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10.01.2023

Fraunhofer: Optimized production of nonwoven masks

Producing infection control clothing requires a lot of energy and uses lots of material resources. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a technology which helps to save materials and energy when producing nonwovens. A digital twin controls key manufacturing process parameters on the basis of mathematical modeling. As well as improving mask manufacturing, the ProQuIV solution can also be used to optimize the production parameters for other applications involving these versatile technical textiles, enabling manufacturers to respond flexibly to customer requests and changes in the market.

Producing infection control clothing requires a lot of energy and uses lots of material resources. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a technology which helps to save materials and energy when producing nonwovens. A digital twin controls key manufacturing process parameters on the basis of mathematical modeling. As well as improving mask manufacturing, the ProQuIV solution can also be used to optimize the production parameters for other applications involving these versatile technical textiles, enabling manufacturers to respond flexibly to customer requests and changes in the market.

Nonwoven infection control masks were being used in their millions even before the COVID-19 pandemic and are regarded as simple mass-produced items. Nevertheless, the manufacturing process used to make them needs to meet strict requirements regarding precision and reliability. According to DIN (the German Institute for Standardization), the nonwoven in the mask must filter out at least 94 percent of the aerosols in the case of the FFP-2 mask and 99 percent in the case of the FFP-3 version. At the same time, the mask must let enough air through to ensure that the wearer can still breathe properly. Many manufacturers are looking for ways to optimize the manufacturing process. Furthermore, production needs to be made more flexible so that companies are able to process and deliver versatile nonwovens for a wide range of different applications and sectors.

ProQuIV, the solution developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern, fulfills both of these aims. The abbreviation “ProQuIV” stands for “Production and Quality Optimization of Nonwoven Infection Control Clothing” (Produktions- und Qualitätsoptimierung von Infektionsschutzkleidung aus Vliesstoffen). The basic idea is that manufacturing process parameters are characterized with regard to their impact on the uniformity of the nonwoven, and this impact is then linked to properties of the end product; for example, a protective mask. This model chain links all relevant parameters to an image analysis and creates a digital twin of the production process. The digital twin enables real-time monitoring and automatic control of nonwoven manufacturing and thus makes it possible to harness potential for optimization.

Dr. Ralf Kirsch, who works in the Flow and Material Simulation department and heads up the Filtration and Separation team, explains: “With ProQuIV, the manufacturers need less material overall, and they save energy. And the quality of the end product is guaranteed at all times.”

Nonwoven manufacturing with heat and air flow
Nonwovens for filtration applications are manufactured in what is known as the
meltblown process. This involves melting down plastics such as polypropylene and forcing them through nozzles so they come out in the form of threads referred to as filaments. The filaments are picked up on two sides by air flows which carry them forward almost at the speed of sound and swirl them around before depositing them on a collection belt. This makes the filaments even thinner: By the end of the process, their thickness is in the micrometer or even submicrometer range. They are then cooled, and binding agents are added in order to create the nonwoven. The more effectively the temperature, air speed and belt speed are coordinated with each other, the more uniform the distribution of the fibers at the end and therefore the more homogeneous the material will appear when examined under a transmitted light microscope. Lighter and darker areas can thereby be identified — this is referred to by experts as cloudiness. The Fraunhofer team has developed a method to measure a cloudiness index on the basis of image data. The light areas have a low fiber volume ratio, which means that they are less dense and have a lower filtration rate. Darker areas have a higher fiber volume and therefore a higher filtration rate. On the other hand, the higher air flow resistance in these areas means that they filter a smaller proportion of the air that is breathed in. A larger proportion of the air flows through the more open areas which have a less effective filtration effect.

Production process with real-time control
In the case of ProQuIV, the transmitted light images from the microscope are used to calibrate the models prior to use. The experts analyze the current condition of the textile sample and use this information to draw conclusions about how to optimize the system — for example, by increasing the temperature, reducing the belt speed or adjusting the strength of the air flows. “One of the key aims of our research project was to link central parameters such as filtration rate, flow resistance and cloudiness of a material with each other and to use this basis to generate a method which models all of the variables in the production process mathematically,” says Kirsch. The digital twin monitors and controls the ongoing production process in real time. If the system deviates slightly from where it should be — for example, if the temperature is too high — the settings are corrected automatically within seconds.

Fast and efficient manufacturing
“This means that it is not necessary to interrupt production, take material samples and readjust the machines. Once the models have been calibrated, the manufacturer can be confident that the nonwoven coming off the belt complies with the specifications and quality standards,” explains Kirsch. ProQuIV makes production much more efficient — there is less material waste, and the energy consumption is also reduced. Another advantage is that it allows manufacturers to develop new nonwoven-based products quickly — all they have to do is change the target specifications in the modeling and adjust the parameters. This enables production companies to respond flexibly to customer requests or market trends.

