BARBARA (Biopolymers with Advanced functionalities foR Building and Automotive paRts processed through Additive manufacturing) is a 36 month long research project within the European Union Framework Program for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020. With a 2.7 million euro budget, coming nearly exclusively from the EU, it brings together 11 partners from Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Belgium.
The BARBARA project aims to develop new bio-based materials with innovative functionalities through the incorporation of additives coming from bio-mass so that, by means of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), - the most widely spread technology for 3 D printing (or additive manufacturing) - prototypes with industrial applications can be obtained. These new materials must be based on food waste (from vegetables, fruits and nuts such as carrots, almonds or pomegranates) or agricultural by-products (from corn) and must possess specific mechanical, thermal, aesthetical, optical and antimicrobial properties to make them suitable for their industrial use in components for two highly demanding sectors such as construction and automotive sectors.
Given the fact that nowadays there is a real environmental and social problem in the developed world, with huge amounts of food produced being thrown away and going to waste, the project gets its main added value from reusing bio-waste for the production of bio-based plastics – therefore doing away with the need to devote certain crops to that aim, when they can be better devoted to feeding people. This bio-based product posses industrial uses and, once treated and reinforced through the incorporation of environmentally friendly additives, may meet the needs of those manufactures that, to date, make almost exclusive use of plastics coming from fossil fuels such as petroleum.
Plastics based on biomass materials are already in use for household 3D printing. Such is the case of PLA (poly lactic acid). Now the challenge is using it at an industrial level while taking into account the requirements which manufactured pieces need to meet from the very early stage when engineering materials and enriching additives are formulated.
While the outcomes and impact from BARBARA may also be of interest for other fields, the two chosen sectors (construction and automotive) possess really interesting characteristics for a project such as BARBARA which encompasses research, basic chemistry and 4.0 industry. On the one hand, the evolution experienced by the automotive sector, in parallel to consumer trends, tends to lead towards a tailor-made vehicle with its components, shape and chosen design, to a large extent, unthinkable some years ago. This requires flexibility, very small batches and high degree of innovation capabilities, with 3D printing particularly contributing to this.
On the other hand, each project in the building sector has unique characteristics and requirements, with pieces needed to be tailor-made on many occasions. Currently they are made out of composites, with specific own moulds and tooling. However, neither 3D printing nor bioplastics are used yet. Amongst other impacts, BARBARA aims to develop demonstrator prototypes such as car door handles, dashboard fascia for the automotive sector or moulds for Resin Transfer Moulding truss joints and structures used in the building sector.