Archive for September, 2011

2011 Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), held their 2011 Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE), the world’s leading automotive composites forum, in Troy, Michigan from September 13th – 15th.   The JEC Group participated in the conference and presented a very interesting overall view of the composite industry. 

According to the JEC Group, the composite industry is relatively recent (1940’s).  The worldwide market in volume is 8 millions of tons.  The value of the worldwide composite market is  $86 billion.   All segments, along the value chain, account for about 550,000 jobs world wide.

The value by region is North America (36%) or $31.5B, with the average unit price at 411.7/kg.  Europe, which has reached a high level of technology, is valued at (33%) or $28.7B, with an average unit price of $12/kg.  Asia and the rest of the world is valued at  (31%) or $25.8B, with an average unit price of $8/kg.   

The structure of the composites industry is comprised of raw material producers and equipment manufacturers (30%), semi-product processors (10%) , distributors (5%),  and final processors (55%).  The raw material producers, comprising of 30% of the industry, are made up of resin, fiber, and equipment manufacturers.  The semi-product processors (10%) are comprised of prepreg, pellet and fabric producers.  The distributors (5%) are comprised of direct sales and independent distributors.  And, the final processors, comprising 55% of the industry, are comprised of manual,   compression, injection and continuous processors.

As of 2010, the American composites market, by manufacturing process in volume, is comprised of injection processing (48%), continuous processing (25%), manual  processing (16%), and compression processing (11%).

The American composites market, by application in volume is mainly made up of transportation (31%) and building and construction (15%), and E & E (15%).  The remainder of the composites market is marine, consumer goods, aeronautics, wind energy, pipe & tank. 

To learn more about composites, contact FlexForm Technologies at




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.



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.


Jute Exports From Bangladesh Reach $1 Billion Dollars

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Jute is the fiber that we use to produce Wonderphyll.  We primarily source our fiber from Bangladesh.  Bangladesh is a coastal country located between India and Burma.   FlexForm has found that the jute fiber from Bangladesh is superior in quality to fiber sourced from other countries.

I recently came across an article by the BBC on how the market for jute fiber in Bangladesh has been expanding.  There is a really cool video showing the farmers performing the retting process.  From Wikipedia, “Retting is a process employing the action of micro-organisms and moisture on plants to dissolve or rot away much of the cellular tissues and pectins surrounding bast-fibre bundles, and so facilitating separation of the fiber from the stem.”

Watch the video and read the entire BBC article here:  Bangladesh’s “golden fibre” comes back from the brink.