A first: Carbon fiber recycled from commercial aircraft

A first: Carbon fiber recycled from commercial aircraft

ALC , a full value-chain aircraft solutions provider for global airlines, announced that, Universal Asset Management (UAM), a wholly owned subsidiary of CALC’s associate company Aircraft Recycling International Limited (“ARI”), has completely recycled carbon fiber from commercial aircraft, which is an undisputed world’s first. This monumental milestone in sustainability firmly entrenches UAM as the global leader in complete aircraft recycling. The resulting second-generation carbon fiber material is fit as raw resource for industrial use. As such, it becomes a feasible supply for advanced additive manufacturing supply chains, utilized by automotive and other manufacturing industries in need of cost-competitive carbon fiber.

Of all the structural elements comprising an aircraft, carbon fiber is the most arduous to recycle. Efforts during the past 15 years have not yielded a viable solution that wholly completes the circular economy of carbon fiber back into manufacturing. It is with vigor that UAM undertook the challenge. Now, its success opens the door to possibilities even beyond aviation, paving the way to total aircraft recyclability. UAM’s proprietary engineering in the use of CFRP from retired aircraft is a harbinger of future products under development by UAM’s Innovation Technology Team. CFRP use is on the rise, as today’s modern aircraft are now made of approximately 50% composite material, compared to aircraft from the 1970’s which were manufactured with less than 1% of carbon-based materials. The increasing availability of composites in younger retiring aircraft is an opportunity that is leveraged with UAM’s proprietary techniques.

CFRP was collected through UAM’s proprietary process, filtered for purity and refined into pellets, to therefore be used as raw material for 3D-printing. The innovative and bold process applies material science and advanced manufacturing techniques pioneered by UAM’s Innovation Technology Team.

“As a world’s first, this achievement extends beyond aviation. UAM is the only company to harvest CFRP from end-of-life aircraft to be re-introduced to manufacturing. We are an innovative technology company that is honored to be recognized as a leader in recycling and sustainability,” said Ms. Keri Wright, Chief Executive Officer of UAM, who led the UAM design team, “This unique and proprietary process is an industry first in the total recyclability of aircraft. The possibilities of our applications are only limited by one’s own imagination. UAM, along with its parent company ARI, remains committed as the global leader in complete aircraft recycling solutions.”

Mike Poon, Chief Executive Officer of CALC, said, “It is with great pride that UAM becomes the first in the world to fully recycle carbon fiber from a commercial aircraft and turn it into recyclable resources. This is very exciting news to CALC and ARI, and to the aviation industry and beyond. We have an unrivalled team of technology in place to further advance the aircraft recycling industry. UAM is undoubted a global leader on this front and I’m confident that its extraordinary expertise will strengthen CALC’s position as a full value chain aircraft solutions provider for aviation industry worldwide.”

By proving that aviation components can be re-born out of composites from end-of-life aircraft, UAM has taken the technical to technology. Options for the >12,000 aircraft being retired in the next 20 years are boundless with this advancement. The successful delivery of the engine stand is tangible proof of the viability of using sustainable, digital manufacturing solutions in the aviation industry. UAM will be discussing recycling opportunities and benefits with both aviation and non-aviation companies in the months following MRO Americas.

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