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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.

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
Cost-effective Ways to minimize Risks in the Supply Chain Photo: Pixabay
28.07.2020

Fraunhofer ITWM: Cost-effective Ways to minimize Risks in the Supply Chain

  • Algorithms for optimized supply chains

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy hard. What lessons can be learned from this experience? And what’s the best way for companies to protect themselves against this kind of crisis in the future? The answer will certainly involve a combination of different approaches – but new mathematical methods developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM look likely to be a very promising piece of the puzzle. These methods aim to calculate how the risks posed by supply shortages can be reduced significantly at very little extra cost.

  • Algorithms for optimized supply chains

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy hard. What lessons can be learned from this experience? And what’s the best way for companies to protect themselves against this kind of crisis in the future? The answer will certainly involve a combination of different approaches – but new mathematical methods developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM look likely to be a very promising piece of the puzzle. These methods aim to calculate how the risks posed by supply shortages can be reduced significantly at very little extra cost.

 Nobody ever expected hospitals to be struggling to get hold of the face masks and other personal protective equipment they need. The supply chain had always run smoothly in the past, yet the coronavirus crisis has now caused shortages of these products on multiple occasions. Previously, these supply chains had worked well – but the necessary restrictions on the global flow of goods led them to collapse.In many cases, for example, Chinese suppliers were unable to make deliveries even while factories in Germany were still working as normal, a situation that had a knock-on effect on goods production in Germany. And viruses are not the only potential risk: international suppliers can be paralyzed by all kinds of unforeseen factors, from natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and floods to strikes or other unexpected political developments. If a company chooses to rely on just one supplier for its production needs in order to reduce costs, this can have devastating consequences that may even bring production to a complete standstill. It can take a very long time indeed for other suppliers to ramp up their production and start delivering the required products.
 
Analyzing and safeguarding supply chains
This is where methods developed by Fraunhofer ITWM come into play. “The algorithms analyze how diversified the supply chains are in different areas of the company and thus how great the risk is of running into critical supply problems in an emergency, in other words in the event of regional or global disruption,” says Dr. Heiner Ackermann, deputy head in the Department of Optimization at Fraunhofer ITWM in Kaiserslautern. “The question is how you can minimize the risk of supply shortfalls without incurring significant additional costs.” The dilemma is similar to that of buying a house: Is it best to opt for the lowest possible interest rates, even though there is a risk that follow-up financing will offer much worse rates? Or is it best to play safe and pay slightly higher interest rates from the start if that means having the reassurance of reasonably priced financing for the entire term?
 
Companies also have to get the right balance between risk and costs. If a company chooses to rely solely on the cheapest supplier, they are taking a major risk. But if they procure a raw material from multiple suppliers at the same time, that risk drops significantly. “And in this case the difference in cost is much lower than the difference in risk,” says Ackermann. In other words, the risks fall dramatically even when a company increases its costs by just a few percent – so it is possible to eliminate much of the risk by accepting just a slight rise in costs. Companies can use the algorithm to discover what would work best in their particular situation. “This method lets companies optimize their supply chains based on multiple criteria, helping them to find the optimal balance between costs and risks,” says Ackermann. “The underlying algorithms work equally well whether you are dealing with supply shortages caused by an earthquake or a virus. So, unlike existing software solutions, we don’t try to make assumptions as to the likelihood of any particular scenario.” With this new method, a company starts by entering various parameters – for example areas in which they think disruption could be likely and how long that disruption might last. The algorithms then calculate various cost/risk trade-offs for this exact raw material, including the possible allocations of suppliers that would correspond to each point on the scale. They even take into account options such as storing critical products in order to cushion any temporary supply shortfalls.
 