This might sound logical but can be quite complex when it comes to development. The way that the values for filtration performance and flow resistance increase, for example, is not linear at all, and they are not proportional to the fiber volume ratio either. This means that doubling the filament density does not result in double the filtration performance and flow resistance — the relationship between the parameters is much more complex than that. “This is precisely why the mathematical modeling is so important. It helps us to understand the complex relationship between the individual process parameters,” says ITWM researcher Kirsch. The researchers are able to draw on their extensive expertise in simulation and modeling for this work.

More applications are possible
The next step for the Fraunhofer team is to reduce the breathing resistance of the nonwovens for the wearer without impairing the protective effect. This is made possible by electrically charging the fibers and employing a principle similar to that of a feather duster. The electric charge causes the textile fabric to attract the tiniest of particles which could otherwise slip through the pores. For this purpose, the strength of the electrostatic charge is integrated into the modeling as a parameter.

The Fraunhofer researchers’ plans for the application of this method extend far beyond masks and air filters. Their technology is generally applicable to the production of nonwovens — for example, it can also be used in materials for the filtration of liquids. Furthermore, ProQuIV methods can be used to optimize the manufacture of nonwovens used in sound-insulating applications.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

Submarine sensors have lots to tell us about the situation below the surface. Fraunhofer IZM has mounted sensor systems on the two manta ray fins of the unmanned underwater vehicle designed by EvoLogics. (c) EvoLogics GmbH
11.10.2022

Textile Skin & Smart Sensors: Robo-Ray in Search of Munitions

Giant arsenals of unexploded ordinance are sitting on the ocean floor, lost in battle or dumped as waste. The risky job of detecting these underwater hazards is currently given to submarines specially fitted for the purpose. But even they cannot get to some of the tighter or harder to reach spots, forcing expert divers to go down and take over the often life-threatening work.

A German research consortium including Fraunhofer IZM is now using a submarine robot that is as nimble and mobile as a manta ray and equipped with innovative connected sensors on its fins to gather more information about its surroundings. It can measure water pressure so precisely that metal objects can be detected on the ocean floor, even if they are covered by sediment.

Giant arsenals of unexploded ordinance are sitting on the ocean floor, lost in battle or dumped as waste. The risky job of detecting these underwater hazards is currently given to submarines specially fitted for the purpose. But even they cannot get to some of the tighter or harder to reach spots, forcing expert divers to go down and take over the often life-threatening work.

A German research consortium including Fraunhofer IZM is now using a submarine robot that is as nimble and mobile as a manta ray and equipped with innovative connected sensors on its fins to gather more information about its surroundings. It can measure water pressure so precisely that metal objects can be detected on the ocean floor, even if they are covered by sediment.

Unmanned underwater vehicles or UUVs have been in use for several years, but high-tech pioneers for reliable underwater communication and innovative bionics like EvoLogics GmbH have let themselves be inspired by marine life like manta rays and adapted their look and technical anatomy to the submarine world.

With the enormous “wingspan” of their fins, manta rays are known to cover vast distances, while their extremely flexible vertebrae means that they can make surprisingly sharp turns on their seemingly weightless journey through the sea. Their robotic cousins can be very agile as well, but they were not smart enough yet to replace the professional divers who had to scour the sea floor for hours, looking for lost ordinance from the First or Second World War or other hazardous metal waste before offshore wind farms could be built or intercontinental cables could be put down. Now, the new robo ray will make it possible to detect submarine hazards with a whole battery of sensors.

The “Bionic RoboSkin” project, supported by Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research, is working to give the manta-shaped UUVs a flexible bionic sensor skin to help them navigate their underwater world. The skin is made from a compound fabric that is fitted with sensor elements and water-resistant connectors to supply the sensors with power and transmit their data. Researchers from Fraunhofer IZM have taken on the challenge of developing these integrated sensor modules with which the UUVs can detect touch or the proximity of objects and virtually see and analyze their surroundings. The project consortium is headed by EvoLogics GmbH and includes other experts in the field from TITV Greiz, Sensorik Bayern GmbH, the diving specialists of BALTIC Taucherei- und Bergungsbetrieb Rostock GmbH, and GEO-DV GmbH, all with one mission: To create a new generation of robots that can support their human partners with a range of semi or fully automated services and functions.

Their capabilities will not be limited to the sea: The researchers are looking at a second use case for a land-based robot sensor platform, fittingly called “Badger” or “Dachs” in German. It will navigate by GPS and be fitted with ground penetrating radar to detect metal objects below ground or conduct other ground survey work in harder to reach places (including tunneling work).

Under the robotic manta ray’s deceptively lifelike shell lies intricate technology: A permeable and therefore pressure-neutral fabric skin is created and fitted with integrated microelectronics for touch, flow, motion, and position sensors. This textile skin is then pulled tight over the robotic fins, creating a soft robotics machine that can sense its surroundings. The team at Fraunhofer IZM is responsible for the electronics that make this possible: They developed sensor nodes suitable for submersible use that can collect and pre-process the sensor data. These nodes do not only have to be fit for purpose, they also need to be extremely miniaturized to fit underneath the thin fabric skin and integrate the necessary connectors. In active operations below the waterline, these sensors can track parameters like acceleration, pressure, or absorbency. The researchers also included LEDs in the circuit board design that let the robotic manta rays communicate with human divers, for instance to signal a turn.

