Image via SeaBioComp

The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce the use of fossil-based materials in the marine sector by developing bio-based composites that have long-term durability with reduced CO2 emissions and environmental impact on the marine ecosystem.

SeaBioComp is a project that ambitions to develop and produce novel bio-based composite materials to replace conventional oil-based products in the maritime industry. The project will produce analytical protocols to evaluate the long-term durability and reduced ecological impact on the maritime environment.

As part of the fabrication of a number of demonstrator products for the marine environment, the project partners used various manufacturing processes including AM, to explore the capabilities of flax based thermoplastic biocomposites. Flax would be the most suitable natural plant fibre to be used as reinforcement in the bio composite. During growth, it absorbs a lot of CO2 and ‘cleans’ the soil through phytoremediation.

Two different kinds of biocomposites have been developed by the consortium: a self-reinforced PLA-composite which has been made into a variety of non-woven and woven fabrics suitable for use in compression moulding, and a flax reinforced polylactide (PLA) or acrylic (PMMA) reinforced composite for use via RIFT, compression moulding and additive manufacturing.

According to the research team – which is made up of research organisations, textile and composite specialists, universities, and cluster organisations -, these materials are close to and in some instances perform better than conventional non-bio-based composites currently used in the marine environment.

The combination of thermoplastic polymers, natural fibres and 3D printing technologies can result in technically complex designs and applications being produced for the marine environment. A number of initial prototype products, including a fender and other port structures have successfully been produced using 3D printing; scale model offshore wind turbine blades manufactured via monomer infusion under flexible tooling (MIFT) and complex curved structures using compression moulding techniques, a press release says.

Manufacturers of marine products, supply chain companies and academics could now benefit from a series of technical leaflets detailing the various production methods using self-reinforced biocomposites and flax based biocomposites for marine applications, including compression moulding, monomer infusion and additive manufacturing.

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