One of Campion’s initiatives was to convert its fiberglass composite material to the bio-based polyester resin they had tested to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they were emitting. Envirez® unsaturated polyester resin from Ashland Performance Materials replaces 20 percent of petroleum resin with 10 percent corn oil and 10 percent soy bean oil resin, helping Campion reduce the amount of CO2 they send into the atmosphere. But they didn’t stop there. Elliott found that they weren’t always using the lowest emission gel coat for coating the mold. “We switched to using a lower emission gel coat 100 percent of the time,” he says.
Campion currently uses a single layer triaxial 54-ounce mat in its lamination process, as opposed to the more common two layers of 24-ounce biaxial mat. “When using two plies, the polyester resin must be sprayed to each fiber layer, which means spraying twice. By using the triaxial fiber, our workers and the environment are exposed to the polyester resin a single time, eliminating half the exposure,” says Elliott. It was a case where the environmentally-friendly path also provided a more efficient manufacturing method.
Manufacturing Technologies that Translate to Green
Composites manufacturers can benefit by asking themselves what technologies will help them reduce air emissions and improve efficiencies. One environmental concern in a composites manufacturing process is the emissions resulting from the use of resins and gel coats. Many composites manufacturers are minimizing the use of traditional resins, replacing them with low volatile organic compounds or low hazardous air pollutant (HAP) products.
Kalwall took another path to reduce the VOC emissions from its FRP continual lamination process. The company acquired a regenerative thermal oxidizer from the CMM Group in DePere, Wis., to destroy the air pollutants emitted by their process exhaust stream. The VOC abatement technology uses ceramic-packed vertical canisters as a high-efficiency heat exchanger, holding emissions at elevated temperatures in a combustion chamber. The chemical reaction when the VOC pollutants mix with oxygen destroys the VOC emission by converting it to carbon dioxide, water and heat. The heat is reabsorbed by the heat exchanger and clean, cool air is routed to the atmosphere.