Substituting raw materials during supply shortages      
Another option the algorithms take into account is whether a raw material could potentially be replaced by different materials in the event of a supply bottleneck. If so, this can be taken into consideration from the start. Essentially, the method calculates the costs and risks of different courses that a company can follow in regard to their suppliers. Procter & Gamble is already using a software-based variant of this methodology which has been specially tailored to its needs.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

The Fraunhofer WKI double-rapier weaving machine with the Jacquard attachment in the upper of the photo.  © Fraunhofer WKI | Melina Ruhr. The Fraunhofer WKI double-rapier weaving machine with the Jacquard attachment in the upper of the photo.
02.06.2020

Fraunhofer WKI: Climate-friendly hybrid-fiber materials on the basis of renewable natural fibers

As a result of the new combination possibilities for bio-based hybrid-fiber materials achieved at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI, the industrial application possibilities for renewable raw materials, for example in the automotive industry or for everyday objects such as helmets or skis, can be expanded.

By increasing the proportion of flax fiber in hybrid-fiber materials to up to 50 percent, the scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to significantly increase the biogenic proportion in composite materials. The special aspect of the tested methods: The fabrics can be individually composed with the help of a weaving machine. In this way, process steps in industrial production, in which materials first have to be merged together, can be omitted. This will achieve reductions in energy and CO2 throughout the entire production process.

As a result of the new combination possibilities for bio-based hybrid-fiber materials achieved at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI, the industrial application possibilities for renewable raw materials, for example in the automotive industry or for everyday objects such as helmets or skis, can be expanded.

By increasing the proportion of flax fiber in hybrid-fiber materials to up to 50 percent, the scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to significantly increase the biogenic proportion in composite materials. The special aspect of the tested methods: The fabrics can be individually composed with the help of a weaving machine. In this way, process steps in industrial production, in which materials first have to be merged together, can be omitted. This will achieve reductions in energy and CO2 throughout the entire production process.

Successfully woven: Different hybrid fabrics
In view of the increased demands being placed upon environmental and climate protection, science and industry are seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional materials in all branches of production. As a material, natural fibers offer a sustainable solution. Due to their low density and simultaneous high stability, natural fibers can be used to produce highly resilient light-weight-construction materials which are easy to recycle. In the “ProBio” project, scientists from the Fraunhofer WKI have therefore addressed the question as to how the proportion of natural fibers in bio-based hybrid-fiber materials can be increased as significantly as possible. A double-rapier weaving machine with Jacquard attachment was thereby utilized in order to produce the bio-based hybrid-fiber materials.

The researchers thereby focused specifically on bio-based hybrid-fiber composites (Bio-HFC). Bio-HFC consist of a combination of cellulose-based fibers, such as flax fibers, and synthetic high-performance fibers, such as carbon or glass fibers, for reinforcement. Bio-HFC can be utilized in, for example, vehicle construction. As an innovation in the “ProBio” project, the researchers interwove differing fiber-material combinations, reinforcing fibers and matrix fibers with the aid of the double-rapier weaving machine. This procedure differs from the process in which finished fabrics are layered on top of one another.

“We have combined the advantageous properties of the fiber materials within a composite material in such a way that we have been able to compensate for weak points in individual components, thereby achieving new properties in some cases. In addition, we have succeeded in increasing the proportion of bio-based fibers to up to 50 percent flax fibers, which we have combined with 50 percent reinforcing fibers,” says project team member Jana Winkelmann, describing the procedure. The bio-hybrid textiles, each consisting of 50 percent by weight carbon and flax fabric, are introduced into a bio-based plastic matrix. The composite material possesses a flexural strength which is more than twice as high as that of the corresponding composite material made from flax-reinforced epoxy resin. This mechanical performance capability can significantly expand the application range of renewable raw materials for technical applications.

With the weaving machine, the scientists have successfully combined innovative light-weight-construction composite materials with complex application-specific fabric structures and integrated functions. Reinforcing fibers, such as carbon and natural fibers, as well as multilayer fabrics and three-dimensional structures, can be woven together in a single work step. This offers advantages for industrial production, as production steps in which materials first have to be merged together can be omitted. “We have succeeded, for example, in utilizing conductive yarns or wires as sensors or conductor paths directly in the weaving process, thereby producing fabrics with integrated functions. The introduction of synthetic fibers as weft threads enables the production of bio-hybrid composites with isotropic mechanical properties,” explains Ms. Winkelmann.