All of these components and sensor packages are integrated by means of a highly miniaturized embedding method and protected from the cold and wet environment by a robust case. Despite this, the footprint of the embedded modules is amazingly small at 23 x 10.5 x 1.6 mm³, fitting a complete sensor package and microcontroller in something the size of a common door key. The case itself works as a conductor by creating the mechanical and electrical contact with the sensor skin itself. The researchers chose a modular two-part design from their original vision of the product: The embedding module combines the individual electronic components on a millimeter scale for exceptional integration; the module case acts as the mechanical interface with the skin and makes the system as robust as it has to be for its destined purpose. The coupling between module and case relies on a seemingly simple clipping action: Small pins on the connector surface on the skin and tiny hooks on the sensor module itself snap together to form an easily de- and attachable interface. The resulting system is modular to allow easy reconfiguration.

The researchers at Fraunhofer IZM will now subject their robotic manta ray to a series of tests with their project partners. The results and findings from the “Bionic RoboSkin” project will likely be of use for many other projects and contribute to more pressure-neutral and reliable packaging solutions for flexible, mobile, and smarter service robots.

The “Bionic RoboSkin” project is supported through the VDI/VDE-IT by the Ministry of Education and Research (funding code 16ES0914) as part of the federal government’s research and innovation campaign 2016 to 2020 “Microelectronics from Germany – Driver of Innovation for the Digital Economy”.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM

First tests with free-form tiles made of wood short fiber filament. (Photo: LZH) Photo: LZH. First tests with free-form tiles made of wood short fiber filament.
19.09.2022

Sustainability in 3D Printing: Components made of Natural Fibers

3D printing has been in use in architecture for a while, and now it is to become ecologically sustainable as well: Together with partners, the LZH is researching how to produce individual building elements from natural fibers using additive manufacturing.

3D printing has been in use in architecture for a while, and now it is to become ecologically sustainable as well: Together with partners, the LZH is researching how to produce individual building elements from natural fibers using additive manufacturing.

In the project 3DNaturDruck, architectural components such as facade elements shall be created from natural fiber-reinforced biopolymers in 3D printing. To this end, the scientists will develop the corresponding composite materials from biopolymers with both natural short fibers and natural continuous fibers and optimize them for processing with the additive manufacturing process FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). The project partners' goal is to enable smart and innovative designs that are both ecological and sustainable.
 
The goal: highly developed components made from sustainable materials
Within the project, different natural fiber-reinforced biopolymer composites will be investigated. The partners are researching both processing methods with very short natural fibers, such as from wood and straw, and a method for printing continuous fibers from hemp and flax in combination with biopolymers. The LZH then develops processes for these new materials and adapts the tools and nozzle geometries of the FDM printer. A pavilion with the 3D-printed facade elements is planned as a demonstrator on the campus of the University of Stuttgart.
 
The project partners want to explore how additive manufacturing can be used to simplify manufacturing processes for architectural components. Natural fiber-reinforced biopolymers are particularly suitable for producing components with complex geometries in just a few steps and with low material and cost requirements. With their research, the partners are also working on completely new starting conditions for the fabrication of newly developed architectural components: For example, the topology optimization of components according to their structural stress can be easily implemented with additive manufacturing.

Enabling the natural fiber trend in architecture also using additive manufacturing
There is great interest in the use of natural fibers in structural components in architecture and construction because natural fibers have several advantages. They have good mechanical properties combined with low weight and are widely available. As a renewable resource with in some cases very short renewal cycles, they are also clearly a better ecological alternative than synthetic fibers.

In additive manufacturing, large-format elements for the architectural sector have so far mostly been manufactured with polymers based on fossil raw materials. Research in the project 3DNaturDruck should now make the use of natural fibers in architecture possible for additive manufacturing as well.

About 3DNaturDruck
The project 3DNaturDruck is about the design and fabrication of 3D-printed components made of biocomposites using filaments with continuous and short natural fibers.

The project is coordinated by the Department of Biobased Materials and Materials Cycles in Architecture (BioMat) at the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart. In addition to the LZH, project partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI) and the industrial companies Rapid Prototyping Technologie GmbH (Gifhorn), ETS Extrusionstechnik (Mücheln), 3dk.berlin (Berlin) and ATMAT Sp. Z o.o. (Krakow, Poland).

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture through the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. under the funding code 2220NR295C.

Source:

Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

(c) Fraunhofer IKTS
02.08.2022

Fraunhofer technology: High-tech vest monitors lung function

Patients with severe respiratory or lung diseases require intensive treatment and their lung function needs to be monitored on a continuous basis. As part of the Pneumo.Vest project, Fraunhofer researchers have developed a technology whereby noises in the lungs are recorded using a textile vest with integrated acoustic sensors. The signals are then converted and displayed visually using software. In this way, patients outside of intensive care units can still be monitored continuously. The technology increases the options for diagnosis and improves the patient’s quality of life.

