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Aerospace Application Boasts Bio-based and Recycled Content

Light panels contain up to 20% post-industrial recyclate, with bio-based Ultem polyimide resin options also under testing.

Stephen Moore

June 3, 2024

2 Min Read
Cove light panels
Image courtest of Vaupell.

Aerospace applications are some of the most demanding in terms of performance and safety requirements. Vaupell, a group company of Japan’s Sumitomo Bakelite, has shown that these requirements need not stand in the way of more sustainable solutions with the development of a polyimide-based (PI) material containing up to 20% post-industrial recycled material. The virgin Ultem PI grade is supplied by Sabic.

Vaupell’s R&D and engineering teams have demonstrated the ability to meet the high-performance standards required for aerospace applications and are working very closely with major OEMs in order to qualify and introduce these new products by the end of 2024.

Recycled granules are blended with virgin resin.

Vaupell’s teams have developed a meticulous process allowing the plastic waste generated during the injection molding process to be collected, inspected, shredded, and granulated to create uniform granules. These recycled granules are blended with virgin pellets to form a mixture containing up to 20% recycled material. This new mixture will be melted and injected into precision molds to form the final aerospace components. 

Waste material otherwise would end up in landfill.

By recycling high-performance plastics, Vaupell is able to reduce the need for virgin raw materials on its final assembled Cove light panels by more than 10% and avoid the waste of used materials, which would normally end up in landfill. It also minimizes the environmental impact associated with traditional manufacturing processes.

“At Vaupell, we are deeply committed to pioneering sustainable and cost-efficient solutions for the markets we serve. Our latest innovative initiative — the recycled and bio-based Cove light panels — exemplifies our dedication to environmental stewardship without compromising on performance,” said Matthias Hacker, vice president of business development and programs.

In addition, Vaupell has successfully tested Cove light panels with Sabic bio-based Ultem 9085 resin, aiming to replace oil-derived materials with bio-based alternatives, utilizing a mass balance approach. These materials offer an alternative to traditional plastics, further reducing the environmental impact of aerospace manufacturing.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and a proud dachshund owner.

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