Logo DigCirclE
© Project DigCirclE

The share of high-performance fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) composites has been growing steadily for years in industries such as aerospace, wind energy and automotive. Aircraft such as the Airbus A350 already have a CFRP content of more than 50% and up to 15,000 kg of FRP are used per rotor blade of a 2 MW wind turbine. Due to their high specific strength and stiffness, FRP allow great mass savings in the transport sector, an increase in payloads, ranges and a reduction in energy and fuel consumption. On the other hand, there are high costs for fibre production, low impact resistance, manual and inefficient repair processes as well as a lack of automatic analysis, evaluation and recycling concepts. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which are currently growing strongly in various business applications, can provide a remedy. The use of these techniques creates new opportunities for the digital transformation of the entire FKV circular economy. Optimal quality and eco-balance can only be achieved if the fibre composite processes, from development and production to reuse or recycling, are optimally coordinated and can be automated. This requires intelligent data management that recognises patterns and regularities and allows autonomous processes through their use. Thus, thanks to digitalisation and AI, the planned project will develop solutions for the highly efficient analysis, evaluation, reuse and recycling of FRP components.

The circular economy for fibre composite structures (FRC), taking into account processes such as remanufacturing, repair and recycling, is to be automated and digitalised in order to provide economic processes. The aim is to develop artificial intelligence (AI) for the sorting of plastics, the latest AI modelling methods for component analysis and automatic quality control, as well as self-learning systems (SLS) for innovative repair processes. In addition, a database for autonomous systems and processes with robots must be created.

This results in the three project goals with direct reference to the BMWK announcement "Development of digital technologies":

Target 1: AI-supported diagnostic systems for an efficient circular economy of complex high-performance fibre-plastic composites.

Target 2: Digital component acquisition and cataloguing for automatic classification using AI

Target 3: AI-supported quality assurance processes in the production of high-performance fibre-reinforced plastic composites

Joint project work with different industrial partners takes account of industrial requirements and ensures market-oriented implementation. This will also enable the expansion of cutting-edge digital technologies and the realisation of marketable solutions with high application potential. In addition, the project should contribute to strengthening structurally weak areas in Saxony and lead to the establishment of a centre for composite remanufacturing and repair in a subsequent project phase.

Project partners:

  • Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH
  • LRP Autorecycling Leipzig GmbH
  • Hightex Verstärkungsstrukturen GmbH
  • Technische Universität Chemnitz - Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für Strukturleichtbau, Professur Strukturleichtbau und Kunststoffverarbeitung
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkzeugmaschinen und Umformtechnik IWU

Project coordinator:
Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH
Dipl. Ing. Alexander Knorr

Project duration: Feb. 2021 – Jul. 2023

Total cost: 2,0 Mio. €

Total funding: 1,3 Mio. €