 million project INNO4COV-19 is committed to supporting the commercialization of new products across Europe for combatting COVID-19 over the next two years. Looking for the fast development of products – from medical technologies to surveillance solutions - the project will boost innovation to tackle the new coronavirus, reinforcing Europe's technological leadership, and invigorating an industrial sector capable of protecting citizens' safety and well-being.

Officially starting on October 1, the virtual kick-off took place on October 6 – 7, counting with the support of two European Commission officers.

The 11-partner consortium led by INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, is looking for efficient and fast solutions that can help in the fight against COVID-19 jointly with the other actively involved industrial and RTO partners.

The mission of INNO4COV-19 is to create a “lab-to-fab” platform and a collaboration resource where companies and reference laboratories will find the tools for developing and implementing innovative technologies – from idea assessment to market exploitation. This work will be carried out as part the European Union Coronavirus initiative and in strong collaboration with all the funded projects where to accelerate the time to market for any promising product.

INNO4COV-19 is set to assist up to 30 test cases and applications from several areas spanning from Medical technologies, Environmental Surveillance systems, Sensors, Protection of Healthcare workers and Artificial Intelligence and Data mining. To achieve this, INNO4COV-19 is awarding half of the budget to support 30 enterprises selected through a set number of open calls during the first year of the project.

The first call will be launched in November 2020 across several platforms. Awardees will receive up to €100,000 each and benefit from the INNO4COV-19 consortium's technical, regulatory, and business expertise.

Roll-to-Roll Equipment and Electron Beam Technology for Large Area Sterilization of textile materials
During pandemic events like COVID-19, MERS, SARS or Ebola a substantial shortage of sterile materials for medical uses was observed due to peak demands. Fraunhofer FEP will contribute their roll-to-roll equipment and electron beam technology for the purpose of large area sterilization of textile materials to the INNO4COV-19 project.

Usually the textile material is produced in non-sterile conditions and therefore must be sterilized before being delivered to the consumers (e. g. hospitals); Sterilization at product level (sterilizing the final manufactured masks) is limited in throughput, due to a high number of individual small pieces, that must be sterilized.

Project manager Dr. Steffen Günther of Fraunhofer FEP explains the role and aims of the institute in more detail: “INNO4COV-19 will establish and verify a process chain for high throughput (4500 m²/h) electron beam sterilization of fabric material in roll-form in a single TRL 7 pilot machine to allow efficient manufacturing of sterile face masks and other fabric based sterile products without the need to sterilize the final product.”

OLED Microdisplays for Detecting Infected People
Another topic of Fraunhofer FEP within INNO4COV-19 deals with the earliest possible detection of infected people. A widely used strategy to early identify individuals with disease symptoms is body temperature screening using thermal cameras.

One possibility to allow continuous body temperature monitoring, is the integration of a thermal camera into a smart wearable device. Therefore, Fraunhofer FEP is using their OLED microdisplay technology. This allows small (< 3 × 2 cm²), ultrathin (< 5 mm including control circuitry) and ultra-low power (< 5 mW) devices to show visual information. In combination with an infrared sensor a thermal imager will be realized to both measure body temperature and directly displays the result via near-to-eye visualization. The system can be embedded within smart glasses, hats, caps or personal face shields.

About INNO4COV-19 project:
Website: www.inno4cov19.eu
Please contact: info@inno4cov19.eu

 

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP

Fraunhofer IZM: Jessica Smarsch (c) Jessica Smarsch
01.12.2020

Fraunhofer IZM: High-Tech Fashion – art and science for the clothes of tomorrow

For most people, the word "fashion" evokes thoughts of cuts, colors and patterns - but why not of live evaluations of vital functions or training sessions for rehabilitation patients? Up to now, products of the fashion industry have been largely analogous. The project Re-FREAM, however, was created to design smart clothes in the digital area. Here, researchers and artists work side by side, developing innovative and sustainable ideas and implementation options for the fashion industry, while simultaneously providing impulses for user-oriented synergies between textiles and technology.