For over 200 years, the stethoscope has been a standard tool for doctors and, as such, is a symbol of the medical profession. In television hospital dramas, doctors are seen rushing through the halls with a stethoscope around their neck. Experienced doctors do indeed use them to listen very accurately to heartbeats and the lungs and, as a result, to diagnose illnesses.

Patients with severe respiratory or lung diseases require intensive treatment and their lung function needs to be monitored on a continuous basis. As part of the Pneumo.Vest project, Fraunhofer researchers have developed a technology whereby noises in the lungs are recorded using a textile vest with integrated acoustic sensors. The signals are then converted and displayed visually using software. In this way, patients outside of intensive care units can still be monitored continuously. The technology increases the options for diagnosis and improves the patient’s quality of life.

For over 200 years, the stethoscope has been a standard tool for doctors and, as such, is a symbol of the medical profession. In television hospital dramas, doctors are seen rushing through the halls with a stethoscope around their neck. Experienced doctors do indeed use them to listen very accurately to heartbeats and the lungs and, as a result, to diagnose illnesses.

Now, the stethoscope is getting some help. As part of the Pneumo.Vest project, researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS at the Berlin office have developed a textile vest with integrated acoustic sensors, presenting a high-performance addition to the traditional stethoscope. Piezoceramic acoustic sensors have been incorporated into the front and back of the vest to register any noise produced by the lungs in the thorax, no matter how small. A software program records the signals and electronically amplifies them, while the lungs are depicted visually on a display. As the software knows the position of each individual sensor, it can attribute the data to its precise location. This produces a detailed acoustic and optical picture of the ventilation situation of all parts of the lungs. Here is what makes it so special: As the system collects and stores the data permanently, examinations can take place at any given time and in the absence of hospital staff. Pneumo.Vest also indicates the status of the lungs over a period of time, for example over the previous 24 hours. Needless to say, traditional auscultation can also be carried out directly on the patients. However, instead of carrying out auscultation manually at different points with a stethoscope, a number of sensors are used simultaneously.

“Pneumo.Vest is not looking to make the stethoscope redundant and does not replace the skills of experienced pneumologists. However, auscultation or even CT scans of the lungs only ever present a snapshot at the time of the examination. Our technology provides added value because it allows for the lungs to be monitored continuously in the same way as a long-term ECG, even if the patient is not attached to machines in the ICU but has instead been admitted to the general ward,” explains Ralf Schallert, project manager at Fraunhofer IKTS.

Machine learning algorithms aid with diagnosis
Alongside the acoustic sensors, the software is at the core of the vest. It is responsible for storing, depicting and analyzing the data. It can be used by the doctor to view the acoustic events in specific individual areas of the lungs on the display. The use of algorithms in digital signal processing enables a targeted evaluation of acoustic signals. This means it is possible, for example, to filter out heartbeats or to amplify characteristic frequency ranges, making lung sounds, such as rustling or wheezing, much easier to hear.

On top of this, the researchers at Fraunhofer IKTS are developing machine learning algorithms. In the future, these will be able to structure and classify complex ambient noises in the thorax. Then, the pneumologist will carry out the final assessment and diagnosis.

Discharge from the ICU
Patients can also benefit from the digital sensor alternative. When wearing the vest, they can recover without requiring constant observation from medical staff. They can transfer to the general ward and possibly even be sent home and move about more or less freely. Despite this, the lungs are monitored continuously, and any sudden deterioration can be reported to medical personnel straight away.

The first tests with staff at the University Clinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Therapy at the University of Magdeburg have shown that the concept is successful in practice. “The feedback from doctors was overwhelmingly positive. The combination of acoustic sensors, visualization and machine learning algorithms will be able to reliably distinguish a range of different lung sounds,” explains Schallert. Dr. Alexander Uhrig from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is also pleased with the technology. The specialist in infectiology and pneumology at the renowned Charité hospital was one of those who initiated the idea: “Pneumo.Vest addresses exactly what we need. It serves as an instrument that expands our diagnostic options, relieves the burden on our hospital staff and makes hospital stays more pleasant for patients.”

The technology was initially designed for respiratory patients, but it also works well for people in care facilities and for use in sleep laboratories. It can also be used to train young doctors in auscultation.

Increased need for clinical-grade wearables
With Pneumo.Vest, the researchers at Fraunhofer IKTS have developed a product that is cut out for the increasingly strained situation at hospitals. In Germany, 385,000 patients with respiratory or lung diseases require inpatient treatment every year. Over 60 percent are connected to a ventilator for more than 24 hours. This figure does not account for the current increase in respiratory patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of increasing life expectancy, the medical industry also expects the number of older patients with breathing problems to increase. With the help of technology from Fraunhofer IKTS, the burden on hospitals and, in particular, costly ICUs can be relieved as their beds will no longer be occupied for quite as long.

