Boeing, BMW Agree to Research Carbon Fiber Recycling

Agreement includes sharing manufacturing knowledge and exploring automation opportunities.

December 17, 2012
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations

Aircraft maker Boeing, Chicago, and German automaker BMW Group have signed a collaboration agreement to participate in joint research on carbon fiber recycling and share knowledge about carbon fiber materials and manufacturing.

Boeing uses carbon fiber as a material in its 787 Dreamliner while BMW will introduce two vehicles with passenger compartments made of carbon fiber in 2013.

“This collaboration agreement is a very important step forward in developing the use and end use of carbon fiber materials,” says Larry Schneider, Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes vice president of product development. “It is especially important that we plan for the end of life of products made from carbon fiber. We want to look at ways to reclaim and reuse those materials to make new products. Our work with BMW will help us attain that goal.”

“Boeing for us is a suitable partner for collaboration in the field of carbon fiber,” says BMW board member Herbert Diess. “Boeing has many years of extensive experience using carbon fiber in the field of aviation, while the BMW Group has earned a significant competitive advantage through its use of special manufacturing methods for [the] production of carbon fiber parts.”

As part of the collaboration agreement, Boeing and the BMW Group will share carbon fiber manufacturing process simulations and ideas relative to manufacturing automation.

A spokesman for BMW says one of the biggest challenges to developing a substantial recycling outlet for carbon fiber is that the material is strong and it is difficult to separate the resins from the fiber. “It is extremely labor intensive,” he notes.