Reduce, reuse, recycle. This hierarchy of environmental protection is now ingrained in our consciousness and has become widely accepted, as is necessary for sustainability.
These principles needed to be applied to the automotive industry — a whopping 384,000 cars a year are written off in the UK. Write-offs can occur for even relatively minor damages and this comes at a high cost to the consumer and environment.
Similarly, many car parts get fully replaced, rather than repaired, when they are subject to damage. Consider car bumpers, which are designed to absorb impact. This is achieved through bending and fracturing (in a single place) and even a relatively low-speed impact may result in a cracked bumper. Modern bumpers are typically formed into complicated shapes and include electronics such as parking sensors. If a bumper is cracked, it generally can’t be repaired easily, so must be replaced.
Pinweld Ltd devised an apparatus to shift the current approach of recycling fractured bumpers to repairing and reusing them. Its technology involves welding the bumper by using a reciprocating heated pin, which is designed to melt the area either side of the fracture. This provides a finished weld in a single operation, working in a similar fashion to the reciprocating needle of a sewing machine. Pinweld’s technology is so effective, it can even produce a weld with greater strength than the original bumper.
We therefore worked with Pinweld to file a series of patent applications to protect its technology. Yet although our original brief was to protect a bumper welding apparatus, the patent claims (which are the key part of a patent and define its scope) aren’t limited to automotive applications. This enabled us to ensure that Pinweld’s technology can be licensed to any field where the welding of plastics is required, even those that weren’t envisaged when the patent applications were filed.
We are in the process of securing multiple patents all around the world for Pinweld, which can now press ahead with its ultimate aim to license the technology to a series of commercial partners.
Thanks to the protection afforded by its global patent portfolio, Pinweld now envisages a huge range of potential markets, from welding vehicle bumpers to welding fractured plastic kayaks.
This will greatly expand our ability to reuse, rather than recycle, helping to drive positive environmental change across the global automotive industry and well beyond.