The main aim of the project ECOPAT is to design and develop the new generation of all-plastic, lightweight, chemically passive and cost-effective HPTs to be efficiently used in material handling applications. This purpose has been achieved thanks to the production of one full-scale HPT prototype made of glass-reinforced plastic which has allowed the final evaluation of the performances of the product and the benefits on health and safety in handling environments. The novel HPT is more than 55% lighter than traditional steel pallet trucks which turns into easiness of use, greater manoeuvrability and reduced noise and is also deemed to have better aesthetical quality, easiness in keeping it clean and strong resistance to corrosion. The novel HPT has therefore considerably improved handling performances over existing products though still allowing the safely lift of loads up to 1000 kg.
In parallel, basic research on self-reinforced plastic materials and their manufacturing processes has been conducted in the project, with the future aim to apply this novel category of plastics to the HPTs production. Dog-bone samples have been produced from self-reinforced pellets and sheets by injection and compression moulding processes and used for characterization of mechanical and physical properties. Also, two heating methods have been applied, i.e., classical resistance heating and novel induction heating. Test samples have been compared against percentage and orientation of reinforcing fibres, layout and processing conditions. The following conclusions have been achieved:
a) Despite the narrow processing window between low melting matrix polymer and high melting reinforcing fibres and independently on the heating system applied, the fibres still exist in the test samples.
b) Injection moulded samples have only marginally improved mechanical properties over the un-reinforced samples because of relaxation, partial degradation and agglomeration of fibres. Further research is needed to improve the properties of self-reinforced pellets and their application to the injection moulding process before proceeding with the scale-up of the processing route – co-extrusion and injection moulding – from laboratory to industrial level.
c) Compression moulded samples show considerably increased mechanical properties over the un-reinforced samples. Mechanical properties evidently benefit from the presence of fibres especially if oriented along the direction of the applied load. No further basic research is needed but the scale-up of the processing route – winding and compression moulding – from laboratory to industrial level.
d) Induction heating is proved to allow shorter processing cycles and faster controller response, to be more energy-efficient and not to affect the properties of the self-reinforced material. If applied to the moulds for compression, it requires careful design supported by FEM analyses to ensure uniform heating of the parts. Oppositely, its application to injection equipment is easy and turns into substantial energy savings.
PROJECT GOALS:The main goal of the project ECOPAT is to design and develop the new generation of all-plastic, lightweight, chemically passive and cost-effective HPTs to be efficiently used in material handling applications. The main drivers and needs which address this specific goal are:
1. To improve hand pallet truck technical characteristics and operational performances, such as strength, stiffness, lightness, life cycle, to name but a few;
2. To reduce hand pallet truck environmental impact through the employment of resource efficient manufacturing processes;
3. To improve health & safety working conditions;
4. To extend business markets and employment sectors by guaranteeing technically competitive cost-effective HPTs.
Based on these primary drivers, the project has been broken down into a series of likely solutions to the problems. Fostering research on self-reinforced plastics and moulding technologies needed to produce components from this new family of materials is key to the development of novel HPTs with high technical and technological content. At the time of the proposal submission, early commercial grades of self-reinforced plastics were only available as non-flowing sheet materials, which was restricting their use to simple parts with constant wall thickness. Moreover, the properties of plastics were only improved by adding mineral powders or fibres, which increases the weight of the material, significantly reduces the recyclability (and the purity of the recyclate) and increases the wear of tools and processing equipment. In this context, the project ECOPAT would lead to a step change in cutting-edge self-reinforced plastics technology by developing flowing and mouldable versions of self-reinforced plastics. Complex, net-shape parts would be possible, thereby reducing material use and eliminating trimming waste and process energy. This would reduce the amount of material required to make a part and open the door to a vast range of applications for these sustainable materials. The related scientific and technical objectives which mainly concern self-reinforced plastics definition and manufacturing processes were identified to be:
• Identification of the most suitable polymer materials to be processed both as matrix and fibres among polyolefins, polyamides and polyesters, based on a critical analysis of their mechanical and thermal properties;
• Maximization of the difference between the melt temperature of the matrix phase and the temperature at which the reinforcement phase becomes unstable;
• Identification of suitable impregnation methods of the high melting polymeric fibres with the low melting polymeric matrix to produce self-reinforced composites for subsequent injection and compression moulding;
• Determination of suitable moulding process conditions taking into account the need for selectively pre-heating – by means of classical and novel heating techniques – the compound in order not to affect the properties of fibres;
• Manufacturing of small-scale samples and definition of an experimental testing campaign introductory to analyze the developed self-reinforced plastic characteristics in terms of mechanical and chemical properties;
• Designing of HPT components through the identification of the most simple HPT geometry though taking into account the static and dynamic structural response of the parts, the constraints from the moulding processes and the need for easy assembling/disassembling;
• Full-scale prototype manufacturing followed by its industrial validation accomplished through both traditional testing procedures and material handling in-field demonstrations;
• Dissemination of the findings/results of the project and patent issue request.
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This innovation is the result of the project
Title: Development of a cost-effective and lightweight hand pallet truck for application in material handling
Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.
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OFFICINE MECCANO-PLASTICHE SPA
Role in project: Project Coordination
Contact person: Ms. SALVI Monica
Phone: +39 035 4500139
CENTRO DE CONTRATACION DE TRANSPORTES DE MURCIA, SOCIEDAD COOPERATIVA
Contact person: Mr. SOLANA PEDREÑO Miguel
CHABELI TRANS SL
Contact person: Mr. PEREZ Manuel
CIM-MES PROJEKT SP ZOO
Contact person: Mr. KRASUCKI Janusz
Contact person: Ms. BERTOLUCCI Laura
IMPRIMA CONSTRUCTION CZ A.S.
Contact person: Mr. TORRI Diego
INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENTS POLAND SP ZOO
Contact person: Mr. GORALEWSKI Krzysztof
Contact person: Ms. BIANCHI Rosella
MACIEJ I TADEUSZ POPIELAWSCY PIMETSJ
Contact person: Mr. POPIELAWSKI Maciej
POZNAN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
Contact person: Ms. DOPIERALA Barbara