It should be added that the market for such clinical-grade wearables is growing rapidly. These are compact medical devices that can be worn directly on the body to measure vital signs such as heartbeat, blood oxygen saturation, respiratory rate or skin temperature. As a medical device that can be used flexibly, Pneumo.Vest fits in perfectly with this development. But do not worry: Doctors will still be using the beloved stethoscope in the future.

Fraunhofer “M³ Infekt” cluster project
Pneumo.Vest is just one part of the extensive M³ Infekt cluster project. Its objective is to develop monitoring systems for the decentralized monitoring of patients. The current basis of the project is the treatment of COVID-19 patients. With the SARS-CoV2 virus, it is common for even mild cases to suddenly deteriorate significantly. By continuously monitoring vital signs, any deterioration in condition can be quickly identified and prompt measures for treatment can be taken.

M3 Infekt can also be used for a number of other symptoms and scenarios. The systems have been designed to be modular and multimodal so that biosignals such as heart rate, ECG, oxygen saturation, or respiratory rate and volume can be measured, depending on the patient and illness.

A total of ten Fraunhofer institutes are working on the cluster project under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Dresden. Klinikum Magdeburg, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University Hospitals of Erlangen and Dresden are involved as clinical partners.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technology and Systems IKTS

Photo: Pixabay
28.06.2022

Individual plastic budget - Fraunhofer UMSICHT presents study results

When plastics enter the environment, this brings with it many negative effects: these range from suffocating living organisms to transfer within the food chain and physical effects on an ecosystem. In addition, there are dangers from the release of additives, monomers and critical intermediates of metabolic processes, the metabolites.

How great the long-term impact of plastic emissions actually is, is not yet clear at the present time. In order to create a political decision-making basis for dealing with plastic emissions, researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and the Ruhr University Bochum have therefore developed a budget approach and an LCA impact assessment methodology in the "PlastikBudget" project from December 2017 to the end of August 2021. The researchers have now completed the project. The result: When driving a car, a person emits more than half of their individual plastic emission budget through tire wear.

When plastics enter the environment, this brings with it many negative effects: these range from suffocating living organisms to transfer within the food chain and physical effects on an ecosystem. In addition, there are dangers from the release of additives, monomers and critical intermediates of metabolic processes, the metabolites.

How great the long-term impact of plastic emissions actually is, is not yet clear at the present time. In order to create a political decision-making basis for dealing with plastic emissions, researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and the Ruhr University Bochum have therefore developed a budget approach and an LCA impact assessment methodology in the "PlastikBudget" project from December 2017 to the end of August 2021. The researchers have now completed the project. The result: When driving a car, a person emits more than half of their individual plastic emission budget through tire wear.

How big is the long-term impact of plastic emissions?
Six percent of global petroleum consumption goes to the plastics industry - and the trend is rising. While the plastics industry is an important economic factor in many countries, more and more plastic waste ends up in soils and oceans. Mostly in the form of highly mobile, small to large plastic fragments, plastic emissions can no longer be recovered from the environment. At the same time, the long-term effects of plastic in the environment are hardly predictable.

Due to the global and cross-generational dimension of the problem, it is important that science, industry and consumers work together to find a solution. One goal of the joint project PlastikBudget is therefore to quantify today's plastic emissions and to derive a plastic emissions budget. On this basis, the researchers can formulate quantitative emission targets that can be used to legitimize political decisions. In particular, the path from empirically verified data and normative values to a concrete emissions budget forms the core objective of the project.

From research to per capita emissions budget
Starting with a basic research on plastic quantities in the environment, the project addresses two major topics: The development of a budget approach and the development of an impact assessment method that can be used in life cycle assessments to consider potential environmental impacts of plastic emissions. Participatory formats complete the project. In this way, the results are anchored in political and scientific discourse. In the course of the project, the researchers will answer the following questions: What quantities of plastic are currently being discharged and what quantities have already accumulated? What quantities of plastic in the environment are still acceptable? How long does it take for plastics to degrade in real environmental compartments? How are the risks posed by different plastic emissions adequately represented? Finally, from the answers, they calculate a value for current emissions and what they consider to be an acceptable emissions budget.

250 million tonnes of PPE for 7.8 billion people
To measure plastic pollution, the researchers in the PlastikBudget project have developed the persistence-weighted plastic emission equivalent (PPE for short). This represents a virtual mass that takes into account the period of time until a specific plastic emission is degraded, e.g. in soil, freshwater or seawater. Relevant properties for this are the location of the emission, the material type, the shape of the plastic emission as well as the size of the emitted plastic part and the final environmental compartment in which the plastic remains. In the case of plastics that degrade completely within one year, the plastic emission equivalent corresponds to the real mass. If the degradation time is longer, it increases accordingly.

"Based on the thesis that the total amount of plastics already accumulated in the environment today has just reached a critical quantity, we were able to calculate a global plastic emission budget of 250 million tonnes of PPE," explains Jürgen Bertling, project manager of the project and scientist at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. "If each of the 7.8 billion people is allocated the same emission rights, this results in an individual budget of 31.9 kilograms of PPE per person and year."

