KLM manufactures maintenance parts from PET bottles

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KLM manufactures maintenance parts from PET bottles
Thu October 24, 2019

The airline continues its path towards a more sustainable aviation by recycling PET plastic bottles and reducing the amount of waste


KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the first airline in the world to recycle PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate) to create tools that will then be used for repair and maintenance of its aircraft. Empty bottles are collected at the end of each flight and transformed into filament, the material used for 3D printers. This process means that an empty water bottle can become part of a piece of equipment made with 3D printers, saving time and resources in the KLM Engineering and Maintenance department.

In the same way that normal printers use ink, 3D printers need filament to print. Before, KLM bought this material from external suppliers. Currently, the empty bottles of each flight are sent to a recycling company in exchange for high quality plastic pellets, the main material that makes up the filament. Thus, the tons of plastic bottles that are discharged from aircraft at the Amsterdam - Schiphol airport, each year, are recycled.

3D printers in the Engineering and Maintenance department
The Department of Engineering and Maintenance of KLM began using 3D printers to expedite the repair and maintenance processes several years ago. For example, special caps were created to protect the tires of the Boeing 737 during the painting process.
The Engine department no longer uses protective tape during the maintenance of the turbine propellers: it was replaced by a 3D printed cover. Likewise, a tool was designed that allows a single mechanic to remove the upper luggage compartments of the Boeing 787, while previously two people were needed for this task.

Lower filament cost
The Engineering and Maintenance department uses about 1.5 kg of high quality filament per day. By supplying PET bottles as raw material, KLM managed to lower the filament cost from 60EUR / kg to 17EUR / kg. Thanks to the joint work with the recycling company Morssinkhof Rymoplast and the filament manufacturer Reflow, KLM is now able not only to innovate in the use of 3D printing, but also to generate a circular process.

Waste reduction
The goal of KLM by 2030 is to reduce the volume of waste by 50% compared to 2011. This will be possible by producing less waste in general and increasing the proportion of waste that can be recycled. In 2018, KLM reduced its waste by 9%, and 28% of the rest could be recycled.
“We are continuously investing in innovative and sustainable products and processes, both for our consumers and for society and our own employees. It's great to see how we can create useful products based on discarded materials. ”Commented Ton Dormans, Executive Vice President of the Engineering and Maintenance Department of KLM.


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