AITIIP Technology Centre leads HELACS, a European project which aims to develop a dual methodology of controlled comprehensive dismantling in order to make possible the classification, recycling and reuse of aircraft parts made of thermoset and thermoplastic composites that have reached their end of life. Annually, the aeronautical industry is depositing more than 40,000 tons of end-of-life composite material waste in landfills. Thanks to the recovery of materials, the technology proposed by HELACS will benefit the change towards an energy efficiency model.

AITIIP Technology Centre leads HELACS, a European project which aims to develop a dual methodology of controlled comprehensive dismantling in order to make possible the classification, recycling and reuse of aircraft parts made of thermoset and thermoplastic composites that have reached their end of life. Annually, the aeronautical industry is depositing more than 40,000 tons of end-of-life composite material waste in landfills. Thanks to the recovery of materials, the technology proposed by HELACS will benefit the change towards an energy efficiency model.

The project focuses its research on the development of a reuse model that will combine a water cutting system (which will allow the thermoset piece to be selectively chopped into a suitable dimension for recycling) and a pyrolysis process (carbonization of the thermoset matrix to reuse the carbon fibers that overcome this chemical decomposition). A robotic technology based on machine learning is being developed to perform cutting by water, that is, a person will mark the cutting path with their movements by using a dummy tool and the robot will clone the path to perform the cut with high pressure water.

On the other hand, HELACS also proposes the reprocessing of thermoplastic composites by using a second resistive welding technology, which will serve to detach the panels and reuse them, as they can melt again once consolidated.

The main goal is to improve the recycling capacity of aircraft components by 40% and, therefore, to reduce the CO2 emission of aircrafts by 50%. HELACS's revolutionary dismantling methodology will provide the necessary tools to make the aeronautical industry of the future more sustainable, incorporating the circular economy in its processes. In general terms, HELACS expects to mobilize up to 30 million euros between now and 2030 and create 750 direct jobs along the entire value chain of the European aeronautical industry.

The research, framed within the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaken funding program of the European Union, has a budget of almost two million euros and four partners from Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom take part in it. AITIIP is responsible for coordinating the project. This technology centre and its partners PLATA, Centexbel and Gen2Carbon will validate the results of the project through a demonstration phase at Teruel Airport.

HELACS will promote the creation of new recovery ways that maximize the retention of value of the different aircraft components. This means the increase of competitiveness and making it possible for Europe to be at the forefront of dismantling processes worldwide. In addition, the extrapolation of the methodology to other sectors (railway, automobile and construction), that generate composite material waste and also need to reformulate their environmental practices, will be studied.

Latest News HELACS

  • For aircrafts that are no longer in service, the owner considers the trade-off between direct resale and disassemble & recycled. Besides that, HELACS project (Holistic processes for the cost-effective and sustainable management of End of Life of Aircraft Composite Structures) is focused on the study of the second one of these options.

  • You can now download the official HELACS project brochure. A project comes to transform the dismantling process of the aircraft of the future. HELACS employs novel robotics to recycle composite materials of large components. The HELACS process is based on the application of high water pressure that will selectively chop the thermoset parts into a dimension suitable for recycling. In addition, the pyrolysis process is used for the carbonization of the thermoset matrix to reuse the carbon fibers that overcome this chemical decomposition.

  • AITIIP Technology Centre leads HELACS, a European project which aims to develop a dual methodology of controlled comprehensive dismantling in order to make possible the classification, recycling and reuse of aircraft parts made of thermoset and thermoplastic composites that have reached their end of life. Annually, the aeronautical industry is depositing more than 40,000 tons of end-of-life composite material waste in landfills. Thanks to the recovery of materials, the technology proposed by HELACS will benefit the change towards an energy efficiency model.

This project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 101007871
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