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WEAV3D Awarded NSF Grant for Natural-Fiber PP Development

Article-WEAV3D Awarded NSF Grant for Natural-Fiber PP Development

Image courtesy of Weav3D lattice-reinforced natural-fiber polypropylene composite
The grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund a study of the performance and manufacturability of lattice-reinforced natural-fiber polypropylene (PP) panels for automotive applications.

Composite materials and processing innovator WEAV3D Inc. has been awarded a $200,000 Technology Enhancement for Commercial Partnerships (TECP) supplement to its 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant. The new award focuses on the use of WEAV3D’s woven composite lattices to enhance the performance and sustainability of natural-fiber polypropylene (NFPP) composites for automotive applications.

“This grant will fund a detailed study of mechanical performance and manufacturability of lattice-reinforced NFPP panels, including the development and validation of finite element simulation tools,” said Chris Oberste, president of WEAV3D and principal investigator for this award. “Our technology enhances the performance of NFPP materials, enabling these sustainable materials to be optimized for a range of applications within the vehicle.”

Antolin, one of the largest international suppliers for automotive interiors and a leader in innovation and sustainability, is the commercial partner for the TECP award. “The use of WEAV3D reinforcements promises to reduce the weight of our NFPP components, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions and trims waste to improve the overall sustainability of these parts,” said Pablo Soto, materials specialist with Antolin’s Corporate Innovation Department. This supports Antolin’s sustainability commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 75% and nonhazardous waste generation by 10% by 2028.

Chart courtesy of WEAV3Dcost comparison of materials/processes for door panels

WEAV3D’s compression molding technology for natural fiber composites is a cost-competitive alternative to processes such as resin transfer molding and automated fiber placement.

Germany’s Polyvlies, a supplier of nonwoven materials, is also participating in the project. The company’s Naroplast thermoplastic natural-fiber nonwoven textile-based composite targets automotive compression molding applications. “WEAV3D’s ability to tailor the tapes and woven patterns to the application provides an extremely flexible way to increase the strength and stiffness of the panels while improving design flexibility,” said Axel Hinrichs, CEO of Polyvlies USA. Polyvlies natural nonwoven composites have been used on a commercial basis by the likes of Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, BMW, and Jaguar.

This additional award follows a previous $1 million grant to fund the design, fabrication, and testing of a continuous composite forming line that uses ultrasonic welding to increase production throughput of WEAV3D’s patent-pending process. This next-generation system is being built according to automotive production speed and quality standards, with a target production capacity of 200,000 to 300,000 automotive door panel size parts per year and per machine.

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