Natural rubber is harvested from the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree, a species native to the Amazon region, and is currently extracted primarily in Southeast Asian countries. In Europe, this raw material is used to manufacture tyres and other products, including other car parts.
Cikautxo, a car component manufacturer belonging to the Mondragon Corporation (a large corporation based in the Basque region of Spain), aims to offer a lighter, cheaper and recyclable alternative to rubber-based fluid-handling circuits for the automotive sector. Cikautxo worked with the TAPA (ThermoplAstic fluid handling Pipes for cooling circuits in Automotive sector) project, funded by EIT RawMaterials, to develop new materials for pipes and hoses. They substituted natural rubber with a 100% recyclable thermoplastic material (thermoplastic elastomeric, TPE), using energy-efficient extrusion technology.
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The fluid pipes are produced via thermoplastic material extrusion. They are manufactured in a single process with two layered materials (textile reinforcement and thermoplastic), saving 40% of energy for each unit produced. Prototypes were validated at industrial level at the end of the project and production started in 2018.