Thermoplastic composite: EIT RawMaterials start-up allows substitution of critical raw materials

RACE-TP: Lightweight Recyclable Automotive thermoplastic CompositE structural parts for large series production

EIT RawMaterials supported start-up, RACE-TP, allows critical raw materials to be substituted with thermoplastic composite for the automotive industry.

Within the innovation project RACE-TP, Arkema and its partners have developed an acrylic-based thermoplastic, branded as Elium®, that offers the favourable economic potential that can reach the desired mechanical performance while ensuring easy recycling.

Robot can handle glass fibre piece

The innovation project consortium has produced 64 parts, including during a one-hour continuous production run, and impact tests are showing the desired performance. Within three minutes, the first robot can handle the glass fibre piece that serves as a skeleton (“preform”), to deposit it in the mould where injection of the Elium resin takes place, and to remove it for the next part coming. Based on the previous experience of IRT-M2P partner, it is believed that with the same resin chemistry, an additional gain of 30” can be won on the cycle time.

Final product

The final resin-based product being integrated in the door’s structure and that will protect passengers in the event of a crash, weighs 1.3 kg, in comparison to the current structural part made in steel that weighs nearly 3.5 kg. The partners from RACE-TP innovation project expect now to provide car manufacturers (like Renault and PSA) soon with an affordable thermoplastic solution.

The main goal of the RACE-TP innovation project supported by EIT RawMaterials was to build up a pilot plant that is nearly similar to the final industrial manufacturing conditions and to perform pilot-scale assays at the IRT-M2P facilities to demonstrate the possibility to manufacture resins-based structural parts in real industrial conditions. The total cost of the R&D activities related to the project was of EUR 1.28 million, and EIT RawMaterials contributed significantly by funding the pilot-scale activities.

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Success story: effective university-industry collaboration

Ghent University was modelling the properties of the composite material and the specific products. The modelling was based on a set of mechanical tests of the materials.

The new product will bring substantial environmental benefits. Indeed, these parts manufactured in thermoplastics only weight 1.3 kg instead of the corresponding part produced usually in steel that counts for 3,5 kg. For a 4-doors car, this means a reduction of weight of nearly 10 kg in total, a situation that will participate in less energy consumption and CO2 emission. Furthermore, this new material is 100% recyclable.

Based on the very successful process, with the performance of manufacturing that is totally in line with the ones requested in this sector activity (e.g. 30 parts produced per hour), and products that fulfil the standards (e.g. resistance at crash), these new products should be shortly adopted by the automotive industry.

Elium® resins properties

  • 30 to 50% lighter than the same parts made from steel with the same resistance
  • Perfect for complex design forms
  • Seamlessly blends with glass or carbon fibres
  • Compatible with conventional thermosetting resin transformation technologies (Resin Transfer Moulding, Infusion, Flex-molding)
  • Exceptional post-thermoforming (welding and glueing)
  • Styrene free compared to unsaturated polyesters
  • Parts easily thermoformed and recycled with comparable mechanical performance for epoxy parts
  • Cost less to manufacture compared to other thermoplastic technologies:
  1. Conventional thermoset resin processes
  2. Transformation at room temperature
  3. No organo-sheets.

Recyclable composite parts 

In 2017, R&D teams of RACE-TP were heavily involved in developing the recycling process for composite parts made from the Elium® resin via depolymerization. The principle entails coarsely crushing the parts; the Elium®resin is then heat-depolymerized so that it can be recovered and purified into resin with the same properties as the virgin resin. Meanwhile, the remaining carbon or glass fibres can be reused.

Being able to recycle parts made from Elium® resin is a tremendous asset, in particular for wind turbine manufacturers who currently use non-recyclable epoxy resins to manufacture the blades.


New 25 m blade manufactured from Elium® resin

Arkema has been working successfully with the Effiwind consortium to manufacture a new 25 m wind turbine blade. The infusion process used has helped validate the feasibility of producing on an industrial scale a very large blade from a thermoplastic composite.



Explore more about Elium® resins for composites