E! 2819 Factory Ecoplast, a project within the pan-European network Eureka, is combining natural fibres with thermoplastics to create new recyclable compounds for consumer products, including top-line audio components.
Partners involved in the project decided to join efforts to develop a palletised compound suitable for injection moulding and extrusion processes. “We need to develop new materials that are cheaper and better,” says Factory Ecoplast coordinator Uros Znidaric of Slovenia’s plastics manufacturer Isokon. “Ideally, such materials should also be recyclable more easily, reducing environmental impact.”
Project partners looked at compounding conditions, palletising processes, deformation properties, compatibility between natural fibres and thermoplastics, injection moulding parameters and possible applications.
“Once we had enough information about different compound properties, we then focused on product selection,” says Znidaric. Final selection was based on key properties including rigidity, weight and price. The ability to saw and drill the material was also considered, as well as wear and tear on machine equipment used in processing final products. “We were able to define precise technological parameters for extrusion and an optimal palletising process for making compounds for injection moulding and extrusion. The new materials are suitable for use in the manufacture of a wide variety of products, including vacuum cleaner and lawn mower parts, storage boxes and even golf tees.”
Acoustic properties also became a focus of investigation. Factory Ecoplast’s results show that the wood fibre-filled composites developed under the project are well suited to use in loudspeaker boxes. Znidaric says both damping of sound radiation and sound wave resistance for the material are comparable to those displayed by medium-density fibreboard, one of the most commonly used materials in this application. Further tests of the project’s new “Eureka” speaker boxes show a higher frequency acoustic performance on a par with market leaders such as JVC and Nakamichi. The potential for commercialisation in this specific area, say partners, is therefore very high.
A detailed description of the project can be downloaded here (PDF-document).
Source: Eureka, 2007-08-25.