The aim of PinWeld was to develop, and create a pre-production prototype of, an electronically controlled plastics and composites repair tool, initially designed for the automotive sector due to its increasing use of plastics, as a means of reducing the environmental impact of vehicle-related production, but also with a view to subsequent application in other relevant industries. Particularly in automotive, this would address the challenge of being able to effectively repair cracks in plastic without damaging them further; caused by the excessive heat required for existing repair processes, in order to support the sector’s move away from the unsustainable methodology of 'replace not repair'.
Having identified that TWI’s Novel Polymer Technologies (NPT) Section would be the most appropriate to support Pinweld Ltd with their R&D, the NPT team then brought in TWI’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) team who help SMEs and university partners formulate collaborative proposals to bid for grant (also known as public) funding from European programmes such as Horizon Europe and Government bodies such as Innovate UK. Part of the TWI Innovation Network (TWIIN), the TIM team takes the lead on the Collaborative Projects programme. Depending on the project, this can include identifying suitable grant funding ‘calls’, creating project consortia, building concepts into competitive proposals, budget management and submitting the final bid documents for consideration.
TWI Industrial Members have the opportunity to both form and join project consortia, and apply for public funding, as part of their membership services. This collaborative approach to technology development enables all parties to maximise their potential for innovation through shared objectives and interests. On the PinWeld project, the TIM team assisted all partners with preparing their budgets, and managed the submission process to the funding body portal ensuring the bid was successfully entered into the competition. Consequently, the consortium partners were successful in winning an Innovate UK Smart Grant, enabling the project to go ahead with an 18-month duration.
The automotive sector increasingly uses plastics rather than metal for panels, components and bumpers, and this has led to the unfortunate practise of replacing such items when they are damaged rather than repairing them. Over time, this is having a significant, negative environmental impact.
In providing a solution to mitigate this, when the PinWeld project was first conceived, research showed that in the UK, due to their significant number, if just one bumper could be repaired rather than discarded, it would save in excess of 31kg C02e, and this was without incorporating what could be saved on disposal of the damaged bumper, or the packaging, storage and shipping of a replacement.