Weaving technology makes it possible to create new products with a high proportion of bio-based components on a pilot scale. The project results provide an insight into the diverse combination possibilities of natural and reinforcing fibers and demonstrate opportunities for utilization not only in vehicle construction but also for everyday objects such as helmets or skis. The results will be presented within the framework of the 4th International Conference on Natural Fibers, ICNF, July 2019 in Porto, Portugal. The “ProBio” project, which ran from 1st July 2014 to 30th June 2019, was funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture (MWK).

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

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research WKI

Protective masks for Augsburg University Hospital (c) Fraunhofer IGCV
14.04.2020

Protective equipment from 3d printers

  • Fraunhofer IGCV supplies protective equipment made via 3d printers to university hospital Augsburg

For more than a week, the Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg has been supplying the University Hospital Augsburg with protective masks from 3D printers. In order to meet the enormous demand for absolutely necessary protective equipment for the the needs of hospital staff, a call for support was sent to cooperation partners - Augsburg University of Applied Sciences and Fraunhofer IGCV are stepping in.
 

  • Fraunhofer IGCV supplies protective equipment made via 3d printers to university hospital Augsburg

For more than a week, the Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg has been supplying the University Hospital Augsburg with protective masks from 3D printers. In order to meet the enormous demand for absolutely necessary protective equipment for the the needs of hospital staff, a call for support was sent to cooperation partners - Augsburg University of Applied Sciences and Fraunhofer IGCV are stepping in.
 

Fast communication in the research network:
Production of 3D-printed parts accelerates in the shortest possible time
Without further ado, an internal university group searched for possibilities of manufacturing via 3D printing. Prof. Dr. Markus Sause and Prof. Dr. Kay Weidenmann of the Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg immediately agreed and pulled out all the stops to start production as quickly as possible. In order to provide as many protective masks as possible in the shortest possible time, an appeal was also made to existing cooperation partners. They found what they were looking for in their direct colleague Prof. Dr. Johannes Schilp, Professor of Production Informatics at the University of Augsburg and Head of the Processing Technology Department at the Augsburg Fraunhofer IGCV: Max Horn, research associate at the Fraunhofer Institute, and Paul Dolezal from the FabLab (production laboratory) at Augsburg University of Applied Sciences immediately promised their help. "Thanks to the excellent cooperation of our team, the first parts were produced in our laboratory for additive manufacturing just a few hours after the first telephone call," Max Horn recalls. "With the support of the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer IGCV, the production capacity of 50 masks per day could be significantly increased," Markus Sause is pleased to report.
          

Printing masks with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) was selected as the manufacturing process for the face protection. This means that the mask is created by forcing fusible plastic through a nozzle and applying it in layers in individual lanes. In addition to an extensive laboratory for metal-based additive manufacturing, the Fraunhofer IGCV operates a new laboratory unit with various FDM printers. Due to the simplicity of the process and its great flexibility, it is particularly suitable for prototypes and sample components. "However, the masks produced are by no means only illustrative objects", adds Georg Schlick, Head of the Components and Processes Department at the Fraunhofer IGCV. The team processed durable polymers for the parts, which have good resistance to the disinfectants used in the hospital. This results in high-quality components that are ideally suited for multiple use.
 
Additive manufacturing for flexible production
In the meantime, some bottlenecks have been overcome: The Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg is switching back to production processes for the manufacture of face masks that are better suited for the production of large quantities. "The great strength of additive manufacturing lies rather in the production of very complex components with smaller quantities," explains Matthias Schmitt, group leader for additive manufacturing at the Fraunhofer IGCV. "But 3D printing also enables us to act at very short notice and to compensate for lack of capacity for almost any component as required," Schmitt continues. Thanks to the flexibility, motivation and expertise of all cooperation partners, a complete production and supply chain for the face masks was implemented within a few days. Georg Schlick therefore emphasizes the need for good networking and rapid exchange between the research institutions. "The close networking within the 3D printing community enables short communication channels and fast action. This can save lives in this case."

