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Thuringia funds further investments at TITK

Three days before Christmas Eve, Economics Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee paid another visit to the Thuringian Institute for Textile and Plastics Research e.V. in Rudolstadt to deliver a funding decision for one million euros. The money comes from REACT-EU funds[1] and serves to expand the research-related infrastructure. With this funding, TITK will be able to realize a new extruder line for the processing of plastics and recycled materials as well as a fiber plant for thermoplastic, unidirectionally reinforced tapes.

Rudolstadt –  "We would like to thank the Thuringian Ministry for Economy, Science and Digital Society for the investment opportunities we now have thanks to the REACT-EU funding," TITK Director Benjamin Redlingshöfer is pleased to say. Especially at the end of a very demanding year in terms of project funding from federal programs, this support is particularly valuable, he said. "At the same time, we see this funding as a consistent commitment to TITK as a transfer partner," Redlingshöfer said. "And we are happy to take that into account."

The funded projects are part of the specialization field "Sustainable Energy and Resource Utilization" of RIS3[2] Thuringia. "The business-oriented research institutions are the hinge between research and marketable application," said Economics Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee. "Both projects will allow TITK to acquire further research and development projects in the future and, within this framework, to develop new, improved products and processes for industry."

In the area of plastics research, the TITK can now install a "Multi-shaft extruder line for the processing of plastics and recycled materials on a pilot plant scale". As a process technology for multi-material systems, it will be used in particular to research and develop customized and high-quality plastic mixtures based on recyclates and from natural and renewable resources.

The new extruder line will be used, for example, to take research into biobased and biodegradable adhesives and foams to a new level. "It's not enough for new, sustainable solutions to work in the lab. As a research institution close to industry, we have to offer companies the certainty that innovative products and processes from our company can also be reliably implemented in processes suitable for industrial use," explains Redlingshöfer and assumes that the know-how in this area will contribute to strengthening the innovation and competitiveness of the plastics industry, especially in Thuringia.

The second investment - a "Fiber Preparation and Spreading System for Thermoplastic Unidirectionally Reinforced Tapes (FAST UD)" - perfectly complements the technology of the Textile and Materials Research department. At the same time, it completes the entire research value chain on the topic of lightweight construction, which the TITK and the Thuringian Innovation Center Mobility (ThIMo) as well as the Department of Plastics Technology at the Technische Universität Ilmenau (KTI) have jointly established.

UD tapes are tapes reinforced with identically aligned (unidirectional) continuous fibers - e.g. glass, carbon or aramid fibers - embedded in a plastic matrix. This results in high stability at precisely defined points of the later component, even at low thickness and weight. UD tapes are thus very well suited for demanding applications in terms of stiffness and strength. At the same time, these thermoplastic composites are easier to recycle than comparable thermoset solutions.

Among other things, UD tapes for fiber-reinforced pressure vessels and pipes are to be developed at TITK for use in the hydrogen industry. Another focus is traditionally on innovative lightweight solutions for automotive suppliers, but also the aerospace industry. Redlingshöfer: "In this way, we are driving resource efficiency and reducing material- and process-related CO2 emissions over the entire product life cycle."

Both projects are scheduled for completion by the end of September 2023.

[1]REACT EU = „Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe“ is a European Commission initiative to continue and expand measures to address the economic consequences of the Covid 19 crisis.

[2]RIS3 (regional innovation strategy for smart specialisation) means "Regional Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization".  RIS3 is a participation-oriented strategy concept for the development of regions.

Thuringia's Economics Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee (right) hands over the funding decision to TITK Director Benjamin Redlingshöfer. (Photo: TITK/Steffen Beikirch)
Tour of the textile pilot plant of the Textile and Materials Research Department. (Photo: TITK/Steffen Beikirch)
Explaining the Lyocell spinning process in the Küttner pilot plant by Philipp Köhler (left), deputy head of the Native Polymers and Chemical Research Department. (Photo: TITK/Steffen Beikirch)