Driving consumes half of the individual plastic budget
However, tire wear from driving alone corresponds to a plastic emission equivalent of 16.5 kg PPE per year and thus consumes more than 50 per cent of an individual's budget. Even waste from ten coffee-to-go disposable cups would consume 13.5 kg of PPE per year, more than a third of one's budget. "This is because the plastics used in disposable cups are more difficult to degrade than the rubber in the tire," explains Jan Blömer from Fraunhofer UMSICHT, who played a key role in developing the calculation methodology. The consumption of a coil of polyamide for a lawn trimmer, which releases microplastics when used, also weighs in considerably at 5.1 kilograms of PPE. Microbeads in cosmetics or the one-time sanding of a front door, on the other hand, consume significantly less of the individual emissions budget with 1.1 kg PPE and 0.5 kg PPE, but are still quite relevant in the overall balance.

Many other everyday activities also lead to plastic emissions. Nevertheless, the researchers show that the calculated budget limits can be met in various scenarios. However, such a scenario also entails considerable effort and massive changes in the way we deal with plastics today. One possible scenario to meet the budget would be a reduction of emissions by more than 50 per cent, if at the same time at least 50 per cent of all emissions consisted of readily degradable plastics.

Further work on accounting for plastic emissions in life cycle assessments
The persistence-weighted plastic emission equivalent developed in the PlastikBudget project could also represent a new impact category in life cycle assessments in the future. "With the help of factors that reflect the persistence of plastics in the environment, it will be possible in future to compare different product alternatives in terms of their plastic emission footprints," says Dr Daniel Maga, who is coordinating the corresponding further development of the life cycle assessment methodology at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. A corresponding exchange with companies is taking place here. However, implementation in the life cycle assessment methodology and the associated software solutions requires broad acceptance in the scientific community and must be prepared in corresponding standardisation committees.

The project is part of the research priority "Plastics in the Environment" (PidU) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), in which 18 collaborative projects with around 100 partners from science, industry, associations, municipalities and practice want to clarify fundamental questions about the production, use and disposal of plastics. The research focus "Plastics in the Environment - Sources, Shrinking, Solutions" is part of the Green Economy flagship initiative of the BMBF framework programme "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA3).

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT

(c) MAI Carbon
24.05.2022

From waste to secondary raw material - wetlaid nonwovens made from recycled carbon fibers

MAI Scrap SeRO | From Scrap to Secondary Ressources – Highly Orientated Wet-Laid-Nonwovens from CFRP-Waste

The »Scrap SeRO« project is an international joint project in the field of »recycling of carbon fibers«.

The technical project goal is the demonstration of a continuous process route for processing pyrolytically recycled carbon fibers (rCF) in high-performance second-life component structures. In addition to the technological level, the focus of the project is particularly on the international transfer character, in the sense of a cross-cluster initiative between the top cluster MAI Carbon (Germany) and CVC (South Korea).

MAI Scrap SeRO | From Scrap to Secondary Ressources – Highly Orientated Wet-Laid-Nonwovens from CFRP-Waste

The »Scrap SeRO« project is an international joint project in the field of »recycling of carbon fibers«.

The technical project goal is the demonstration of a continuous process route for processing pyrolytically recycled carbon fibers (rCF) in high-performance second-life component structures. In addition to the technological level, the focus of the project is particularly on the international transfer character, in the sense of a cross-cluster initiative between the top cluster MAI Carbon (Germany) and CVC (South Korea).

Through direct cooperation between market-leading companies and research institutions of the participating cluster members, the technical project processing takes place in the context of the global challenge of recycling, as well as the need for increased resource efficiency, with reference to the economically strategic material carbon fibers.

Efficient processing of recycled carbon fibers
The technological process route within the project runs along the industrial wet-laying technology, which is comparable to classic paper production. This enables a robust production of high-quality rCF nonwovens, which are characterized, among other things, by particularly high homogeneity and stability of characteristic values.

A special development focus is on a specific process control, which allows the generation of an orientation of the individual fiber filaments in the nonwoven material.

The given preferred fiber direction of the discontinuous fiber structure opens up strong synergy effects in relation to increased packing densities, i.e. fiber volume content, as well as a significantly optimized processing behavior in relation to impregnation, forming and consolidation, in addition to a load path-oriented mechanics.

The innovative wetlaid nonwovens are then further processed into thermoset and thermoplastic semi-finished products, i.e. prepregs or organosheets, using impregnation processes that are suitable for large-scale production.

rCF tapes are produced from this in an intermediate slitting step. By means of automated fiber placement, load path-optimized preforms can be deposited, which are then consolidated into complex demonstrator components.

The process chain is monitored at key interfaces by innovative non-destructive measurement technology and supplemented by extensive characterization methods. Especially for the processing of pyrolysed recycled carbon fibers, which were recovered from end-of-life waste or PrePreg waste, for example, there are completely new potentials with significant added value compared to the current state of the art for the overall process route presented here.