For most people, the word "fashion" evokes thoughts of cuts, colors and patterns - but why not of live evaluations of vital functions or training sessions for rehabilitation patients? Up to now, products of the fashion industry have been largely analogous. The project Re-FREAM, however, was created to design smart clothes in the digital area. Here, researchers and artists work side by side, developing innovative and sustainable ideas and implementation options for the fashion industry, while simultaneously providing impulses for user-oriented synergies between textiles and technology.

The writer Maxim Gorki summed up the connection between two social spheres that were long believed to be irreconcilable: "Just as science is the intellect of the world, art is its soul". In the project Re-FREAM they are connected because fashion is not limited to the decision of the external, it is directly afflicted with sociological, technological and ecological world views. It is less and less sufficient to present only the beautiful, because the dark sides of the fashion industry must also be uncovered and countered with sustainable production cycles and fair working conditions. It is precisely this rethinking and redesigning of processes, production methods, but also of functionality and traditions in the world of fashion that is part of the Re-FREAM project.

The aim is to create an interaction between fashion, design, science and urban manufacturing in order to combine creative visions with sustainable technological solutions. In teams, artists and scientists developed projects together and then presented their innovative aesthetics at the virtual Ars Electronica Festival 2020.

The cooperation with Fraunhofer IZM's scientists opens up entirely new technological possibilities for artists: Microelectronics not only serves as a fashion accessory but is also brings new functions to clothing. With the help of integration technologies, clothing can be integrated into networks and textile-integrated sensor technology can be used, which opens up perspectives of wearable applications in the field of e-health.

One difficulty that Fraunhofer researchers are facing is the electronic contact points between electronics and textiles, because these must be manufacturable on an industrial scale and function reliably under typical textile mechanical stress and washing without any loss of performance. The electronic modules are a further challenge. At Fraunhofer IZM, the electronic components are miniaturized to such an extent that they do not stand out in the garment. The connecting conductor tracks are finally laminated or embroidered onto the fabrics.

Each sub-project in Re-FREAM is a unique joint effort, a fact that reflects the versatility of the cooperation partners. The Italian designer Giulia Tomasello, for example, wants to reveal taboos around female health in her project "Alma" and realize a monitoring of the vaginal flora. The team consisting of designers, an anthropologist and Fraunhofer researchers is developing underwear with an integrated pH sensor, designed to enable a non-invasive diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis and fungal diseases in everyday life and prevent serious inflammation.

In the gusset of the underwear, the reusable biosensor collects data and transmits them to a module measuring approximately 1 cm². Thanks to a modular design, the microcontroller can be easily removed from the textiles. The textile sensor, too, can be removed from the underwear. In addition to the technological solution, aesthetic requirements are another main focus. Other potential applications would be the monitoring of abnormal uterine bleeding as well as menopause. "Through close cooperation with the artists, we have gained very special insights into the user's perspective, and they in turn into that of application-oriented technologies. We have always challenged each other and have now found a solution that combines medical technology, wearables and a circular production method to empower women," says Max Marwede, who provided technical support for "Alma" at Fraunhofer IZM.

In the "Connextyle" project around designer and product developer Jessica Smarsch, the team also focuses on developing user-oriented garments: The tops, which are equipped with textile printed circuit boards and laminated EMG sensors, measure muscle activity and thus optimize rehabilitation processes for patients. An app provides visual feedback from the collected data, generates reports on the healing process and makes it easier for therapists to adapt the measures ideally.

Soft Robotics are the key point in the "Lovewear" project, because here inclusive underwear was developed, which is intended to help people with physical limitations in particular to explore their own intimacy and develop a greater awareness of their own body. Through interaction with a connected pillow, which functions as an interface, compressed air inserts are activated in the lace fabric. Instead of the commonly used silicon-based materials, Soft Robotics are made of textiles and thermoplastic materials. The researchers thus avoid the long curing process of silicone-based approaches and enable faster and more cost-effective mass production with available textile machines.

Particularly challenging and at the same time fruitful is the collaboration in creating sustainable and circular production designs in fashion. Ecological principles are taken into account at the design stage, minimizing negative environmental impacts throughout the product life cycle. This includes the reliability of the component contacts, the length of time the sensors adhere to the textile, the choice of materials and the modular design for reuse of the microcontrollers. However, the teams do not create individual pieces - they want to show that the path to high-tech fashion can also be an environmentally friendly one. They also worked on circular business models that fit the sustainable mission of the projects.

