irbus demonstrates that recycling carbon waste is a workable solution.
How can carbon waste be transformed into a sustainable and economically viable solution and produced locally? Airbus teams at the Nantes Technocentre and local start-up Petit·Breton are leading the way by launching the production of the first bicycles made with recycled carbon waste from Airbus production.
"Petit Breton", an imaginative idea for the bicycle
The first carbon bike "made in Airbus" is already being produced in the factory of the Nantes start-up Petit·Breton. Just a few kilometres from the Airbus site in Nantes, Robin Cojean, the founder of Petit·Breton, remembers his first encounter with Airbus: "It was in 2013. I was doing my end-of-studies engineering internship in the composite repair workshop at Nantes. I saw a lot of unused carbon offcuts. I was passionate about bicycles at the time and the idea of producing carbon bicycles in France was already on my mind."
After a 5-year career as an aeronautical engineer in France and abroad, Robin finally decided to make his dream come true and to produce, in Nantes, an "eco-designed" monocoque and customized bicycle, in carbon and flax fibre. He created his company Petit·Breton - a name in recognition to the first double winner of the Tour de France, Lucien Mazan, known by his nickname "Lucien Petit Breton" - and designed his first model, a gravel bike (mixed road/mountain bike). He sources all his materials locally, and is a 100% French manufacturer.
Carbon recycling: Airbus is expanding its projects
At Airbus Nantes, around 100 tonnes of carbon waste are produced every year, and the teams have been working for several years on the reuse of carbon offcuts from the end of the draping spools, needed to manufacture the composite panels of the centre wing box.
Within the Technocentre at the Nantes site, a "Re-use Carbon" project team has been working successfully on its reuse and has increased its projects to demonstrate the feasibility of carbon recycling. "We have produced design objects, prosthesis and even surfboards. Every year we find new prospects for different sectors and we are currently exploring opportunities for small-scale production of aircraft parts within Airbus. We are convinced that it is possible in the long term to revalue all of our carbon waste by giving it a second life," explains David Merle, Airbus Procurement Manager and Nicolas Fordos, Project Manager at the Technocentre.
From tests to the production of the first bike
When they heard about Robin's project, it was obvious for Airbus to help him and a first meeting took place in December 2020. Around the table, they worked on the bike's frame, fork, handlebar, saddle and stem. Many technical constraints were taken into account to facilitate the implementation and transformation of the material in the production of the bike. A test phase was launched and Airbus provided Robin with two reconditioned carbon cutting kits: two kits of different materials, one of carbon sheet, the other of carbon fabric, each 4 metres long, which allowed the production of one bike. At the same time, the team produced a bicycle cover, made from thermoplastic sheeting that covers aircraft fuselages during the transport.
Currently being assembled in the Petit·Breton factory, the carbon bike "made in Airbus" will be delivered to its first customer next June and Airbus teams are already busy exploring new opportunities for the carbon waste.