High mechanical properties and availability make bamboo fibers a valuable choice for natural sustainable compositesBio-based composites continue to gain ground on conventional composites, due to three main reasons. They can be produced more cost-and energy-efficiently, they offer greater weight savings, and they are ecologically sustainable – which includes easier end-of-life disposal.

Bio-based Composites are made from bio-based polymers and resins, which are either directly taken from plants or are derived from plant based feedstock by various processing techniques. Some of the plants and crops from which bio-composites are produced include corn, soybean, jute, sisal, cotton, sugarcane bagasse, bamboo, rice husk and pine. Currently the main application areas of bio-composites lie in construction (decking, siding and fencing) and automotive (interior parts), but they are also used in sports equipment, bio-medical engineering and various other applications.

According to Lucintel, the future of the global bio-based composites market looks attractive. It is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 8.2% from 2015 to 2020, with significant demand arising from Asia Pacific. It’s therefore no surprise to find Asia-Pacific turning into a hub for bio-based composite manufacture, and is expected to report a high demand over the coming years.

Hereafter, three examples of advances in bio-based composites, in the Asia-pacific region.

 

Cobra, Thailand

Cobra International, headquartered in Chonburi, Thailand, is a leading manufacturer of surf boards, with a 50% share of the global market. Its brands include Starboard, Fanatic, JP Australia, Surftech and NSP. Its best-selling Cocomat boards feature a coconut fiber sandwich shell wrapping a Secure Cell EPS core, vacuum molded with epoxy resin and finished with a clear, fluid matt performance skin. Cocomat is both extremely light weight and strong.

Cobra recently signed a new bio resin supply arrangement with Sicomin, its long-term partner. Sicomin has made significant investments in its plant in the south of France to support the industrial supply of bio resins. This is allowing Cobra to easily transition from traditional petrochemical-based epoxies to Sicomin’s GreenPoxy environmentally enhanced, clear and waterproof epoxy system. Depending on the grade, over 50% of GreenPoxy’s molecular structure is derived from plant and vegetable matter.

GreenPoxy products are already widely used in a variety of markets such as marine structures, leisure and sports equipment, and electric vehicles. The latest addition to the range, the InfuGreen 810 infusion system, was recently awarded DNV GL certification and officially launched at JEC World 2017.

“Sicomin has been integral in our on-going shift to bio products and there have been no compromises in mechanical performance and a minimal difference in cost,” said Cobra CEO Danny Chotikapanich at JEC World in Paris.

 

Revology, New Zealand

“The idea of Revology is to give the legendary bistro chair a makeover using natural fiber reinforced composite materials,” explains founder Alex Guichard. His idea certainly seems to have made a strong initial impression. Revology’s prototype bistro chair won a gold medal at the Melbourne Design Awards in July 2016 and the JEC Asia Innovation Award in Design in Singapore in November. 2017 sees the company move into marketing, production and the necessary logistics to launch the chair into the European, Asian and US markets.

The R&D phase has taken a while due to the complexity of the manufacturing process to transform natural flax fiber into a bio-composite resin. The flax is firstly twisted with a resin thread into a yarn and then woven or knitted into a linen fabric and turned into sleeves. The linen sleeves are then inflated around a mold and through a heating and cooling process, to form the shape of a chair leg.

The end result is a very light weight chair that is five times stronger than wood; each leg can withstand 150 kg. It also has a high ultraviolet rating so will not discolor in sunlight. The scratch-resistant seat of the chair is made from a glucose-based resin using agricultural waste.

 

Bamboo composites, Singapore

The market for fibre-reinforced polymer reinforcing bars (rebars) is expected to grow at 11.4% a year in the next five years, but glass and carbon are expensive as alternatives to metals.

As a potentially new product, researchers at Singapore Republic Polytechnic, working with ETH Zürich in Switzerland, have developed a new adhesive for maximizing the bonding between bamboo composites and concrete. In November 2016, the work was recognized with an Innovation Award at the JEC Asia exhibition in Singapore.

Bamboo is a fast-growing and sustainable raw material. Its abundance in Asia makes it cheaper than other materials. The development of the new adhesive coating makes it possible to bond bamboo composites with the necessary strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance properties in concrete, while improving the water resistivity of the material and opening up potential for its use in structural applications such as rebars.

 

In the coming decade, Asia-Pacific is expected to witness the highest growth globally in bio-based composites, largely due to growth in automotive production and the increasing demand in automotive applications. As to the future, innovation areas include achieving higher strength and stiffness, better fire retardant properties, and batch-to-batch quality consistency.

 

Source: "Overview of the global composites industry" - New edition by JEC Group 
 

Written by Denzil Walton

Denzil Walton is a technical copywriter, editor and conference reporter. He has over 30 years’ experience writing on a variety of industrial and high-tech topics.

 

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