Archive for February, 2012

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is Promoting Bio-Based Manufacturing

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

On February 21, 2112, an article on Mlive, Michigan’s main news webpage, reported “Sen. Debbie Stabenow promotes bio-based manfacturing initiatives at Kettering University”.

The article informs us, “FLINT, Michigan — Grow it here, build it here, keep the jobs here.  That’s the idea behind U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s plans to beef up the nation’s bio-based manufacturing sector…The initiative creates a new tax credit — up to 30 percent — for companies that manufacture bio-based products in America or buy equipment to begin to manufacture those products.  Her Senate bill was first introduced in October.”

Record Rise for Fossil Fuel Emission

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

In the U.S. where a “green” environment is becoming more and more popular, it was surprising to see that our carbon dioxide emissions are actually going up!  Meanwhile automotive OEM’s continue to work on ways to reduce the weight of vehicles, reducing the amount of fuel used, and subsequently reducing the amount of  carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released into the environment.

FlexForm Technologies offers a solution, a natural fiber substrate which after molding can be used in automotive applications (door panels, seat backs, trunk trim, headliners, etc).  This natural fiber substrate (a blend of natural fiber and polymer fiber) offers a weight reduction compared to commonly used wood.  The switch to natural fibers offer the OEM’s a vehicle weight reduction, and does it’s back to help improve the enviornment, by reducing automotive emissions. 

Please see our website, for further information.


For more information on the rise of fossil fuel emissions, please reference the following article:

December 5, 2011, 5:42 am (

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels and the cement industry scaled a record high in 2010, rocketing by 5.9 per cent over 2009 in a surge led by developing countries, scientists have reported.  For the first time ever, annual CO2 from these sources topped nine billion tonnes, reaching an estimated 9.1 gigatonnes, they said in a letter to the journal Nature Climate Change.
The year-on-year rise was the highest ever recorded and more than wiped out a 1.4 per cent fall in 2009 which occurred as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis.
“After only one year, the global financial crisis has had little impact on the strong growth trend of global CO2 emissions that characterized most of the 2000s,” said the letter, led by Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway. The rebound may be explained by a swift easing in energy prices and injections of government funds to help recovery, the authors suggested.
CO2 emissions from rich countries fell by 1.3 per cent in 2008 and 7.6 per cent in 2009, but increased by 3.4 per cent in 2010. The United States, historically the world’s biggest emitter and currently ranked second after China, saw an increase in 2010 of 4.1 per cent. Even so, emissions from developed countries in 2010 remained lower than their average emissions when measured over 2000-2007.  In contrast, emissions from developing countries increased by 4.4 per cent in 2008, 3.9 per cent in 2009 and 7.6 per cent in 2010.  This growth was concentrated especially in China, which saw a year-on-year increase of 10.4 per cent, and in India, where there was a rise of 9.4 per cent.

The letter, authored by six prominent scientists, was published at the midway point at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
Nations are struggling for agreement on how to tame CO2 and other “greenhouse” gases which trap solar heat and thus create a man-made trigger for climate change.  One of the biggest bones of contention is whether emerging giant economies should be part of a global, legally-binding treaty.  The United States says a pact can only be envisaged if China and India, in particular, have constraints.
Right now, the developing countries have no specific curbs under the Kyoto Protocol or under the wider agreement in the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The letter published on Sunday concurs with data published last month by the US Department of Energy that focused on fossil-fuel consumption. According to an analysis on Thursday released by a British risk-analysis firm Maplecroft, five countries –China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan – account for more than half of all emissions of man-made greenhouse gases.  Brazil, Germany, Canada, Mexico and Iran lie just behind.

Please see our website, for further information.


Some History on Natural Fiber

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Some History on Natural Fiber:

The use of composite materials dates from centuries ago, and it all started with natural fibers. In ancient Egypt some 3 000 years ago, clay was reinforced by straw to build walls. Later on, the natural fiber lost much of its interest. Other more durable construction materials like metals were introduced. During the sixties, the rise of composite materials began when glass fibers in combination with tough rigid resins could be produced on large scale. During the last several decades there has been a renewed interest in the natural fiber as a substitute for glass, motivated by potential advantages of weight saving, lower raw material price, and ‘thermal recycling’ or the ecological advantages of using resources which are renewable.

Advantages of Natural Fiber:

+ Low specific weight, which results in a higher specific strength and stiffness than glass.
This is a benefit especially in parts designed for bending stiffness.

+ It is a renewable resource, the production requires little energy, and CO2 is used while oxygen is given back to the environment.

+ Producible with low investment at low cost, which makes the material an interesting product for countries with the proper climate for growing and processing natural fiber.

+ Friendly processing, no wear of tooling, no skin irritation

+ Thermal recycling is possible, where glass causes problems in combustion furnaces.

+ Good thermal and acoustic insulating properties


What are some of the applications of natural fiber in automotive applications?

Door systems:  bolsters, arm rests, center inserts, upper door panels and full door substrates made from natural fiber composite blends.