International Transfer
The fundamentally global challenge of recycling and the striving for increased sustainability is strongly influenced by national recycling strategies as a result of country-specific framework conditions. The globalized way in which companies deal with high-volume material flows places additional demands on a functioning circular economy. A networked solution can only be created on the basis of and in compliance with the respective guidelines and structural factors.

In the case of the high-performance material carbon fiber, there is a particularly high technical requirement for an ecologically and economically viable recycling industry. At the same time, the specific market size already opens up interesting scaling effects and potential for market penetration.

The Scrap SeRO project connects two of the world's leading top clusters in the field of carbon composites from South Korea and Germany on the basis of a cross-cluster initiative. As part of this first promising technology project, the foundation stone for future cooperation is to be laid that supports the effective recycling of carbon fibers. The project makes an important contribution to closing the material cycle for carbon fibers and thus paves the way for renewed use in further life cycles of this high-quality and energy-intensive material.

Info »Scrap SeRO«

  • Duration: 05/2019 – 04/2022
  • Funding: BMBF
  • Funding Amount: 2.557.000 €

National Consortium

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV
  • ELG Carbon Fibre
  • J.M. Voith SE & Co. KG
  • Neenah Gessner
  • SURAGUS GmbH
  • LAMILUX Composites GmbH
  • Covestro Deutschland AG
  • BA Composites GmbH
  • SGL Carbon

International Consortium

  • KCarbon
  • Hyundai
  • Sangmyung University
  • TERA Engineering
Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

Photo: pixabay
17.05.2022

The industrial future needs climate-neutral process heat

IN4climate.NRW publishes discussion paper

Not only private households, but above all industrial companies have a high demand for heat. On the way to climate neutrality, greater focus must be placed on the supply of process heat to the industry - especially in the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). This is shown by the discussion paper of the climate protection think tank IN4climate.NRW.

In 2020, process heat accounted for a large percentage of industrial energy demand - 67 percent of the energy consumed by German industry - and is still predominantly supplied by fossil fuels (BMWi 2021a). That's almost 20 percent of Germany's total energy demand. No wonder: Whether glass, metal, cement or paper are melted, forged, fired or dried - all these processes require process heat. And in some cases up to a temperature of 3,000 °C.

IN4climate.NRW publishes discussion paper

Not only private households, but above all industrial companies have a high demand for heat. On the way to climate neutrality, greater focus must be placed on the supply of process heat to the industry - especially in the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). This is shown by the discussion paper of the climate protection think tank IN4climate.NRW.

In 2020, process heat accounted for a large percentage of industrial energy demand - 67 percent of the energy consumed by German industry - and is still predominantly supplied by fossil fuels (BMWi 2021a). That's almost 20 percent of Germany's total energy demand. No wonder: Whether glass, metal, cement or paper are melted, forged, fired or dried - all these processes require process heat. And in some cases up to a temperature of 3,000 °C.

In the discussion paper "Process heat for a climate-neutral industry (Prozesswärme für eine klimaneutrale Industrie)", IN4climate.NRW formulates approaches and recommendations for action for a process heat transition. A total of thirteen partners of the initiative have signed the paper.

Samir Khayat, Managing Director of NRW.Energy4-Climate: "The switch to sustainable process heat supply is one of the decisive factors in ensuring that the transformation of industry can succeed. With the IN4climate.NRW initiative, we are bringing together the expertise from science, politics as well as industry, and developing concrete strategies to put climate neutrality in industry into practice."

Various figures illustrate the need for action: Only 6 percent of the energy required for process heat has so far been covered by renewable energies. Electricity also currently accounts for only 8 percent - as an energy source, it is still far from emission-free in today's electricity mix, but must become so in the future through the switch to 100 percent renewables.

NRW alone needs 40 percent of the process heat required by the whole of Germany
Tania Begemann, Project Manager Industry and Production at NRW.Energy4Climate and author of the paper: "The sustainable conversion of process heat has always been an important and urgent topic at IN4climate.NRW, but it becomes even more explosive in times of a global energy crisis. It is estimated that NRW alone requires 40 percent of the process heat required by the whole of Germany. In order to remain economically strong and an industrial state in the long term, it is therefore of particular importance for NRW to become independent of fossil process heat sources in the near future. We would like to draw attention to this with this paper. At the same time, this enormous challenge also offers NRW the opportunity to become a pioneer."

How can this be accomplished? The discussion paper shows central approaches and recommendations for action:

  • Increase efficiency: The development and use of high-temperature heat pumps should be specifically promoted within the framework of pilot plants and concepts. In addition, companies should be supported in the development and implementation of concepts that minimize process temperatures and use waste heat within the company.
  • Promote renewable heat sources: Local, renewable energy sources such as deep geothermal energy and solar thermal energy can be an important component of climate-neutral process heat supply and at the same time reduce the reliance on energy imports. Where renewables can supply industrial heating needs, they should be used. These forms of energy should therefore be supported in a targeted manner through inquiries and tenders.
  • Increase renewable electricity: The electrification of processes and applications is the prerequisite for the energy transition. Expanding renewable power generation along with a solid power grid, creating competitive prices for green power, and developing flexible systems are therefore key tasks.
  • Promote storable alternative energy sources: To be able to generate process heat even when renewable energies are not available, industry needs large quantities of storable energy carriers. In particular, sustainable hydrogen must be available at competitive prices and the necessary conditions, such as a transport and storage infrastructure, must be created. In addition to hydrogen, biomass is a valuable and storable energy carrier and raw material at the same time. This limited resource must therefore be used in a targeted and efficient manner.

