Boeing, BMW to research carbon fiber recycling

The Boeing Co. and the BMW Group have agreed to collaborate on research on carbon fiber recycling, the companies said Wednesday.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is made up of 50 percent carbon fiber material. Next year, BMW will introduce two vehicles with passenger compartments made of carbon fiber. Recycling composite material at point of use and the end of product life is critical, the companies said.

“It is especially important that we plan for the end of life of products made from carbon fiber,” Larry Schneider, vice president of product development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

Boeing delivered its first mostly composite 787 in September 2011 and has received orders for more than 800 Dreamliner jets.

“Boeing has many years of extensive experience using carbon fiber in the field of aviation, while the BMW Group has earned a significant competitive advantage through its use of special manufacturing methods for series production of carbon fiber parts,” Herbert Diess, BMW development board member, said in a statement.

Boeing and the BMW Group also will share carbon fiber manufacturing process simulations and ideas for manufacturing automation.

BMW opened a plant in Moses Lake, Wash. in 2011 that will provide carbon fiber parts for the i3 and i8 models. Both 2013 models will be assembled in Leipzig, Germany.

“This exciting partnership between two global players and industry leaders is a win for our state,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “This will help Washington further develop our capabilities and leadership position in the game-changing technology of carbon fiber.”

The collaboration agreement between Boeing and the BMW Group is the first in the history of either company.