Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Where are natural fiber composites used in automobiles?

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Where are natural fiber composites used in automobiles?


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.


image source

Learning about social media for small businesses

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Any small business has a lot to gain by utilizing the appropriate social media channels.  However, all small businesses have limited time to spend posting and communicated through social media.  We all want to maximize our reach and exposure, while minimizing the time spent on social media outlets.

Recently, a website called Constant Contact was linked to by the New York Times here.  They had held a webinar on social media marketting for small businesses.  500 people participated.  After the webinar, the website compiled the 8 most frequently asked questions.  They ran a blog post detailing these questions.  You can see the original post here.  It is a very educational list.

I thought the most interesting thing was the chart they created with recommended frequency of utilization of different social media platforms.  You can see this graphic on the original page linked above.  I know I will be using this chart to see if this frequency works to help FlexForm Technologies increase our marketing presence in Social Media.


Another interesting thing they discussed was the type of content to put on each platform.  Again, they provided a handy chart.

Content types

This will be a great idea generator.

All in all, I think this post represents a great primer in social media marketing for those of us who do not have departments dedicated to this necessary function.  I hope it helps others, and I look forward to seeing if putting these ideas into effect is helpful.

I am surprised that they don’t include YouTube in their social media platforms.  I will be checking back to see if they include advice for utilizing this platform in the future.


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.

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!

Good, Comprehensive Natural Fiber Website

Friday, April 13th, 2012

I ran across this website that might be interesting to other fiber-geeks.  Natural Fibres is the name of the site and you can see from the first page that they are interested in informing about all aspects of natural fiber.

“We are now seeing a growing movement away from petrochemical based fibres back to natural fibres. There are three reasons for this. Petrochemical based fibre production has undergone continuing rising costs. Synthetic fibres rely on precious non-renewable resources and incurs environmental costs in their production. Petrochemical based products pose a health risk in most applications, both from direct exposure and also from secondary exposure through soil, water and air pollution.

Natural fibres are either extracted from plants from the leaf, the inner bark or fruit/seed crop, or from animal wool/hair, or insect cocoon or from mineral product. Plant sources of fibre include cotton, hemp, kenaf, ramie, sisal, flax, linen, lime, jute, seagrass, and abaca. Animal sources of fibre include sheep, alpaca, llama, goat, and camel, and can be either wool, hair or leather. Insect fibre is predominantly from silkworm cocoons.”

There are several tabs on the right hand side that will bring you to all sorts of information.  Enjoy!!


What is Jute?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

My Colleague, Carol Young posted an excellent informative piece the other day.  I’ve linked to it here.

Jute is a naturally occurring, inexpensive fiber that is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Because of its natural golden shine, jute is also known as “the golden fiber.” The types of jute used to make goods are purchased in several grades as well as blends of jute and other fibers.

White Raw Jute
o White raw jute originated centuries ago in the poorer regions of India and was first used to make clothing for villagers and farmers. When trying to locate white raw jute for personal or industrial use, it is also known as “Bangla white.” Since them, white raw jute has grown in personal and industrial use. White raw jute is traditionally used to make products such as yarn, twine and rope. The grades of this type of jute are Bangla white A, B, C, D and R.

Tossa Raw Jute
o Tossa raw jute and white raw jute are the most commonly found types of jute and are grown where climate permits in India. Tossa raw jute is silkier and much stronger than white raw jute; because of its extra strength, it is also used to make bags such as gunny sacks and clothing. Tossa raw jute is also available in grades A though E.

Mesta Raw Jute
o Mesta is a blend of the Mesta plant and raw white jute, and is graded differently than raw white jute and tossa raw jute; the grades are Mesta top, Mesta mid and Mesta bottom. Mesta because a part of jute production in 1947, when India had to partition its land. Since that time, Mesta has become a more important part of this blend because Mesta is capable of growing in areas where the climate is not appropriate for raw white or tossa jute.

Jute Cuttings
o Cuttings are considered the lowest grade of jute. Like other harvested products, cuttings are often the left over jute of other grades and can be a mixture of leftovers. Jute cuttings are most often used to make paper products; less often, jute cuttings are used to make bags, ropes or other goods, as these products are not as strong. Both white raw jute and tossa raw jute cuttings are available in grades A and B.


How can I certify my product low VOC in a cost effective way?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at FlexForm is whether our product is GreenGuard certified.  GreenGuard is clearly the industry standard for certifying low VOC’s, however we have found that it is prohibitively expensive.  I found a link that I felt was interesting in attempting to map out a standard way to certify without using GreenGuard.

You can click through here to be taken to a PDF written by Berkeley Analytical.  They detail in a very step by step fashion the best ways to go about independent certification.

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.

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.