Archive for the ‘composites’ Category

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.

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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.”

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(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?

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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.

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What is your State’s policy towards industrial hemp cultivation?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

According to the National Conference for State Legislators, eight states have positive legislation to support cultivation of industrial hemp.  From the webpage State Industrial Hemp Statutes, “Industrial hemp refers to many types of Cannabis plants that contain low levels of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and can be used to make a variety of products including textiles, plastics, fuel and food. However, the Federal Controlled Substances Act categorizes any product that contains THC, including industrial hemp, as a Schedule I drug.”

FlexForm Technologies produces a natural fiber composite using bast fiber and the natural fiber portion of the composite.  Because bast fiber is a fundamental part of our product, we are very interested in bast fiber supply.  We would be very pleased if we could sell a product to our customers that used North American fiber.  Currently, there are no sources for quality bast fiber in North America.  Industrial hemp is a bast fiber, and it is particularly suited to growing in varied climates around North America.  In Canada, growing industrial hemp is legal.  Canada is well at the forefront of this industry and poised to begin to supply clean bast fiber to the North American market within the next year.  The United States is lagging far behind due to its legistlation prohibiting the cultivation of industrial hemp.  Manufacturers in the US can import industrial hemp from other countries, but cannot use US fiber.  Until the federal government changes its policies towards industrial hemp, there will not be significant growth of US fiber producers and processors.

There are a growing number of states that have enacted pro-industrial hemp legislation.  These states are taking a proactive approach in recognizing the value of the crop to manufacturing and food supply.  If you want to keep up with what each state is doing, please refer to The National Conference for State Legislators and the page listed above detailing each state and their statutes. It gives a brief statement on what each state has included in their legislation.  It appears to be slightly out of date, as it does not include the recent California legislation, but it is a good source nonetheless for a nation wide look at this exciting trend.


Natural Fiber (Jute) in Bangladesh

Monday, September 19th, 2011

September 5, 2011 

Bangladesh’s ‘golden fiber’ comes back from the brink

By Anbarasan Ethirajan BBC News, Dhaka

 WATCH: Jute has been processed in the same way for generations

Jute, a vegetable fiber that can be spun into sackcloth, used to be the ‘golden fiber’ of Bangladesh.  It brought much-needed foreign income to the impoverished nation.  But it lost its luster in the 1980s after synthetic materials like polythene and plastics were introduced.  Now the natural fiber has made a spectacular comeback. 

Exports of jute and jute products from Bangladesh this fiscal year crossed a record billion dollars as demand for the natural fiber is steadily increasing.  With growing environmental awareness, jute, which is bio-degradable, has become the preferred alternative to polluting synthetic bags. 

Jute is considered to be the second most important natural fiber after cotton in terms of cultivation and usage. It is mainly grown in eastern India, Bangladesh, China and Burma.  Until recently the fiber was used mostly as a packaging material. With a diversification of jute products, the demand for jute has increased.

“By processing the fiber mechanically and by treating it chemically, now jute can be used to make bags, carpets, textiles and even as insulation material,” says Mohammad Asaduzzaman, a scientist at the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute in Dhaka.

Thousands lost their jobs and farmers shifted from jute to more profitable rice cultivation.  Today, as demand increases, more farmers are returning to this traditional crop.  “For example, the Bangladeshi government has made it compulsory to use jute bags for packaging of food grains.”

New uses

Jute is also versatile, strong and long-lasting and scientists say they are discovering more uses for it in different sectors.  For example, Geotextiles, a diversified jute product, is used for soil-erosion control and also used in laying roads to give more durability. The natural fiber is also used to make pulp and paper. 

Bangladeshi scientists are now working on an ambitious project to blend jute fabric with cotton to produce denim fabric.  They say if the jute plant is harvested earlier than the usual period of 120 days, then it gives a softer fabric.