Load Floors located in the rear of the vehicle, these functional weight carrying components require strength and functionality.  We utilize natural fiber and polypropylene to create load floor component substrates. 

Package trays and back panels, these components made from a natural fiber substrate help to reduce interior road noise that flows through the back of the cab wall.  Natural fiber components have the ability to incorporate attachments and clip attachments.

For further information regarding the use of natural fiber in a vehicle, visit to learn about molding the future with natural fiber composites.

Natural Fiber Reinforced Composites

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Composite materials and layered structures based on natural plant fibers are increasingly regarded as an alternative to glass fiber reinforced parts.  Fiber reinforced composites with thermoplastic matrices have successfully proven their high qualities in various fields of technical application.  Aside from conventional fiber materials like aramid, Kevlar or glass fibers, natural fibers such as tossa or flax are increasingly applied for reinforcement. 

One of the major fields of application for natural fiber reinforced composites can be found in the automotive industry.  And, the use of natural fibers in the European automotive industry has grown significantly since the year 2000, with an average of 5 to 10kg of natural fibers incorporated into every European passenger car with interior parts such as door trim panels, or trunk liner.

An important aspect regarding the replacement of glass fiber by natural fibers as the reinforcing component in thermoplastic composites is the distinctive improvement in crash behavior.  It can be assume that automotive interiors with a reinforcement of natural fibers are safer than glass fiber parts, as no-sharp edges fracture surfaces occur in the case of a crash. 

Other advantages of reinforcement by natural fibers results from their high absorptivity, which creates excellent acoustics and air cleaning effect.  In terms of industrial safety, natural fibers do not cause allergic reactions or skin irritations.  All of this information courtesy of Dieter Mueller, from the Bremer Institute (BIBA) in Bremen, Germany, in his paper, “Improving the Impact Strength of Natural Fiber Reinforced Composites by Specifically Designed Material and Process Parameters.”

For further information regarding nature fiber in a vehicle, visit to learn more about molding the future with natural fiber composites. 


Composites Technology

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

SPE ACCE 2011: Growing Again

The Society of Plastics Engineers’ 11th conference on automotive composites fields a top slate of speakers and attracts its largest crowd.

Article From: Composites Technology December 2011, Jeff Sloan, Editor-in-Chief


An event-record 480 automotive and composites professionals attended the Society of Plastics Engineers’ 2011 edition of its Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) — 40 more than its previous best in prerecession 2008. Held this year on Sept. 13-15 in Troy, Mich., the annual gathering returned, after two seasons in an economy-conscious two-day timeframe, to its original three-day format. Further, ACCE organizers filled the more expansive schedule with one of its best-ever collections of papers and presentations. The event provided attendees a concentrated data- and detail-packed opportunity to catch up on the latest material, design, tooling and processing technologies now in use, and for future use, in automotive applications. CT’s editor-in-chief, Jeff Sloan, was there and returned with the following capsule commentaries on key presentations.


An outlook was provided on the changing economics of the composites industry over the next several years. In 2010, composites materials generated $17.7 billion in revenue, and it was predicted that annual revenue would rise to $27.4 billion in 2016. Composite finished goods generated $50.2 billion in revenue in 2010, with $78.0 billion annually expected by 2016. Global automotive composite materials accounted for $2.4 billion in 2010, with $3.7 billion expected by 2016. A most notable statistic, penetration of composites into automotive applications, is a mere 3.6 percent while penetration into marine, by comparison, is 68 percent. That indicates room for growth. Other trends to watch:

•    U.S. composites industry growth will beat U.S. GDP over the
     next five years.
•    By 2026, most of the world’s biggest cities will be in developing
     countries; the resulting population density will drive a variety of
     composite markets, including automotive.
•    The U.S. has the largest composites consumption per capita.
•    The U.S. wind industry will grow 16 percent annually
     through 2016.
•    The Chinese wind industry will grow 20 percent annually
     through 2016.
•    The U.S. Congress is expected to renew the wind industry’s
      production tax credit (PTC) before it expires in 2012.
•    Natural gas prices are expected to increase 7 percent annually
     through 2016.

A global perspective on trends driving composites use not just in automobiles, but also in a variety of other applications.  Macro trends in population growth/distribution, climate change, energy development, globalization, technology research and legislative action, composites have a major role to play in meeting emerging challenges. In particular, clean energy, water infrastructure, urban infrastructure and industrial light weighting as significant opportunities. Sustainable composite solutions, must balance government regulations, end-of-life product management, CO2 abatement requirements, recyclability, total product lifecycle cost and social consciousness. Certainly, legislation and regulation throughout the world looks to be a major factor in composites’ future.  It was cited that the European Union (EU) legislation that targets certain maximum allowable CO2 levels by 2015, with incremental ratchets downward through 2020. “The challenge of composites begins and ends with legislation,” it was concluded.

For further information regarding the use of natural fiber in the automotive industry, visit to learn about molding the future with natural fiber composites.





