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European Commission project looks at fibre reinforced composites for transport infrastructure

Huntsman Advanced Materials (Duxford) : 20 April, 2011  (Special Report)
Huntsman Advanced Materials is a partner in the Trans-IND project, a European Commission funded 4 year programme dedicated to enabling the industrialisation of components for transport infrastructure using fibre reinforced (FRP) based materials.
FRP based manufactured components for construction applications have the potential to achieve the highest level of targeted performance, delivering a technically viable and economically feasible solution, while producing a favourable outcome in terms of sustainability, safety and quality of life.

The primary objective of the Trans-IND project is to develop a flexible, cost-effective, performance and sustainable knowledge-based industrialisation system of FRP components for transport infrastructures through the complete integration of the whole construction process.

This system involves development of a conceptual model and modular designs using FRP based materials for all types of transport components including off-site manufacturing, logistics, transport and on-site assembly, together with the ICT tools needed to manage the whole process.

Trans-IND will focus on industrialisation of components for transport infrastructures (road and pedestrian bridges, underpass, containing walls, acoustic and safety barriers) using polymer based materials (carbon fibre, glass fibre, etc). As a pilot case will be demonstrated components of a bridge (beams and preslabs), due to the bridge components having more complex manufacturing and assembly compared to other applications. The manufacturing process would be also able to produce both load bearing and non-bearing components for buildings (floor slabs, roof structures, partition walls).

Trans-IND will cover the whole range of activities from gathering customer needs and requirements to specification for modular design (taking into account the whole life cycle) of the transport infrastructure components, off-site components manufacturing, logistics, transport and on-site assembly together with the ICT tools needed to manage and handle the whole process. The off-site manufacturing will be flexible answering both to the whole range of transport infrastructures and building components and its variable demand. It will be very close to flexible advanced manufacturing sectors. The on-site assembly will benefit from modular and adaptive plug-in joint solutions arising from the concept design of the components, together with the use of RFID for improved material flow control and traceability, lightweight cranes, intelligent positioning systems, ICTs and robotics applications.

This initiative seeks to introduce a fresh approach to transform bridge components manufacturing from a supply-driven, resources based sector into a sustainable, demand-driven one. Concentrating on the efficiency of resources alongside performance and knowledge based criteria, the pilot also aims to ensure cost-effective practices can be achieved in the process and life cycle of bridge infrastructures.

“Fibre reinforced plastic based materials have become the material of choice for many transport infrastructure applications, but further integration of the entire supply and value chain is required, as is the development of high technologies for designing and manufacturing FRP components, to transform on-site construction and off-site manufacturing,” said Klaus Ritter, Marketing Manager in charge of transportation at Huntsman. “Trans-IND is making a substantial contribution to the standardisation and development of new processes and technologies that will have a significant impact on components manufacturing and the transport manufacturing industry as a whole.”

Huntsman has a lead role within this project to define, develop and supply the resin systems for the composite parts and adhesives for parts assembly. These materials will need to fulfil the stringent criteria set by the defined industrial processing conditions and targeted, structural performance requirements.

The Trans-IND proejct Consortium is composed of 21 partners including large constructors, machinery manufacturers, material providers, engineering societies and high-tech universities and research centres from 9 different EU countries.

WP1: Industrialization conceptual model for composite transport infrastructures
This is a quick overview of the objectives achieved of WP1:

The main objectives of WP1, from the DoW, were:
The main of WP1 is the definition of Trans-IND conceptual model: An innovative and cost-effective industrialization conceptual model for composite transport infrastructures components (road and pedestrian bridges, underpass, containing walls, acoustic and safety barriers) covering:

Definition of technical, socio-economic, environmental and energy performance indicators.
Definition of the required technical performance of FRP materials (mechanical behavior, durability, fatigue resistance).
Selection of existing standards, recommendations and guidelines relevant to the Trans-IND System.
Definition of future potential scenarios.
And an overview of the results, as expressed by tasks coordinators in the reports, can be summarised as follows:

Task 1.1 Gathering technical, societal and economical requirements and demands.
During the requirements collection process, different experts have been interviewed belonging to companies representing most of the different responsibilities along the supply chain in the construction process. The stakeholders' opinions and requirements were gathered through questionnaires and analysed. In this way it could be identified what are the main concerns and requirements from experts related to Trans-IND concept.
Task 1.2 Set up of performance indicators.
Different qualitative and quantitative performance indicators have been proposed in order to assure the highest level of parameterization of project impact. Significant role of the end-user and external experts will help the Consortium to use the indicators as a tool to achieve efficiency of the project.
Task 1.3 Analysis and evaluation of the performance of FRP materials for construction applications.
The most important materials and advices that should be taken into account to design components and structures for Civil Engineering have been described, including what kind of studies and test should be made. Other European projects were analysed and it was concluded that composite materials in Civil Engineering are present in Europe further that at Research level. These materials have the potential to be present in a wider range of components and structures, from embedded rebars, to beams in bridges.
Task 1.4 Collection and analysis of existing normative, standards and guidelines.
Existing normative and standards relevant to Trans-IND have been collected. There are a vast number of normative documents that can be applicable to the use of FRP in construction of infrastructure elements. Also the time trend shows that each year more documents are dealing with the FRPs thus quickly cumulating. On the other hand, there are spots of knowledge that normative documents are missing, like documents on connecting solutions. Also normative documents in European Union are scattered between different countries, those are the areas where Trans-IND will try to make the positive difference.
Task 1.5 Analysis of the future scenarios for transport infrastructures
An analysis of the current infrastructures scenario and the trends and expectations for the future has been achieved. Crucial documents related to transport infrastructure at such as well as baseline documents for future scenarios in transport infrastructure has been identified, taken into account and analyzed in terms of recommendations for Trans-IND project. An additional value has been generated by obtaining through the desk research a kind of knowledge base of most important documents in this respect. Moreover, the results of a short survey performed with experts from 5 EU countries dealing with transport and transport infrastructure, showed that the majority of them expressed optimistic attitudes towards the future of market for transport infrastructures. The expert's optimism was justified by i. a. relative stability of the market and increasing need for modernized infrastructure elements. The experts identified four groups of factors that are likely to influence the future development of transport infrastructures: Political factors, Economical factors, Social and demographical factors, and Technological factors. The experts also identified factors acting as barriers against application of FRP in road infrastructures like high initial investment cost, possible price decrease of traditional technologies, lack of relevant knowledge or possible recyclability issues.

Task 1.6 Development of the Trans-IND conceptual model
Conceptual model for industrialization of composite transport infrastructures components has been proposed. Existing similar projects have been analysed in order to adapt newest, innovative solutions such as ultra-effective manufacturing, lean implementation model or application of automation in assembly process. An overall Trans-IND vision has been proposed including all steps through the whole life cycle (design, manufacturing, logistics, assembly/disassembly), including requirements for logistics and transport, which are needed to make the 'Just In Time' process possible, including guidelines for lean manufacturing. Conceptual model proposed also contains description of application of robotics, automation and ICT tools, and addresses possible problems of safety, quality control and recycling.
WP2: Trans-IND system specification
The overall objective of the WP2 has been to define the specification of the Trans-IND system covering:

Specifications of the new concept design for composite transport infrastructure components.
Specifications of the off-site manufacturing system including facilities, processes and procurement.
Specifications of the logistics and on-site assembly and disassembly.
Specifications of the knowledge management specification.
Specifications of the integrated Trans-IND system.
This Work Package has settled the basis of the entire Trans-IND system as an innovative and cost-efficient sequence of steps covering the whole life cycle of the composite components for transport infrastructures.
The main results obtained in this package can be summarized as follow:

Task 2.1: Development of the specifications of the new concept design for composite transport infrastructure components.
This task has settled the basis of the first step of the composite components life cycle: the design. To find out the new concept design, it has been investigated the FRP materials to expand our knowledge on their properties and to have a general vision of the current situation in Europe and in the rest of the world related to existing infrastructures made of composites, modular composite components available in the market and existing patents.
An analysis of the existing experience and projects has been included.
Taking into account the advantages of all the properties that composite materials have, the design was oriented towards the development of standardized and modular components.
Finally, it is shown the first approach to build a vehicular bridge using modular and standardized elements.

Task 2.2: Development of the Specifications of the off-site manufacturing system including facilities, processes and procurement.
The outputs of this task are divided into two main parts. The former is composed by:

State-of-the-Art of current FRP manufacturing processes used in civil infrastructures.
A review of composite manufacturing technologies in other sectors.
Identification of the preferred manufacturing processes for several components, such as beams and diaphragms.
An overview of the existing quality control systems that can be used for the inspection of the FRP components, both destructive and non destructive procedures.
The latter contains:

Requirements related to the manufacturing systems as machine and process specifications, system layout and workflow optimization, material storage and handling, as well as safety, health and environmental issues.
Quality control requirements from a sustainability point of view.
Elaboration of non-destructive inspection techniques for bridge components, both to inspect a bridge on site and integrated in the manufacturing process.
List of measurement standards related to non destructive tests performed in the aeronautic, naval and civil sectors.
Definition of the parameters to be measured in the inspection of Trans-IND components, including defect size, depth, size of the inspected area and inspection time.
A selection of the most suitable inspection techniques.
Task 2.3: Development of the Specifications of the logistics and on-site assembly and disassembly.
The basic data for preparing the final Trans-IND process have been collected. The key information to create the complex process of the bridge building, from the FRP elements manufacturing to its disassembly, have been developed in this task. The information consists in the description of changes in the current systems, taking into account the components transport, components traceability from the production to the on-site assembly and disassembly, on-site assembly of the components with plug-in joint solutions (RFID, adapted ICT's, robotics, intelligent positioning systems).
The transport issue has been analyzed considering size limitations, freight transport statistics, economic evaluations, safe and healthy factors.
Current methods of FRP bridges installation have been presented and new ideas regarding this topic have been suggested. Bridge building has been described step by step. In particular: FRP bridge decks, FRP bridge beams, joints between these elements, and secondary elements of the bridge construction, such as barriers, curbs, etc. Special attention has been paid on the new technologies in bridge assembly. Installation supposed to be fully automatic and definitions of specification for automated task have been described.

Task 2.4: Development of the Knowledge Management Specifications.
A previous Knowledge Management concept has been defined, in particular the specifications for the Knowledge Management system and a general framework of the Trans-IND platform, that will support the whole FRP infrastructure lifecycle, from preliminary construction planning up to the disassembly and recycling. In this task a list of actors/users has been proposed, including the knowledge accessible platform for each one, as well as information that each user is expected to contribute with. The flow of information among actors was also identified for each lifecycle phase regarding different industrial aspects, specially focusing on the use of FRP components.
Finally, the ICT approach for the Knowledge Management implementation has been also outlined, including a review of existing solutions in other similar projects and a proposal of the system architecture for the future Trans-IND platform.

Task 2.5: Development of the Specification of the integrated Trans-IND system.
The output of this task deals with the definition of the system specifications covering the whole value chain: knowledge management, modular design (taking into account the whole life cycle) of the transport infrastructure components, procurement, offsite components manufacturing, logistics and on-site assembly together with the ICT tools needed to manage and handle the whole process.
A user-friendly 'Trans-IND System Specification Tool', based on VBA application, has been developed, in order to better structure and collect the knowledge generated in this WP. This approach has been considered useful for the management of the Trans-IND specifications and knowledge generated in WP2.
The tool is divided in several sections, grouped in: (a) concept design specifications, (b) off-site manufacturing specifications, (c) assembly and disassembly specifications (d), knowledge management specifications and (e) summary. Additional information is available and can be printed or downloaded as electronic file directly by the User.

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