“If this special quality of fiber is chemically modified and bleached then it becomes softer. If we can blend it with cotton then we can manufacture denim fabric and diversified textile products,” says Mr. Asaduzzaman

If this process can be commercialized, he says, it will bring down the demand for cotton, which is also becoming dearer day by day.  The price of fabric can be reduced by a half, bringing benefits to the country’s garment sector.  It is estimated that nearly five million farmers are involved in jute plant cultivation in Bangladesh. It plays a key supportive role to the rural economy of Bangladesh.

One it has become soft, the jute fiber is separated by hand.  Then the fibers are stripped from the plant. The stripped fiber is dried and later sent to mills for processing. 

Golam Moazzam, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, in Dhaka says: “It is important to note that policy support also contributed to its widespread use of jute both locally and internationally.

However, there are bottlenecks.  Special machines are required to blend this fiber with cotton and they are yet to be produced commercially. Scientists hope spinning factories will be able to install these machines in the near future.

“Unfortunately, there is not much research going on in terms promoting diversified jute products,” says Mr. Moazzam.

“Countries like Bangladesh and India, who are the major jute exporting countries, should conduct collaborative research to find out diversification of jute products.”

When synthetics like polythene bags came into widespread use, the demand for jute declined and many jute mills in countries like Bangladesh were shut down.

 

 


New Blog!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Welcome to Natural Fiber Composite  (NFC) Material for the automotive/transportation industry.  Our material is made from sustainable resources; a combination of natural fibers such as kenaf, tossa, hemp, flax, jute, and sisal blended with thermoplastic polymers such as polypropylene and polyester.  Our current automotive applications include door panels, consoles, headliners, inserts, package trays, pillars, seat backs, trunk liners, etc.

Our product is highly attractive for automotive industry.  It is lighter weight that other materials(wood stock), more environmentally friendly (than glass fiber), acoustically better at sound dampening, recyclable, and grown naturally!  As you can see, a natural fiber composite material assists a vehicle to be more environmentally friendly.

My name is Carol Young and I am a sales professional a FlexForm.   I welcome you to share your comments, ideas and ask any questions you may have on this blog.  Please feel free to offer any additional information on this subject.  Be sure to also check out our company website at www.flexformtech.com for additional information on our company, products and contact information.


Untapped Application Possibilities of Natural Fibers

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Composites Manufacturing Blog featured this article.

Within the “green” movement is a desire to use natural fibers within composite products.  However studies have shown that despite their benefits, natural fibers struggle in two areas. But why do those negatives often outweigh some glaring advantages of a 7 billion pound industry? “Natural Fibers for Composites 101: When, Why and How to Replace Fiberglass with Kenaf/Jute/Flax” presented by Larry Dickinson, president of 3F, addressed these sometimes frustrating issues.

“There is a big appeal for natural fiber, “says Dickinson. “It’s renewable, has a lower density, is recyclable, is cheaper than synthetic materials and has a greater specific strength, meaning the strength to density ratio is incredible.” According to the Department of Energy (DOE) natural fibers could reduce vehicle weight 50 percent. Among the most promising and well known materials in the natural fibers world are flax, jute, kenaf and hemp. Other materials like banana, pineapple, coconut shells and flax have yet untapped potential. “These products may seem strange but as a composite manufacture you need to look at how the fiber works in the end product, not the fiber itself. 90 percent of the time, bio-products   have a higher stiffness over strength ratio than FRP—and this is a design driven industry!” he says.

Yet, barriers remain. Barriers like the lack of a technology push, lack of market pull due to uncertainty in changing federal regulations, quality and consistency issues (it can’t be processed affordably in the U.S.), lack of supply—it’s a growing industry in Europe, Asia and Canada but remains illegal or unknown within the U.S.—and the two wild cards: moisture absorption and interface of the fiber and resin. “Mother nature made natural fibers to suck up water, which unfortunately affects the interface properties within composite applications. So far, many of the remedies companies have tried don’t completely solve the problem,” says Dickinson. However, he is most certain that remedies are on the horizon. Remedies that will ultimately do what every composite company seeks to accomplish, namely develop a better quality product and reduce costs. One point for Mother Nature.