Archive for the ‘bio-composites’ Category

Canadian Hemp Guitars

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From this:

277_home_fibers

To this:

guitars

 

 

FlexForm Technologies is the link.  We take the fiber and make it into a mat. Canadian Hemp Guitars takes our mat and makes music!

Our material has found its way into the music industry. Canadian Hemp Guitars has been using our mat in the creation of instruments. They have an exciting line of Guitars and Ukeleles using alternative materials from the standard. You should all check out their great website.

If you want to know more about this company, here’s what they have to say as an introduction, “Canadian Hemp Guitars represent an innovative approach to guitar building that rewards the player and respects the planet. Designed with a nod to the classic American chambered-body guitars of the 60s, our complete line of hemp guitars deliver all of the sustain and resonance of a solid body guitar with the controllable blooming feedback of a hollow-body with minimal environmental impact.

We have all spent our lives playing guitars cut from the world’s great and majestic forests under the belief that these rare and endangered woods make the sound. In reality, the difference is in the build and the builder. Let us prove it to you.”

We at FlexForm Technologies are proud to be a small part of this amazing company.

 


Hemp Sunglasses

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

The blog Design Boom has reported that hemp sunglasses from designer Sam Whitten are available for pre-order.  The original story is found here.  Sam Whitten’s company is called Hemp Eyewear.  Images from here.

 

sunglasses made from hemp and flax fibre composite by sam whitten

Natural Fiber Finds Its Way To Renewable Energy

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The renewable energy market may become a new one for natural fiber.  There has been a recent success story of using flax fiber in creating the turbine blades for wind-turbines.  Specifically a roof-top turbine was created using blades made from natural fiber.

WE7-700-Roof-Turbine-Home-04

(image source)
In February 2014 this story was announced via Composites Evolution‘s website.  From their site: “Biotex Flax has been used to manufacture natural fibre reinforced blades for a rooftop wind turbine at the University of Stuttgart.

The blades were conceived, designed and manufactured by the SWE (Endowed Chair of Wind Energy) at the University, the team having found that Biotex Flax reinforcement’s unique twistless technology gave them the performance characteristics that they were looking for.

SWE’s research is focused on improving the reliability of turbines whilst reducing the production costs of wind energy. It started design in 2011, with the aim of constructing new rotor blades for the university’s 1kW rooftop wind turbine. After a trip to “The Eden Project” in the UK, the team wanted to familiarise themselves with natural fibres and contacted Composites Evolution to test the performance of its Biotex materials.”

rooftop-wind-turbine-barn-ohio-11

(image source)

Along with a range of other materials, the fibres were tested with different resins to validate their performance characteristics. SWE found that Composites Evolution’s Biotex Flax correlated best with the performance they expected and it felt they had a good data basis to make a lightweight and stiff natural fibre blade.

The blade, consisting of Biotex Flax 2×2 twill 400gsm as the main shell and Biotex Flax unidirectional 275gsm used for the blade’s belt and root, was built in two halves. Both were hand-laminated and then vacuum-bagged in two female moulds. The two separate halves were then joined using Momentive’s RIM 235 epoxy resin.

Once completed the blades were assembled onto the rooftop turbine for performance tests. SWE plans to use the blades in further tests focusing on their strength performance compared to blades constructed from other materials. A fourth blade was embedded with strain gauges and the team will be comparing the results to standard carbon and glass blades.”


Where are natural fiber composites used in automobiles?

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Where are natural fiber composites used in automobiles?

01-steps-to-manufacture-natural-fiber-composites

image source

Starting with a bast fiber and polymer fiber binder, FlexForm technologies creates a natural fiber composite mat.  We supply this mat to a company that will mold the mat and assemble the additional components to make a finished piece for use in the finished automobile.  Natural fiber composites have a long history of being used as an alternative to fiberglass, injection molded plastic and other less sustainable technologies.  The parts vary greatly, and can make up content in a large variety of locations in vehicle.  The picture below shows this range.

04-mercedes-s-class-1

image source


Recent Salon.com Article Discusses Growing Hemp in the United States

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Article review by Anna Boone

A recent article found on Salon, entitled “Can hemp save the economy”  details the issue of how hemp contributes to our economy and how that contribution could increase if industrial hemp cultivation was legal in the United States.  Sales of hemp products amount to $450 million, and all of the hemp used to make these sales is imported.  Availability of domestic hemp could drive down the cost of this raw material and make the market more competitive.

How can this industry be improved?  Well, start off with a domestic fiber source.  The article informs us of a new bill currently in our US House of Representatives.  From the article:  “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, introduced in the House on February 6 by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), would… amend federal drug law to legalize growing cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. ”  This bill, if passed, along with a companion bill in the Senate would enable industrial hemp plants to be grown in the United States.  This link from Project Vote Smart details the Senate Bill.  Passage of these bills into law would be great news for FlexForm Technologies.  Development of a domestic natural fiber supply could cut costs for the raw material necessary to make our products.

Jute Fiber

As the article mentions, because of the criminalization of cultivation of Industrial Hemp, there is no infrastructure to process the plant available in our country.  Even if the plant was legalized, it would take some time to develop the facilities and knowledge base to refine the raw plant into usable components for manufacture.  However, you have to start somewhere!  It is great to see this issue getting some attention.

