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Making Sustainability Part of Manufacturing

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

While coping with the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed other manufacturing issues to the side, in the long-term those issues remain. One is making manufacturing more sustainable. Broad policy changes will be needed to achieve this goal, but so will many individual efforts by companies to change how things are made.

For example, the steel industry in Sweden has an initiative to reduce its environmental impact by eliminating carbon dioxide (CO2) from steel production, according to Mats Lundberg, sustainable business manager at Sandvik Materials Technology, Sweden. He noted that by replacing the coking coal traditionally used for ore-based steel making with green hydrogen produced from renewable, fossil-free electricity, manufacturers can produce steel with virtually no carbon footprint. When the hydrogen reacts with the oxygen in the iron ore, the result is water vapor, rather than CO2.

Another example is Porsche Motorsport, which launched its Cayman 718 GT4 CS MR with a natural fiber bodywork kit developed with Swiss firm Bcomp at the Nürburgring 24-hour race in Germany, Sept. 26-27. The car was run by Porsche customer racing team Four Motors. Bcomp said with its powerRibs technology, the natural fiber parts match the performance of monolithic carbon fibers with a 75 percent lower CO2 footprint compared to carbon fiber. Discarded parts made from natural fiber can be used for thermal energy recovery without residual waste, rather than being landfilled. Bcomp said its natural fiber offers up to 30 percent lower material cost than carbon fiber and produces ductile crash behavior without sharp shattering, enhancing safety.

In 2019 Porsche Motorsport launched its Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 CS with natural fiber doors and rear wing, a project that led Porsche to be shortlisted for a JEC Innovation Award together with Bcomp and the Fraunhofer WKI.

New autonomous vehicles are offering opportunities for change as well. For example, 50 ACRIM-Wheels—a low-cost, lightweight, all-composite wheel for niche and electric vehicle applications—will be produced by the end of 2020. Three full vehicle sets are slated for testing on MOTIV, an autonomous mobility vehicle using Gordon Murray Design’s iStream Superlight technology, and two sets of overmolded RTM wheels are headed for qualification testing.

The UK firms delivering the wheel (Carbon ThreeSixty Ltd., Far-UK, Composite Integration, and CNC Robotics, working with resin formulator Bitrez Ltd.), have validated proof-of-concept ACRIM wheels. They say the project will reduce the weight of, for example, a 15" (38-cm) wheel by 50 percent, for 5 percent fuel savings and a 5 percent CO2 reduction when retrofitted on gas and diesel vehicles.

These and other projects are making a difference: Read Ilene Wolff’s Advanced Manufacturing Now column in the January 2021 issue on 3D printing material recycling.

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