P17701: ABVI Upcycling: Cotton Insulation

Systems Design

Table of Contents

Team Vision for System-Level Design Phase

Goals of System-Level Design Phase:

During this phase, the team planned to take the information established in the problem definition phase and explore possible solutions to the problem from a system-level perspective.


A large portion of this phase was designated for conducting research into the cotton insulation market: benchmarking existing products, performance characteristics, testing, and feasibility.

Securing Project Resources

A major factor in the team’s ability to make project process was securing critical resources. The major resource which was required to create cotton insulation prototypes was a supply of shredded cotton. The ultimate system will require machine shredding of clothing garments at high volumes. The team’s goal was to contact a shredding company or companies during the system-level design phase who would be willing to work with the team and sell them material to use. Another goal was to obtain a sample piece of cotton insulation which is commercially available on the market from which the team could collect critical benchmarking data such as density, fiber composition, and response to compression (“fluffiness”)

Outputs of System-Level Design Phase:


Although project research is ongoing, a few research areas have been explored during this phase.

Insulation Testing Standards: Research into standard testing protocols for home insulation was conducted. Publicly available information from websites such as Owens Corning and Bonded Logic revealed some common threads among the types of tests that are conducted and to what testing standards. These include:

Department of Energy - Cotton Insulation Standards:

Benchmarking other Insulation Products:

Chemical Research: What chemicals are used for fireproofing and binding properties in insulation?

How acoustic insulation is made and what it does

Securing Project Resources

During the system-level design phase, several leads were pursued to try to connect the team with a shredding resource. Eventually, the team was successful in contacting a company called Fiber Conversion in Broadalbin, NY and Millbury Recycling in Millbury, MA. Both companies process and upcycle textiles, and therefore have ample shredding capability. The team established an open relationship with both suppliers, who have agreed to send the team sample shreds of some materials for the team to analyze. These resources could potentially do much more for the team than shredding. They might also be able to provide the team with information and consulting on the “how-to’s” of making cotton insulation since the company has experience re-purposing textiles. A team member also met with a local contact who deals in cotton insulation, and obtained a sample of Bonded Logic’s thermal insulation.

Thermal Insulation

Functional Decomposition

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Related Documents: Functional Decomposition


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Related Document: Benchmarks

Concept Development

Thermal insulation goes in the walls and will dampen noise exiting the room via the walls while insulating the room. Thermal insulation generally comes in 2 styles, blown in and batting.

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Concept Selection

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Current Market Analysis - Product Characteristics and Vendor Pricing

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Bonded Logic Product Benchmarking

The table above tabulates several product attributes of Bonded Logic's cotton insulation for various R-Value products. Bonded Logic's published data, batt section dimensions and weight, are used to calculate the density of the insulation. This is an important number which can be used as a design parameter.

Market Prices and Revenue Potential

Prices of Bonded Logic's insulation products were found on the Home Depot website. The share of cotton weight to the overall batt weight is assumed to be 80%. This is per Bonded Logic literature which states that their product is composed of 80% recycled textiles, the other 20% being comprised of chemicals. Price data is normalized to a cost per cubic foot of cotton. This number is important because it gives the team an idea of the potential revenue gain that could be realized on a per pound basis by upcycling Goodwill's excess cotton garments.

Acoustic Insulation

Acoustic insulation goes on the walls or hangs from the ceiling and reduces echoes within the room. Acoustic insulation comes in 2 styles. Panels, which usually have a rigid back panel and are covered in fabric, and Baffling, which is usually either densely packed flexible fibers or looser packed fibers covered in fabric giving a spongy texture.

Concept Design

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Concept Selection

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Examples of: Grommet and a Z-Fitting

Feasibility: Prototyping, Analysis, Simulation

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Above is a rough physical prototype that was made from purchased 100% pure cotton batting. This feasibility test gave the team a rough idea of how the fiber stick together in cotton-based insulation.

Related Document: Project Plan

Design Review Materials

The documents below summarize the Systems Design Review with customer:

Plans for next phase

LucasJackling_3-Week Plan

MitchGoepel_3-Week Plan

DenningCrenshaw_3-Week Plan

SamKon_3-Week Plan

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