UK-based composites specialist Retrac Group is to launch a range of sustainable bio-composite products. The new Retrac Future range features five sustainable or recycled composite material options and has been developed to offer customers access to enhanced sustainability with high performance. The product of an extensive R&D program by the Group’s Retrac Composites division, the range showcases an array of recycled carbon fiber and natural-fiber products suitable for multiple applications across lightweight structures.
Most significantly, notes the company, the environmental credentials of these composite materials are enhanced through the use of bio-content resin systems alongside an energy-efficient production process featuring bespoke compression molding techniques.
“The world is on the cusp of a light-weighting revolution, and Retrac Group is positioning itself at the forefront of knowledge and techniques to maximize successful applications of natural fibers and recycled composites,” remarked Retrac Group CEO Dan Walmsley.
“The menu of material options in the Retrac Future range serves to demonstrate to customers the breadth of what is possible with our various processes using sustainable and recycled materials,” he added. “We always offer our customers bespoke solutions to specific requirements, but we have invested in R&D to develop manufacturing capability using numerous interesting materials that give our customers a great platform to specify their requirements in sustainable composites.”
Retrac Group has recently forged alliances in the supply chain with leading flax natural fiber specialist Bcomp, and Composites Evolution, the UK-based prepreg manufacturer and supplier, that earlier this year launched the Evopreg ampliTex prepreg range. The prepregs combine the high-performance Evopreg epoxy resin systems with Bcomp’s ampliTex range of flax reinforcements.
This material combination forms one of the five examples put forward in the Retrac Future range to demonstrate the possibilities for sustainable composites. Alongside this is a flax material utilized with a resin system which features a market-leading level of sustainably sourced ingredients, while another option is a recycled carbon fiber material. Additionally, Retrac has developed two thermoplastic materials from woven carbon and woven glass respectively which can both be manufactured in the compression molding press system.
The compression molding press system is apparently a pillar of the Retrac Future offering. A 60-metric ton electric servo press has been used for product development and is a bespoke construction to Retrac’s specification. The servo-driven design allows precise control of platen position and load at every part of the pressing cycle, critical for repeatable, high-quality manufacturing of composite parts. The press system not only allows for high-volume production of composite components, it can also be used more energy-efficiently than a traditional autoclave.
“Over the past 18 months we have developed a deep understanding of the processing requirements and properties of bio-composites combined with the complementary role of bio-resins and a variety of manufacturing processes,” noted Alan Purves, head of R&D at Retrac Composites.