 

Our company is mentioned in the article “One new product is car-door liners. Manufacturers such as Flexform Technologies in Elkhart, Indiana, and Johnson Controls’ German plant take felt-like mats of non-woven hemp fibers, spray them with resin, and then press them into the appropriate shape. BMW and Ford use the light, strong material in their cars’ doors”  We always appreciate seeing our company and products promoted in the press, but here the author got a few things incorrect.  First thing is that FlexForm uses a variety of bast fibers for our mats, not limited to hemp fiber.  Secondly, and more importantly, we do not use any resins in the process to product mat for automotive interiors.  Resin is not necessary for these applications.  We create a non-woven mat with a blend of bast fiber and polymer fiber.  This mat is then heated and molded to shape.  Once cool, the shape and strength are such that the part can be installed into an automobile.

 

Car Door

 

All in all, a great article and nice to see some media coverage of this important issue.


What makes Wonderphyll a sustainable product?

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Earth Day may have passed, but the need for increased sustainable content in office furnishings has not. Today I wanted to revisit why Wonderphyll is such an amazing substrate for office systems and architectural interior products.  Every year, thousands of panels from office systems find their way into our nations landfills.  This is mainly because the substrate or backer behind the fabric is fiberglass. Wonderphyll used as a backer for fabric in system panels or tiles would reduce or eliminate landfill of office products as it is recyclable.  Wonderphyll can be reclaimed, reground and used to produce a variety of industrial products.  Help reduce garbage!  Use Wonderphyll in your panel systems!!

Recycling your office furniture isn’t the only way to help reduce waste on our planet Earth. Please comment below on your favorite ways of being eco-friendly as you plan your office furniture choices or source components for your business!


Henry Ford Made a Hemp Car

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

I found an interesting tidbit in the history of natural fiber with industrial applications.  There is a long history of use of natural fiber to reinforce automobile parts.  Here is some archival footage of Henry Ford’s Hemp Car.

Click on the link above and it will take you to an interesting youtube video.  Apparently Henry Ford made a car where the exterior was some sort of fiber-reinforced composite using industrial hemp.  The video shows Henry Ford hitting the trunk of the car with an axe, and it doesn’t leave a dent.  An article appeared in Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 76, No. 6, December,1941, titled: “Auto Body Made of Plastics Resists Denting Under Hard Blows”.  The article goes on to describe the car exterior, including windshield and windows, as being made from a mixture “composed of farm crops and synthetic chemicals, the plastic is reported to withstand a blow 10 as great as steel without denting…”  The article also quotes Ford as saying he would “grow automobiles from the soil.”

It makes you wonder, whatever happened to Ford’s Hemp Car?  A quick google search turned up a lot of ignorant ravings about “smoking your car”, but little in the way of the real story.  If anyone out there knows, please share with us in the comments section.

 


Why Jute?

Friday, November 4th, 2011

At FlexForm, we use Jute fiber in our natural fiber composite material.  Jute is an annual crop, so that alone makes it “green”.  What else is special about this plant?  We get our fiber from a variety of suppliers.  One company, Bast Fibers, LLC., has some information on their website that I thought was interesting enough to pass on.  You can find the original post here:

  • Jute plants absorb 6 metric tons/acre of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and release 4.5 metric tons/acre of oxygen (O2) into the atmosphere during the 100 day growing cycle.
  • Almost no energy is used in growing and processing Jute and Kenaf fibers. The seed is sown by hand; then, the plants are cut, retted and stripped by hand.* 
  • No fertilizer is used as the roots and leaves are plowed back into the ground. They play a vital role in increasing the fertility of the soil.
  • Bast fiber plants are resistant to pests and diseases. Sometimes a garlic mixture is sprayed on the plants.
  • Natural fibers are 100% biodegradable and/or recyclable.
  • All Bast fibers are “tree-free” and “oil-free”.

*This is true of fiber from developing countries,  not true of domestic fiber.



Wonderphyll goes 3-D!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

We are really excited to report that we have positive results from a trial of 3-d molding of our fire-rated product, Wonderphyll.  More results and pics to follow!


Renewable Materials at Oregon State University

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Oregon State University has a Bachelor’s of Science Program for Renewable Materials.

Professor Mike Milota contacted FlexForm this summer to ask if we had information on our manufacturing process that we could share for his class. He said he had a hard time finding manufacturers of non-wood based biomass materials.  We were happy to pass along a presentation of our info.  I hope the class is going well!!

 

From the OSU Blog:  “If you are interested in a hands-on career that employs science, business and technology to make a difference in helping society become more sustainable, then consider a Bachelors in Science program Renewable Materials.

This program is designed to give students the specialized knowledge and broad skills to help the world replace oil and non-renewable materials with plant-based renewable alternatives.  Wood, bamboo, straw and many other plant-based materials can be used to provide housing, consumer products, energy and other benefits for society.  Doing so efficiently and sustainably is at the core of this program.  Graduates find personally and financially rewarding careers with employers of all sizes and locations.”

Click here for more info.