Recycle, Reuse, Repair

Online Editor

Gradel’s Rodrigo Perez Hernandez explains how the company’s automated filament winding process provides a sustainable approach to creating heavy duty lightweight parts

Gradel focuses on the development of special purpose machinery for the nuclear and space markets. The Lightweight division has developed its own fiber winding filament process for industrial applications with a diverse team from architectural, aerospace, automotive, and mechanical engineering. We now have projects in a wide range of industries, including drones, automotive and aerospace, among many others.

Our Gradel Robotic Additive Manufacturing (GRAM) technology is a fully automated endless filament winding process used to develop ultra-lightweight 2D, 3D and 4D parts and structures for use in several industrial fields. A process capable of using any types of fibres and with any impregnation matrix, GRAM is a fast, low energy consumption, waste reducing and cost effective manufacturing technique capable of creating heavy duty lightweight structures which support the use of bio-based raw materials.

Essentially, GRAM enables the recycling, reusing and repairing of parts while allowing the design, development, and manufacture of sustainable and green multifunctional components.

Natural Fibres

Gradel Lightweight has researched and developed GRAM for the use of natural fibres. Flax, for instance, is made of linseed which is locally cultivated within Europe and as it is grown and collected every year, is a renewable resource. Flax also has a specific set of properties that we are looking to bring into the industry and this, along with the development and use of bio-based resins and more sustainable options like Vitrimer, are just the first steps in how GRAM is making a difference.

Promoting Circularity

Gradel Lightweight wants to contribute to the solution of climate change through promoting a circular design approach and mentality, where each part is engineered from start until the end of life. Having the possibility to be downcycled after its functional life, these parts will also be recoverable as a recyclable material that can be used for different industry applications such as decorative automotive parts, raw material for compress moulding, or reinforced panels.

When we talk about circularity and sustainability, we must remember that it involves many parameters, not just whether the material used is organic. That is why we must consider the entire process chain, including the way the manufacturer produces the final part, energy consumption, chemicals used for final coatings, the labour involved, shipping, and even the actual need for the product to exist. Bio-sourced composites are an important step toward sustainability, but they are only one link in the chain.

GRAM’s Positive Impacts

Existing engineering solutions in the market usually require excessive raw materials and energy consumption to be manufactured. As these parts are not weight optimised, this can lead to increased CO2 emissions during transportation.

Parts manufactured using GRAM, however, can help to reduce the weight in transportation and, therefore lower CO2 emissions, while the quantity of material needed to manufacture each part is also reduced. Additionally, the process requires less energy and therefore generates less emissions during the manufacturing phase. Furthermore, the process enables pre-engineered downcycle design and the possibility of recycling parts as grinded material to be used in other areas.

With GRAM, Gradel Lightweight is now entering two global markets – innovation in construction and sustainable furniture – within which it is aiming to demonstrate a sustainable manufacturing approach and circular design capabilities. The company’s aim is to position itself as a leader within circularity and sustainable technology for large-scale manufacturing.

Rodrigo Perez Hernandezis with Gradel Lightweight