Retrac to unveil sustainable bio-composite materials at Show

‘Future’ range utilises energy-efficient ‘three layered approach’ with bio-content resins and energy efficient manufacturing
‘Future’ range utilises energy-efficient ‘three layered approach’ with bio-content resins and energy efficient manufacturing

Retrac Group (stand S72), one of the UK’s leading composites and metallics manufacturing specialists in the Formula One, automotive and aerospace sectors, will be launching its sustainable bio-composite range at this year’s Advanced Engineering Show at NEC Birmingham on November 3-4.

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 programme by the Group’s Retrac Composites division, the Retrac Future range showcases an array of recycled carbon fibre and natural-fibre products suitable for multiple applications across lightweight structures.

The environmental credentials of these composite materials are enhanced further by Retrac Future also utilising bio-content resin systems alongside an energy-efficient production process featuring bespoke compression moulding techniques. This three-layered approach puts Retrac Future at the cutting-edge of reducing the carbon footprint of high-end composite solutions.

“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 maximise successful applications of natural fibres and recycled composites,” said 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. 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 fibre specialist Bcomp, and Composites Evolution, the UK-based prepreg manufacturer and supplier, that earlier this year launched the Evopreg ampliTex prepreg range, which combines their high-performance Evopreg epoxy resin systems with Bcomp’s award-winning ampliTex range of flax reinforcements.

Using Evopreg ampliTex alongside Bcomp’s powerRibs reinforcement system, Retrac has produced a demonstrator bonnet panel for a race-bred supercar which will be the centrepiece of its display at the NEC, showcasing the Retrac Future range and its expertise in the field of manufacturing bio-composites.

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 utilised with a resin system which features a market-leading level of sustainably sourced ingredients, while another option is a recycled carbon fibre material. Additionally, Retrac has developed two thermoplastic materials from woven carbon and woven glass respectively which can both be manufactured in the compression moulding press system.

Retrac’s compression moulding press system is a pillar of its Retrac Future offering. A 60-tonne 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 productionisation 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,” stated Alan Purves, head of R&D at Retrac Composites.

Sustainability is fast becoming a vital factor across many industries as manufacturers and engineers seek out alternative solutions in response to government legislation and increasing global pressure. As part of its commitment to being an integral part of the future transportation supply chain, Retrac Group has also signed up to the UK Government’s SME Climate Commitment to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve Net Zero emissions by 2040.

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