Biomaterial for Green Composites

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Recently I was researching articles on natural fiber composites, looking for new and informative articles.  I stumbled upon an article written in 2010 and published in the JEC Magazine. I found this article to be interesting as it too lists the advantages of natural fiber over glass fiber, and reconfirms what has been stated in this blog. 


The Biomaterial for Green Composites

Natural fibers are generally derived from plants, animals, or mineral resources. This article focuses on natural fibers from plants.

(Published on February-March 2010 – JEC Magazine
#55)   February 7, 2011

Various types of natural fibers are obtained from plants. The properties of these fibers and the applications for them may vary as a function of the part of the plant they originate from. Table 2 summarizes the types of fibers extracted from various plants and their mechanical properties as compared to glass fiber.

Demand for new materials in the global composite industry is stronger than ever, and supply constraints are becoming increasingly crucial. Current research findings show that the performance of natural fibers in certain composite applications is competitive with that of glass fibers. The advantages of natural fibers over synthetic fibers like glass and carbon include biodegradability, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, low energy consumption, low cost, low density and acceptable specific strength properties. Their use can also contribute to develop the non-food segment of an agriculture based economy. Environment-friendly bio-composites have the potential to be the new materials of the 21st century, as well as a partial solution to many global environmental problems.


Tab. 2: Different types of natural plant fibers and their properties relative to glass fibre
  Fiber type
Properties E-glass Kenaf Flax Hemp Jute Ramie Coir Sisal Abaca Cotton
Density g/cm3 2.55 1.5 1.4 1.48 1.46 1.5 1.25 1.33 1.5 1.51
Tensile strength*
10E6 N/m2
2,400 350-600 800-1,500 550-900 400-800 500 220 600-700 980 400
E-modulus (GPa) 73 40 60-80 70 10-30 44 6 38 12
29 27 26-46 47 7-21 29 5 29 8
at failure (%)
3 2.5-3.5 1.2-1.6 1.6 1.8 2 15-25 2-3 3-10
Moisture absorption (%) 7 8 12 12-17 10 11 8-25
Price/kg ($),
raw (mat/fabric)
0.33-0.88 1.5
1.5-2.5 0.25-0.5 0.6-0.7 1.5-2.5 1.5-2.2Source: Kozlowski, 2006

What are bio-composites?

The term “bio-composite” covers: 1) petroleum-derived, non-biodegradable polymers like polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) or epoxies, reinforced with natural fibers; 2) biopolymers (e.g. PLA, PHA) reinforced with natural fibers; and 3) biopolymers reinforced with synthetic fibers such as glass or carbon. Biopolymers reinforced with natural fibers, generally considered to be more environment friendly, are sometimes called “green composites”.

These bio-composites are emerging as a viable alternative to glass-fiber composites, particularly in building, automotive and consumer products.

The current supply of timber is proving to be insufficient, and Malaysia is now trying to use other natural fibers to produce high-value-added bio-composite products.

Huge amounts of natural fiber materials are available in Malaysia: each year, an estimated 10 million m3 are produced from wood residues, 46 million m3 from agricultural residues such as oil palm, and 3,200 metric tons from coconut stems. Malaysia produces more than 30 million metric tons of oil palm biomass palm trunk (OPT), oil palm frond (OPF) and empty fruit bunch (EFB) fibers.





Technical applications

The use of natural fibers for technical composite applications has been the subject of intensive research in both Europe and the USA. Mainly automotive components are produced from natural fibers like flax, hemp or sisal bonded with polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE). The adoption of natural-fibre composites in this industry is driven by price, weight saving and marketing considerations rather than by technical demands. In Malaysia, natural fibers such as empty fruit bunch (EFB) and kenaf are currently being utilized commercially in combination with PP in bio-composites for automotive applications.

It is well recognized that the composite industry is a significant contributor to the global economy. The declining supply and growing price of raw materials are causing concern and, in this regard, natural fiber materials can be seen as a good alternative material for the industry to produce value-added bio-composite products. The industry is therefore encouraged to explore the potential of the resources available for the production of new green composite products that will enhance the industry’s growth, competitiveness and sustainability. The commercial applications of green composites are currently limited, principally to bio-composites for some construction and automotive applications. However, ongoing research and development programs into natural-fiber-reinforced composites and biopolymers should lead to further advances and new opportunities in this industry. In Malaysia, the Fibers and Bio-composite Development Centre (FIDEC) under the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) will play a greater role in R&D and commercialization activities with research institutes, universities and industries, to help turn the abundance of natural fibre into wealth.


What is Polyethylene, referred to in this article as (PE)?  Polyethylene is probably the polymer you see most in daily life.  Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world.  This is the polymer that makes grocery bags, shampoo bottles, children’s toys, and even bullet proof vests.  For such a versatile material, it has a very simple structure, the simplest of all commercial polymers.


Further Information on Natural Fiber Composites for the Automotive Industry

For further information regarding the use of natural fiber in a vehicle, visit to learn about molding the future with natural fiber composites.



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.