The climate-neutral generation of process heat is of great importance for the whole of Germany, but especially for the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and at the same time represents a major challenge. The heat transition in industry requires an overall systemic and supraregional view and strategy development. On the one hand, such strategies should take into account the interaction of different sectors. On the other hand, they should include all heat requirements - from buildings to industry. In this paper, decision-makers from politics, industry and society will find initial reference points and impulses for this important, common task.

The paper was developed by the IN4climate.NRW initiative under the umbrella of the NRW.Energy4Climate state organization. It is supported by the institutes Fraunhofer UMSICHT, RWTH Aachen (Chair of Technical Thermodynamics), the VDZ research institute as well as the Wuppertal Institute, the companies Amprion, Currenta, Deutsche Rohstofftechnik (German raw material technology - RHM Group), Georgsmarienhütte, Kabel Premium Pulp and Paper, Lhoist, Pilkington Germany (NSG Group) and Speira as well as the Federal Association of the German Glass Industry.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT

(c) A3/Christian Strohmayr
10.05.2022

Fraunhofer reduces CO2 footprint and recycles trendy lightweight carbon material

Neo-ecology through innovative paper technology

To reduce the CO2 footprint, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV Augsburg research with a state-of-the-art wetlaid nonwoven machine for recycling carbon fibers. The production processes are similar to those of a paper manufacturing machine. The crucial difference: we turn not paper fibers into the paper but recycled carbon fibers into nonwoven roll fabrics. The carbon fiber thus gets a second life and finds an environmentally friendly way in nonwovens, such as door panels, engine bonnets, roof structures, underbody protection (automotive), and heat shields (helicopter tail boom), as well as in aircraft interiors.

“Wetlaid technology for processing technical fibers is currently experiencing a revolution following centuries of papermaking tradition.”
Michael Sauer, Researcher at Fraunhofer IGCV

Neo-ecology through innovative paper technology

To reduce the CO2 footprint, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV Augsburg research with a state-of-the-art wetlaid nonwoven machine for recycling carbon fibers. The production processes are similar to those of a paper manufacturing machine. The crucial difference: we turn not paper fibers into the paper but recycled carbon fibers into nonwoven roll fabrics. The carbon fiber thus gets a second life and finds an environmentally friendly way in nonwovens, such as door panels, engine bonnets, roof structures, underbody protection (automotive), and heat shields (helicopter tail boom), as well as in aircraft interiors.

“Wetlaid technology for processing technical fibers is currently experiencing a revolution following centuries of papermaking tradition.”
Michael Sauer, Researcher at Fraunhofer IGCV

The wetlaid technology used is one of the oldest nonwoven forming processes (around 140 BC - 100 AD). As an essential industry sector with diverse fields of application, wetlaid nonwovens are no longer only found in the classic paper. Instead, the application areas extend, for example, from adhesive carrier films, and packaging material, to banknotes and their process-integrated watermarks and security features. In the future, particularly sustainable technology fields will be added around battery components, fuel cell elements, filtration layers, and even function-integrated material solutions, e.g., EMI shielding function.

Fraunhofer IGCV wetlaid nonwovens line is specifically designed as a pilot line. In principle, very different fiber materials such as natural, regenerated, and synthetic fibers can be processed, mainly recycled and technical fibers. The system offers the highest possible flexibility regarding material variants and process parameters. In addition, sufficiently high productivity is ensured to allow subsequent scaled processing trials (e.g., demonstrator production).

The main operating range of the wetlaid line relates to the following parameters:

  • Processing speed: up to 30 m/min
  • Role width: 610 mm
  • Grammage: approx. 20–300 gsm
  • Overall machinery is ≥ IP65 standard for processing, e.g., conductive fiber materials
  • Machine design based on an angled wire configuration with high dewatering capacity, e.g., for processing highly diluted fiber suspensions or for material variants with high water retention capacity.
  • Machine modular system design with maximum flexibility for a quick change of material variants or a quick change of process parameters. The setup allows short-term hardware adaptations as well as project-specific modifications.

Research focus: carbon recycling at the end of the life cycle
The research focus of Fraunhofer IGCV is primarily in the field of technical staple fibers. The processing of recycled carbon fibers is a particular focus. Current research topics in this context include, for example, the research, optimization, and further development of binder systems, different fiber lengths and fiber length distributions, nonwoven homogeneity, and fiber orientation. In addition, the focus is on the integration of digital as well as AI-supported methods within the framework of online process monitoring. Further research topics, such as the production of gas diffusion layers for fuel cell components, the further development of battery elements, and filtration applications, are currently being developed.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

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