Archive for April, 2014

Acrodur: Innovation from BASF

Monday, April 28th, 2014

FlexForm Technologies has been heavily involved in development of a new product that takes our FlexForm MT (non-woven mat) and adds Acrodur resin. The resulting product is a great fit for certain applications in Automotive, Office Furniture, Construction, etc.

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(image source) Above you see an example of a molded door panel using natural fiber composites and Acrodur from molder Dräxlmaier Group (Vilsbiburg, Germany)

From BASF’s website: “Acrodur is a green, zero-emission acrylic thermoset resin for fibers and particles. ..This high-performance, lightweight, cost-effective and green composite saves costs and significantly reduces volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. As a formaldehyde-free binder with all its properties and advantages, Acrodur is an ideal thermoset material for demanding and emissions-critical processing and applications, whether in abrasive nonwovens for household and industrial purposes or nonwovens for automotive and filter applications.” BASF has also provided this handy Frequently Asked Questions link, which can be found here.  You will see a range of questions and responses, such as “What is Acrodur? or “What is Green About It?”.  This is a great place to start learning about this resin in laymen terms.  And, of course you can always learn more about our natural fiber composites at our website.

But, why are the two technologies-one resin and one natural fiber composites-so well suited to each other?  There was an interesting article in Composites World in 2010.  “Interior Innovation:  The Value Proposition” stated that “Acrodur starts out as a solution polymer (dispersed in water) that is said to have an extreme affinity for binding with fibrous or particulate reinforcements because of its very low viscosity and its chemistry, which forms both mechanical and chemical bonds to reinforcements. It’s especially synergistic when paired with natural fibers because the resin not only coats but also penetrates the fiber shaft. ”  For this reason, we have been pursuing development of a product using FlexForm MT (non-woven mat) and the Acrodur resin.

As I mentioned above, this technology goes beyond the automotive industry.  Seth Stem, professor at Rhode Island School of design has created a chair for outdoor seating using natural fiber composites from FlexForm Technologies and Acrodur resin.  This is a great example of where wonderful design meets innovative technology.  We are excited to be involved in this new technology and we can’t wait to see it adopted more widely in industry.

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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 Kenaf?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Kenaf is a readily available natural fiber that can be used in our processing equipment. From the website Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, “Kenaf is a warm season annual that offers potential as a commercial fiber crop. It is related to cotton, okra and hibiscus and reaches heights ranging from 8 to 20 feet. A native of Africa, the crop is adapted to much of the southern United States and parts of California. USDA does not keep statistics on kenaf. Leaders in world kenaf production are India and China.

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Harvesting Kenaf

Image from Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Kenaf (Hibiscus canabinus) is planted using a modified row-crop planter or grain drill. It matures in about 150 days. It can be harvested using forage coppers and sugarcane harvesters. Fiber yields range from six to 10 tons per acre annually. Two distinctive fibers are harvested from the stalks. One is a jute-like, long bast fiber from the bark. The bast fiber is used to make burlap, carpet padding and pulp. The second fiber is short, spongy core fiber that resembles balsa wood. It is processed into poultry house bedding, oil-absorbent mats and packing materials.

Other kenaf uses include animal forage, animal litter, a fiberglass substitute in molded plastic, a cellulose fiber for composition panels and boards and potting mix. Commercial processing plants exist in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas. Most kenaf production is contract grown.”