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

The new AddiTex compound comes out of the extruder as a filament for 3D printing. © Fraunhofer UMSICHT
12.11.2019

FRAUNHOFER UMSICHT: COMPOUNDS FOR ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING, GEOTEXTILES AND WEARABLES

Whether biodegradable geotextiles, wearables from thermoplastic elastomers or functional textiles from 3D printers - the scope of plastics developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT is wide.

Insights into these projects were provided from October 16th - 23rd  in Düsseldorf: At the K, scientists presented their work on thermally and electrically conductive, biodegradable, bio-based compounds as well as compounds suitable for additive production.
 
Textile composites from the 3D printer
In the "AddiTex" project, plastics were developed that are applied to textiles in layers using 3D printing and give them functional properties. A special challenge in the development was the permanent adhesion: The printed plastic had to be both a strong bond with the textile and sufficiently flexible to be able to participate in movements and twists.

Whether biodegradable geotextiles, wearables from thermoplastic elastomers or functional textiles from 3D printers - the scope of plastics developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT is wide.

Insights into these projects were provided from October 16th - 23rd  in Düsseldorf: At the K, scientists presented their work on thermally and electrically conductive, biodegradable, bio-based compounds as well as compounds suitable for additive production.
 
Textile composites from the 3D printer
In the "AddiTex" project, plastics were developed that are applied to textiles in layers using 3D printing and give them functional properties. A special challenge in the development was the permanent adhesion: The printed plastic had to be both a strong bond with the textile and sufficiently flexible to be able to participate in movements and twists.

A flexible and flame-retardant compound was developed, which is particularly suitable for use in the field of textile sun and sound insulation, as well as a rigid compound, which is used, among other things, for reinforcing the shape of protective and functional clothing.

Geotextile filter for technical-biological bank protection
Geotextile filters for technical-biological bank protection are the focus of the "Bioshoreline" project. It stands for gradually biodegradable nonwovens, which allow a near-natural bank design of inland waterways with plants. They consist of renewable raw materials and are intended to stabilize the soil in the shore area until the plant roots have grown sufficiently and take over both filter and retention functions. The ageing and biodegradation of the fleeces begin immediately after installation, until the fleeces are gradually completely degraded.

Prototypes of the geotextile filters are currently being tested. Female scientists evaluate the plant mass formed above and below ground with and without geotextile filters as well as the influence of the soil type on plant growth and the biological degradation of the filter.

Wearables made of thermoplastic elastomers
In addition, Fraunhofer UMSICHT is developing novel, electrically conductive and flexible compounds that can be processed into thermoplastic-based bipolar plates. These plastics are highly electrically conductive, flexible, mechanically stable, gas-tight and chemically resistant and - depending on the degree of filling of electrically conductive additives - can be used in many different ways. For example, in electrochemical storage tanks (batteries), in energy converters (fuel cells), in chemical-resistant heat exchangers or as resistance heating elements.

Another possible field of application for these plastics: Wearables. These portable materials can be produced easily and cheaply with the new compounds. It is conceivable, for example, to form garments such as a vest by means of resistance heating elements. The idea behind this is called Power-to-Heat and enables the direct conversion of energy into heat.

FUNDING NOTES

"AddiTex" is funded with a grant from the State of North Rhine-Westphalia using funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-2020 "Investments in growth and employment". Project Management Agency: LeitmarktAgentur.NRW – Projektmanagement Jülich.

The "Bioshoreline" project (funding reference: 22000815) is funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) on the basis of a resolution of the German Bundestag.