Thus Fraunhofer IZM’s expertise in the fields of e-textiles and circular design represents a considerable added value in the Re-FREAM project. With further investigations on suitable conductive materials, the researchers are currently developing sensory textiles and textile-suitable interconnection technologies. They are also working on thermoplastic substrates that can be integrated into almost any textile.

Re-FREAM is part of the STARTS (Science + Technology + Arts) program, which is funded as an initiative of the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM

Emma4Drive (c) Fraunhofer ITWM
03.11.2020

EMMA4Drive - Dynamic human model for more safety and comfort in autonomous vehicles

  • DFG and Fraunhofer support trilateral project on autonomous driving

For many employees, it is an inviting vision of the future: to drive to work in their own car and still make good use of the travel time: Reading news, checking e-mails or relaxing and enjoying the first coffee of the day. In the future, passengers of autonomous vehicles will be able to pursue new activities. However, this will require new (software) tools to understand customers’ expectations, strengthen trust and demonstrate safety. With the EMMA4Drive project, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are funding the development of a dynamic human model for the development of (partially) autonomously driving vehicles.

  • DFG and Fraunhofer support trilateral project on autonomous driving

For many employees, it is an inviting vision of the future: to drive to work in their own car and still make good use of the travel time: Reading news, checking e-mails or relaxing and enjoying the first coffee of the day. In the future, passengers of autonomous vehicles will be able to pursue new activities. However, this will require new (software) tools to understand customers’ expectations, strengthen trust and demonstrate safety. With the EMMA4Drive project, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are funding the development of a dynamic human model for the development of (partially) autonomously driving vehicles.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM and the company fleXstructures are developing a muscle-activated human model together with scientists from the Institute for Engineering and Computational Mechanics (ITM) at the University of Stuttgart.

This model dynamically simulates the interaction of human body parts and the vehicle seat during driving maneuvers. The resulting software prototype, EMMA4Drive, will be used as a digital image of the passenger and will analyze and evaluate his safety and ergonomics during driving maneuvers.

Realistic movements instead of quasi-static investigations
So far, human models have been used either in crash simulations to estimate the risk of injury or in ergonomic analyses. In crash analyses, detailed, computationally intensive models are used for calculations in the millisecond range, which are not suitable for the simulation of dynamic driving maneuvers, because here longer processes have to be simulated. In contrast, human models for ergonomics analysis are based on the simplified kinematics of a multi-body model and so far, only allow quasi-static investigations. Realistic postures and movements during new activities can only be modeled with a lot of effort using these models.

"The by us developed prototypical human model EMMA uses an optimization algorithm to automatically calculate new postures and movement sequences with the associated muscle activities," explains Dr. Joachim Linn, head of the department "Mathematics for the Digital Factory" at the Fraunhofer ITWM, the special feature of EMMA. "This means that the new motion sequences for (partially) autonomous driving can be implemented and examined comparatively easily in the simulation model - for example when the driver takes over the steering wheel."

EMMA4Drive thus enables a comparatively simple implementation of new movement patterns and an efficient virtual examination of safety, comfort and ergonomics in (partially) autonomous driving. "Our goal is to have a further developed prototype of our digital human model EMMA available at the end of the project, which we can use to investigate and improve seating and operating concepts when driving semi-autonomous or fully autonomous vehicles," Joachim Linn explains.

DFG and Fraunhofer support six trilateral projects with EUR 5 million
In the trilateral project EMMA4Drive, the University of Stuttgart contributes extensive experience in the fields of active human modeling, vehicle safety and model reduction. The Fraunhofer ITWM contributes expertise in multibody-based human modeling and motion optimization by means of optimal control. The company fleXstructures develops, distributes and maintains the software family IPS including the digital human model IPS IMMA, which simulates motion sequences during assembly work.

"EMMA4Drive - Dynamic human model for autonomous driving" is one of six projects funded by the DFG and Fraunhofer. The aim of the EUR five million funding is to involve companies in research innovations at an early stage. Three project partners each from universities, Fraunhofer Institutes and industry are cooperating on the basis of a joint working program. The Fraunhofer experts take the lead in the exploitation of the project results for the application partners or other interested parties from industry.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM