Università degli Studi di Firenze, Politecnico di Bari, Natuzzi S.p.A.,YAM S.R.L., Wally Yacht, Distretto Interni Design, Distretto Navigo
Sustainability through flexible customization
The growing demand for customization of limited series yachts’ living spaces made in limited series produces significant diseconomies and environmental impact factors related to the use of molds in manufacturing composite components. Indeed, these tools have low flexibility and are challenging to reuse, resulting in a high material and energy waste for manufacturing. These tools tend to exceed molded parts by weight and, therefore, when they cannot be amortized over enough elements, they
constitute one of the most relevant problems from an environmental point of view in terms of process LCA.
To overcome the gap, new design approaches are required to shape spaces and products that foster a greater circularity of the resources employed. In this perspective, freeing from the traditional technologies of form transfer using models and molds could mean adopting generative design models capable of exploiting additive production technologies for integrating customization at the design and production stage.
Exploring new design and engineering approaches to implement flexible, waste-free forms of customization and production equipment is, therefore, the ground for experimenting with eco-design strategies, enabling the transition to a system of products and services with optimized product life-cycle management.
The research proposes to explore, asses and develop novel methodologies for a product-service-system design aiming at reducing or eliminating waste, as well as minimizing the use of energy for production and the operation in the natural environments. The adopted methodologies will represents a tool to approach concept design results based on a cradle-to-cradle design approach.
In this perspective, the possibility of shaping an object through additive manufacturing of a core material preludes to multiple potentialities and benefits, both from a technical and environmental point of view.
Firstly, it frees the design perspective from the typical limitations of the molded composite material processing technique (shape regularity, control of bending radius, checking draft, undercut angles etc.). Secondly, it offers the opportunity to modulate in a highly punctual manner not only the geometric features of the component but also its mechanical properties by defining, for example, reticular-type structures capable of varying the response in terms of shear resistance or interlaminar adhesion with reinforcing materials in a highly flexible and effective manner. Last, it could represent a zero-waste freeform custom manufacturing with no impact on the time and cost respect the standard production process.
New opportunities for composite innovation
A further planned benefit concerns the integration of reinforcement materials derived from additive manufacturing, making the overall process extraordinarily homogenous and rationalized.
In any case, variants involving, for example, the realization by 3D printing of continuous and suitably functionalized core material finishing cannot be excluded. Such solutions may make it possible to improve the coupling with the reinforcement fabrics according to the specific performance requirements of the component, as well as the possibility of resorting to vacuum or autoclave processing.
Finally, it’s planned to investigate the possibility of resorting to materials that, both thanks to the possibility of realizing mono-material composites and in the function of their composition, can significantly reduce environmental impact and the definite possibility of addressing the components at the end of their life to circular regeneration processes.
The primary expected outcomes of the research are: I. The definition of a framework in which eco-design models and zero-tools and zero-waste manufacturing can be incorporated: – Identification of case studies in which to integrate solutions and methods for the energy and environmental optimization of components for the fitting out and customization of interiors with a smaller footprint based on the use of biomaterials or derived from renewable and circular resources. – Exploration of possible relationships between new computational design processes and reversible and circular additive manufacturing technologies. II. The definition of new eco-design and engineering strategies aimed at obtaining flexible manufacturing and customization processes, free from waste and from the need for onerous production tools (models and molds): – Experimentation of eco-design models helpful in implementing flexible and circular customization processes. – Experimentation of alternative solutions for the shaping of components through additive manufacturing of core materials and their combination with materials and processes for the realization of structural composites components. – Validation of defined models through pilot studies carried out with the involvement of company partners. III. The exploration of advanced composite production technologies through pilot design project aiming at reducing at the same time the number of elements, facilitating the labor operation in assembly, and allowing disassembly processes at the end of the product’s life cycle and the labor in assembly. At the same time: – Increase the process flexibility that, depending on the structural requirements, allows laminating components on both faces, on a single layer, or simply finishing by paint or upholstery/wood lining. – Reduction of waste and energy consumption by controlling the exact amount of material needed, minimizing the environmental impact of production. – Reduce the lead time and costs in producing custom parts allowing at the same time the creation of complex shapes and geometries. – Reduction of the inventory requested, leading to significant cost savings for manufacturers. – Evaluation of the transferability of the results regarding production models and customization of environmentally sustainable yachts to other application areas focused on realizing living spaces on the move (i.e., recreational vehicles).