More information:
Fraunhofer-Institute UMSICHT K 2019
Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT

Wireless Power Transmission for Technical Textiles Bild von Gerd Altmann auf Pixabay
27.08.2019

WIRELESS POWER TRANSMISSION FOR TECHNICAL TEXTILES

The trend towards the "Internet of Everything" is ongoing. Whether in industrial, medical or everyday applications, more and more electrical devices are connected to each other, record sensing values, exchange data and react to them. Due to smaller structures, new processing possibilities and new flexible materials, such systems are also being used more and more frequently in the textile sector. For example, medical measurements can be recorded directly on a garment, actuators such as EMS electrodes can be integrated directly into the textile or functions such as MP3 players, GPS receivers, fall detectors, heating structures and much more can be embedded simply and intuitively in textiles. Communication and data exchange usually take place wirelessly via WLAN, Bluetooth, RFID or, in the future, via the 5G network.

The trend towards the "Internet of Everything" is ongoing. Whether in industrial, medical or everyday applications, more and more electrical devices are connected to each other, record sensing values, exchange data and react to them. Due to smaller structures, new processing possibilities and new flexible materials, such systems are also being used more and more frequently in the textile sector. For example, medical measurements can be recorded directly on a garment, actuators such as EMS electrodes can be integrated directly into the textile or functions such as MP3 players, GPS receivers, fall detectors, heating structures and much more can be embedded simply and intuitively in textiles. Communication and data exchange usually take place wirelessly via WLAN, Bluetooth, RFID or, in the future, via the 5G network.

Electrical energy is required for such applications and functions. Despite the efforts to further minimize the energy demand of electronic circuits, it is not always possible to operate these systems completely energy autonomously. Therefore, energy storage devices such as batteries or rechargeable accumulators are necessary for operation. The big advantage of recharging is that smaller, more compact energy storage devices can be used to achieve the same or an increased service life running time. There are two basic concepts for recharging a battery with electrical energy. On the one hand wired and with connections like a micro-USB cable. On the other hand wireless via wireless power transmission. With wired solutions, contacts can wear out or be added by fuzz, especially in the textile sector. In addition, the connecting process is less flexible and uncomfortable.

Wireless concepts offer several advantages and are therefore better suited. For example, the electronics including energy storage can be completely encapsulated, since no galvanic contacts are required. Among other things, this makes the textile directly machine-washable, because the electronics are protected from water, detergents and sweat. This means that no components need to be removed from the textile when washing. A further purely practical advantage is the simplicity of charging. With the suitable concept, the textile can be hung on hangers, placed in laundry baskets or, ideally, simply placed in the washing machine and charged without any further action of the user. The result is an uncomplicated, charming way of operating smart textiles.

There are several concepts and possibilities for wirelessly supplying a textile with energy. The most popular and at the same time most efficient method is the inductive power transmission [1]. Two coils are inductively coupled to each other and thus transmit energy wirelessly (Figure 2). Air, wood, plastic, but also liquids such as water or human tissue can be penetrated a few centimeters almost loss-free.  There are also various concepts for integrating electronics into textiles. From the production of the entire circuit on thin printed circuit boards to complete textile integration, a wide variety of mixtures are possible. The easiest concepts to develop are those in which all circuit parts are manufactured on printed circuit boards. Thin printed circuit boards can have substrate thicknesses of a few tenths of a millimeter (Figure 1). But flexible possibilities such as manufacturing on silicones are also conceivable. Among other things, the sensors and microcontrollers as well as the coil for inductive energy transfer to the substrate are manufactured. This complete printed circuit board then only has to be connected to the textile, whether by gluing, sewing or insertion.

Concepts in which the receiver coil is integrated into the textile go one step further. For example, ultra-fine wires or strands are woven or embroidered and the textile material thus becomes the substrate itself as a functionalized textile. The rest of the circuit, which is still integrated on a conventional substrate, is then connected to the coil and the textile. Since some of the spools can have diameters of a few centimeters, one can gain in flexibility because the textile spool can move almost freely. With a complete textile integration, the components are finally attached to the textile and the conductor paths are embroidered or woven in.

