Archive for May, 2011

Why Wonderphyll?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

When Wonderphyll was being developed at our plant in Elkhart, Indiana, there were two main goals in mind.  The first goal was to provide a natural fiber based alternative to the commonly used fiberglass mat in office interior panel applications that has a ‘Class A’ fire rating. The second was to provide a green product that is as good or better in appearance and performance than the fiberglass mat alternative.

Why does the market need a natural fiber based alternative to fiberglass?  Our process uses significantly less fossil fuel than the production of fiberglass.  This is the main reason we consider Wonderphyll to be a green alternative to fiberglass.  Some other reasons include the fact that nowhere in the process do we add formaldehyde.  Also, our product has low VOC’s according to independent testing lab findings.

Wonderphyll is a sustainable product.  It is a natural fiber composite made up of as much as %62 percent Rapidly Renewable Resource.  The natural fiber used is an annually grown crop.  Specifically we use bast fiber as our natural fiber.  Depending on the blend ratio, we can produce a product with 30% post-consumer recycled content.  Wonderphyll is recyclable at the end of life of the product.

 


An Introduction to Wonderphyll

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

FlexForm WonderPhyll is a fire retardant board for use as a substrate in Office Panel System partitions or Architectural Wall Systems.  In this context, substrate refers to the inner material in the assembly that gives the panel its structure.  The substrate is typically the material that is upholstered with a variety of surfaces, most typically fabric.  Wonderphyll is Class A rated under the ASTM E84 standard for its fire retardant properties.

FlexForm Office Panel System

Fig 1. Typical Office Panel System. FlexForm panels are used as the substrates in the partitions. Also, pictured is the molded ceiling tile made with FlexForm material.

Wonderphyll is manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana.  We use a blend of natural fiber and polymer fiber to create a natural fiber composite.  The manufacturing is a two step process.  The first step is to blend the natural fiber and the polymer fiber into a nonwoven mat.  This part of the process is performed on an AirLay line.  You can see this pictured below in figure 2a.  Figure 2b shows how we process the material from the AirLay into a stiff, 2 dimensional sheet.

Taking rolls of mat off the Airlay Line

Figure 2a. Taking rolls of mat off the Airlay Line.

A view of the Fire Retardent Line and Oven Line

Fig 2b. A view of the Fire Retardent Line and Oven Line.

 


Birth of a Blog

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Welcome to Natural Fibers For Office Systems.  This is the blog for the Office Systems Division of FlexForm Technologies.  You can see our company website at www.flexformtech.com.  We are a company that uses natural fibers and recycled polymers to produce a non-woven sheet product for use in the office furniture industry.  This product provides a green alternative to the use of fiberglass in panels for office systems.  Green is no longer just a buzz word.  It is something that more and more people are adopting as a way of life.  We are proud to be leading the wave of green manufacturing in the United States.

My name is Anna Boone.  As a sales professional, I am interested in learning about trends and innovations in the natural fiber composite industry.  As a wife and mother living in Lansing, Michigan, USA, I am interested in green technology and making this planet a better home for us all.  In this blog, I will attempt to inform and entertain you with the latest news from our company and from the Natural Fiber Composite industry.


Natural Fibers Used for Manufacturing Fabric

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

This article written by Liesl Gibson at burdastyle.

The most common natural fibers are cotton, linen, wool, and silk. More exotic natural fibers include alpaca, camel hair, cashmere, llama, mohair, hemp, jute, and ramie.

Cotton is a seed fiber, starting its life in the boll of the cotton plant attached to the seeds. It is the most commonly used fiber in the world. Cotton is strong. It absorbs moisture and dries quickly. It is washable and dry-cleanable, and it has a soft hand. (Hand is how a fabric feels when you touch it.) Even though it’s not the most ecological crop to grow, cotton is relatively inexpensive to produce.

Linen is the oldest and the strongest of the natural fibers. It comes from the stalk of the flax plant. It is relatively soft, absorbs moisture and dries quickly, and is washable and dry-cleanable. But linen has some drawbacks. It doesn’t have great resistance to pilling (those little balls that form on clothing as the fibers break and get tangled together), it doesn’t drape as well as cotton, and it doesn’t have much elasticity.

Wool, as you know, comes from the fur of sheep. Different breeds of sheep produce different qualities of wool, all of which are graded according to the fineness of the fibers. Depending on the grade, wool can have a nice hand and good drape. It is warm because it absorbs moisture slowly and dries slowly, not cooling the wearer. Wool has excellent insulating qualities because the fibers are crimped, which allows air to get trapped between them.

Silk is produced by silkworms. When spinning their cocoons, silkworms send a fine stream of liquid through small openings near their heads. The liquid hardens into filament on contact with air. These filaments are harvested and spun into silk which has nice drape and a luxurious hand. It is a relatively expensive and exceptionally fine fiber that can be washed or dry cleaned. Soaps weaken silk. The fabric also degrades over time when in contact with oxygen.

 


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.