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Frontiers August 2012 Issue

“We’re always looking to see how we can make tomorrow’s airplanes even more recyclable than today’s.” – Jeanne Yu, director of Environmental Performance for Boeing Commercial Airplanes recycling technologies. Most were in their infancy when the 787 sporting, automotive and aerospace applications, though not in primary program began. structures such as aircraft fuselages. With global demand for high- “We assessed emerging composite recycling startups around grade composites burgeoning, the patented University of Nottingham– the world and developed relationships with the finest of these,” Boeing process promises to increase prices that recycled composites George said. will command in the marketplace, ensuring the emergence of a In 2007, Boeing teamed with the University of Nottingham in vibrant composites recycling industry without government support. the United Kingdom because of promising composite recycling Boeing experts also gained valuable hands-on experience by research under way there. Stephen Pickering and his University of scrapping a pre-production 787 fuselage test section in 2009. Nottingham team were working on a novel way to restore some “We learned quite a lot about how to take a 787 apart and of the strength sacrificed when cured composites are cut up for how not to take one apart,” Carberry noted with a smile. recycling, severing their long carbon threads. Building on this foundation, Boeing Fabrication recently implemented With Boeing financial assistance and expertise, Pickering and pilot composite-recycling programs at two Puget Sound sites, Freder- his team successfully developed a process that removes these ickson and Advanced Developmental Composites, as well as at Boeing “chopped fibers” from their encasing epoxy and then realigns South Carolina. Frederickson manufactures the 787 composite tail fin, them to create a stronger recycled material. as well as other 787 parts. Boeing South Carolina assembles 787s. “The research we’ve completed is challenging, satisfying At all three sites, workers routinely collect composite manufacturing and important to the world,” Pickering said. “We look forward scrap, both uncured and cured. Uncured composite is a resin- to scaling these solutions up to commercial volumes.” impregnated, pliable carbon-fiber fabric or tape. A cured composite has Cured composites recycled in this manner will find a variety of already been hardened into its final shape by being baked in an auto- 22 BOEING FRONTIERS / AUGUST 2012


Frontiers August 2012 Issue
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