Consistently implemented and used, wireless power transmission as a simple and convenient charging method of textiles can thus contribute to sustainably strengthen the market for smart textiles improving handling and user experience.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS
Authors: Dominik Schröder, Dr. Christian Hedayat

Imagine a truck tarp that can harvest the energy of sunlight! Picture by Peter H. on Pixabay
20.08.2019

TEXTILE BASED SOLAR CELLS

Imagine a truck tarp that can harvest the energy of sunlight!

Imagine a truck tarp that can harvest the energy of sunlight!
With the help of new textile-based solar cells developed by Fraunhofer researchers, semitrailers could soon be producing the electricity needed to power cooling systems or other onboard equipment. In short, textile-based solar cells could soon be adding a whole new dimension to photovoltaics, complementing the use of conventional silicon-based solar cells. Solar panels on building roofs are a common enough sight today – as are large-scale solar parks. In the future, we may well see other surfaces being exploited for photovoltaic generation. Truck tarps, for example, could be used to produce the electricity consumed by the driver when underway or parked up for the night, or to power electronic systems used to locate trailers in shipping terminals. Similarly, conventional building facades could be covered with photovoltaic textiles in place of concrete render. Or the blinds used to provide shade in buildings with glass facades could be used to create hundreds of square meters of additional surface for producing power.

Glass-fiber fabric as a solar-cell substrate
At the heart of such visions are pliable, textile-based solar cells developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS, Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e.V and industrial partners erfal GmbH & Co. KG, PONGS Technical Textiles GmbH, Paul Rauschert GmbH & Co. KG and GILLES PLANEN GmbH. “There are a number of processes that enable solar cells to be incorporated in coatings applied to textiles,” explains Dr. Lars Rebenklau, group manager for system integration and electronic packaging at Fraunhofer IKTS. In other words, the substrate for the solar cells is a woven fabric rather than the glass or silicon conventionally used. “That might sound easy, but the machines in the textile industry are designed to handle huge rolls of fabric – five or six meters wide and up to 1000 meters in length,” explains Dr. Jonas Sundqvist, group manager for thin-film technology at Fraunhofer IKTS. “And during the coating process, the textiles have to withstand temperatures of around 200 °Celsius. Other factors play a key role too: the fabric must meet fire regulations, have a high tensile strength and be cheap to produce. “The consortium therefore opted for a glass-fiber fabric, which fulfills all of these specifications,” Rebenklau says.

An emphasis on standard processes
Researchers also faced the challenge of how to apply the wafer-thin layers that make up a solar cell – the bottom electrode, the photovoltaic layer and the top electrode – to the fabric. These layers are between one and ten microns in thickness. By comparison, the surface of the fabric is like a mountain range. The solution was first to apply a layer that levels out the peaks and troughs on the surface of the fabric. For this purpose, researchers opted for a standard process from the textile industry: transfer printing, which is also used to rubberize fabrics. All the other processes have been adapted in such a way that they can be easily incorporated in standard production methods used in the textile industry. For example, the two electrodes – which are made of electrically conductive polyester – and the photovoltaic layer are applied by means of the common roll-to-roll method. The solar cells are also laminated with an additional protective layer in order to make them more robust.

Fabric-based solar cells ready for market launch in around five years
The research team has already produced an initial prototype. “This has demonstrated the basic functionality of our textile-based solar cells,” Rebenklau says. “Right now, they have an efficiency of between 0.1 and 0.3 percent.” In a follow-up project, he and the team are seeking to push this over the five percent mark, at which point the textile-based solar cells would prove commercially viable. Silicon-based solar cells are significantly more efficient, at between ten and 20 percent. However, this new form of solar cell is not intended to replace the conventional type, merely offer an alternative for specific applications. In the coming months, the team will be investigating ways of enhancing the service life of the fabric-based solar cells. If all goes according to plan, the first textile-based solar cells could be ready for commercialization in around five years. This would fulfill the original goal of the PhotoTex project: to provide new stimulus for Germany’s textile industry and improve its competitiveness.