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Landmark agreement sees GKN Aerospace pioneer use of composite recycling technologies

GKN Aerospace has signed an agreement this week with Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd (RCF) Birmingham, UK, to recycle the uncured carbon waste from its aerostructure manufacturing operation in Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK. Recycling will take place at RCF's innovative carbon recycling facility in the West Midlands.

GKN Aerospace estimates that approaching 100 metric tonnes of carbon waste from the Cowes site will be recycled in the next 12 months as part of this cost neutral agreement. The recycled material will be used in a wide variety of products including paints and coatings, thermoplastic polymers, composite tooling and deep sea buoyancy products. In the coming 5 years, as the GKN Aerospace operation at Cowes sees existing orders reach full production levels, there is predicted to be a 30% rise in the quantity of waste for recycling from this site alone.

Rich Oldfield, Director of Technology, GKN Aerospace explains: "Our composite research facility has been working with RCF for some time and our aim now is to commence a programme that will ultimately establish recycling as an integral part of our full production manufacturing process in the UK, and globally.

With the global market for aircraft predicted to grow and ambitious targets set for C02 emissions and noise reduction, the performance benefits gained from using composite structures in many areas of the airframe and engine have become critical. This is clearly reflected in the growth in the percentage of composite structure in the latest generation of aircraft - which has reached some 50% by weight.

Oldfield continues: "To balance the performance and environmental gains achieved through using composites in aircraft operations it is vital the industry progresses towards greener manufacture on a number of fronts and we believe an effective recycling process is at the heart of that progression."

Steve Line, Managing Director of RCF added: "Until now, the only solutions for disposing of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) waste have been landfill or incineration, both of which are harmful to the environment. The unique RCF process allows GKN Aerospace to act in an environmentally friendly way. From RCF's point of view, the GKN Aerospace waste will be an important part of our feedstock supply in the coming years. "

GKN Aerospace is a leading tier one supplier of composite and metallic structures to the global aerospace industry and a major force in the development of composite manufacturing processes enabling large, complex structures to be efficiently produced.

As well as playing a major role in development work being undertaken by the UK National Composites Centre, GKN Aerospace has lead the UK's Grand Challenge, a £10m, 12 month, 22 company, UK government supported research activity with the aim of improving manufacturing techniques to speed processes and enable rapid manufacture of composite structures for many applications.

Press release issued by GKN Aerospace on June 20, 2011


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