The research validates the use of recycled end-of-life wind turbine blade fiberglass to improve the mechanical strength of a thermoplastic in collaboration with McGill University. The critical fiber length glass fibers from wind turbine blades are reclaimed through a mechanical grinding process, incorporated with polylactic acid (PLA) in a twin-screw extruder to produce composite pellets and manufactured into filament via a single-screw extrusion system. This filament is used as feedstock for standard fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printers to manufacture ASTM standard tensile specimens: D638-14. Reinforced thermoplastic filaments with varying fiber content ranging from 3%-10% are manufactured using this process. It was found that the long fiber reinforced PLA provided a 20% increase in tensile strength and a 28% increase in the stiffness compared to the pure PLA specimens. The increased strength and stiffness can allow the material to be used in smaller quantities when replacing a given thermoplastic material. This material could be beneficial for both rapid prototyping and application-specific products. In addition to the issues faced with the waste management of wind turbines, so too is the textile waste caused by the improper disposal of clothing. To address the issues faced with improper disposal of clothing, a material characterization method for analyzing the draping behaviour of flexible 3D printed textiles was initiated. Pairing an extrusion system with 3D printing allows for the most rapid development of both a specialized material and engineering solution. Looking to the future of the textile industry, it is crucial that sustainable recycling and manufacturing processes are used to create a better future for the generations to come.
Keywords: Sustainability, Recycling, The Wind Energy Industry, Wind Turbine Blades, Lifecycle Analysis, Circular Economy, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Bioplastic, Polylactic Acid, Extrusion, Single-Screw Extruder, Fiber Reinforced Filaments, ASTM D638 Coupons.