Kayak paddles feature carbon fibre recycled from aircraft production

The carbon composite kayak paddle certainly looks good.
The carbon composite kayak paddle certainly looks good.

Werner Paddles of Sultan, Washington, USA, a manufacturer of handcrafted boating paddles, needs its carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) paddle blades to look as good as they perform.

When Werner began having aesthetic issues with its kayak paddle blades, it looked for a solution.

"The carbon fibre compound Werner used for the blades is more commonly found in the manufacture of structural components where surface quality is not a priority," explains Tim Bailey, engineering manager of Werner's injection moulder, KASO Plastics of Vancouver, Washington.

"For Werner, the cosmetics of the material were as important as the strength, rigidity, and other physical properties."

The challenge was to find a way to deliver both performance and aesthetics.

Bailey's engineering team tried numerous materials from several suppliers without success until they connected with thermoplastics compounder RTP Company, Winona, Minnesota, which recommended a compound with recycled carbon fibre content. This was developed by RTP Company with assistance from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which introduced the company to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, an emerging composite recycling network that Boeing helped establish.

"We looked to RTP Company for high-end applications to use carbon fibre reclaimed from manufacturing scrap from our 787 Dreamliner airplane production," according to Pete George, Boeing's Aircraft Composites Recycling Principal Investigator.

Werner's kayak paddle is a great example of Boeing's sustainable manufacturing strategy at work, where post-industrial scrap from aircraft production provides a high-performance solution for a consumer product.
Bill Carberry, Boeing's Aircraft Recycling Project Manager

All the carbon fibre in the compound supplied for the Werner Paddles kayak paddle application is post-industrial recycled from production scrap from the manufacture of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The thermoplastic base resin, and fibre loading, in the RTP Compound have not been disclosed.

The premium, aircraft grade carbon fibre delivered the physical characteristics Werner required for the kayak blades at a lower fibre loading, allowing KASO to meet aesthetic requirements, something none of the virgin materials were able to do.

"In addition, the material is actually a little bit easier to process, and the system cost between the recycled content carbon fibre compound and virgin alternatives is insignificant," notes Bailey.

Werner also knows that using recycled carbon fibre content in the kayak blades will be attractive to the company's environmentally conscious customers.