MAI Rigatoni | Efficient recycling of end-of-life composite structures and demonstration of their second life application

Development of recycling processes for glass fiber reinforced plastics

The use of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP), in particular glass fiber-reinforced plastics (GFRP), offers enormous advantages in terms of lightweight construction potential, excellent corrosion resistance, easy processing and good specific strength properties. This is why this material accounts for around 95% of the European composites market1. The recycling of products made of FRP is currently a major challenge for research, industry and society. Currently, it is not possible for most recycling companies to process products and materials made of FRP in a suitable recycling process. This applies to the initial dismantling and shredding processes as well as the subsequent processing steps such as fiber-matrix separation and the reuse of the fibers.

Most FRP components that have reached the end of their life cycle, as well as large amounts of production srcap, are therefore not recycled, but often end up in residual and hazardous waste, and in other European countries in landfill sites.

Due to the increasing expansion of wind power and the large quantities of GFRP used in wind rotor blades, the amount of GFRP waste will increase massively in the coming years. One particular challenge facing the GRP recycling process is the economic viability of the process and the use of the recycled materials.

Particularly when using recycled materials, it is important to pay attention to quality management and the associated characterization of the recycled materials in order to ensure high and, in particular, consistent quality.


1 E. Witten and V. Mathes, “Der europäische Markt für Faserverstärkte Kunststoffe/Composites 2021: Marktentwicklungen, Trends, Herausforderungen und Ausblicke,” 2022.


Aim of the MAI Rigatoni research project

The MAI RIGATONI research project aims to close the material cycle for GRP materials in order to conserve valuable, finite resources. The innovative approach includes technologies that concern both the processing of production and EoL materials as well as the processing of recycled materials into new products.

As part of MAI RIGATONI, pioneering processes for the recycling of fiber composites and manufacturing technologies are being developed in order to use the recycled materials effectively. This helps to further close the material cycle in Bavaria. The project focuses on various processes for dismantling and shredding GFRP products as well as an innovative method for fiber-matrix separation using hydrolysis with subcritical water to decompose the polymer.

Special attention is paid to the recycling of three specific products and production waste: Leaf springs from SGL, industrial doors from Butzbach and interior automotive part from fisco. These products are largely made of thermoplastic or thermoset GFRP.

Butzbach Industrial gate
© Firma Butzbach
Butzbach Industrial gate
SGL leaf spring
© Firma Butzbach
SGL leaf spring
Fisco long goods storage
© Firma Butzbach
fisco interior automotive part

In the MAI Rigatoni project, various fiber composite parts are recycled and the recovered materials are used in demo components

Innovations and novelties

The main focus of the project is on preserving the fiber properties and recovering the plastics without completely breaking them down. Furthermore, research is being carried out into various process routes in order to process the recycled materials into new products. On the one hand, the recycled material is processed in a thermoplastic route in an extrusion process into a profile frame that can be used in the photovoltaic modules of the company AE Solar. Another application route is the processing of the recycled fibers into a nonwoven that is used in fisco's long material trays and enables a closed cycle for processing production waste.

An outstanding feature of the research project is the development of a cost-efficient process. This ensures a smooth transfer from research to industry and secures a return on investment for the companies involved. An intensive cost analysis during the development phase and the possibility of process adaptation ensure that this success is realized.

Cooperation with Fraunhofer IGCV

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Industry solutions

The key sectors of Fraunhofer IGCV:

  • Mechanical and plant engineering
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive and commercial vehicles


We are shaping the way into the future of efficient engineering, networked production and intelligent multi-material solutions.