An innovative startup that deals with research and development of natural fibres, recycled materials and innovative resins for the construction of sailing boats
The young start-up was born as a spin-off of Northern Light Sailing Team - a group of sailors who have been racing in regattas for a decade now - and from the experience of a group of former university students with previous knowledge in the field of sustainable composites gained through the 1001Vela Cup university competitions. The idea of the three founders - Fabio Bignolini, Andrea Paduano and Piernicola Paoletti - is to build boats that not only perform well at sea, but also respect the environment and workers' health. The nlcomp team is divided into two main areas, the first one deals with the study and optimization of materials while the other department is involved in the design and engineering of prototypes.
The company was founded at the end of 2019 and in the first half of 2020 it launched its first projects: the first recyclable dinghy "ecoprimus" and the first sportboat "ecoracer769", signed by designer Matteo Polli.
Interactive 3d of ecoracer769
An innovative composite to solve the problems related to the use of fibreglass
Composite materials normally used in the nautical industry are glass fibre fabrics “drowned” in an epoxy or polyester-based thermosetting resin matrix. The result has excellent mechanical properties, however, by analysing the individual components of the composite material, all the aspects that do not make a boat built in this way sustainable are highlighted. Glass fibres require high energy expenditure for their production, which takes place at high temperatures. At the end of life, moreover, it is no longer possible to separate the resin from the fibres and the only possibility to reuse a composite material is as inert to be added to less noble materials.
To give a concrete solution to the “fibreglass resin” problem Northern Light Composites has studied a composite material with fibers of vegetable origin, which reduce the environmental impact at the origin as they require a very low energy expenditure for their production, since they are already long and aligned in nature. As far as the matrix is concerned, Elium resin was chosen for its recyclability characteristics, which allow the composite to be given a new life at the end of its life. The core of the composite, in PET, was also chosen by the nlcomp design team because it guarantees the possibility of regeneration at the end of its life.
Recycling test nlcomp
The composite made by nlcomp with Arkema Elium compared to a more common vinylester resin. As can be clearly seen, the latter cannot be separated and reused, while the former guarantees the complete recyclability of the composite.
The nlcomp lamination process
Mechanical resistance test of sustainable and recyclable composite designed by nlcomp
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