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Materials & Assembly
Cellulose Could Replace Short Glass Fibers in Composites
10/15/2012

A new thermoplastic composite uses engineered cellulose fiber from trees, such as these logs in Kuopio, Finland, instead of the short glass fibers usually used for reinforcement. Applications include automotive parts and industrial components.   (Source: Wikimedia Commons/Okko Pyykko)
A new thermoplastic composite uses engineered cellulose fiber from trees, such as these logs in Kuopio, Finland, instead of the short glass fibers usually used for reinforcement. Applications include automotive parts and industrial components.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons/Okko Pyykkö)

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Tim
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Additional applications
Tim   10/15/2012 7:39:33 AM
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Ann, this looks like a great use of material.  Glass fibers do tend to eat machinery and molds in normal application, so a less abrasive fiber would be great.  Has there been any look at using these fibers in nylon applications?  Also, is the cost of the additive similar to that of the glass fibers?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Additional applications
Ann R. Thryft   10/15/2012 11:54:13 AM
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Tim, no info on fiber cost was given, but considering Weyerhauser's main business--wood pulp--I'd guess it's likely to be less than glass. Re "use in nylon applications," what exactly do you mean?



tekochip
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Flammability
tekochip   10/15/2012 8:05:16 AM
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One attribute not mentioned in the article is flammability, which is something cellulose products have always had an issue with.


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Flammability
Ann R. Thryft   10/15/2012 11:55:13 AM
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tekochip, that's a good point about flammability. The fact that Ford is working with Weyerhaeuser to develop materials for car interiors, plus the fact that these are engineered, not just natural, fibers, makes me think that potential problem may have already been addressed/compensated for. Here's a link to the MSDS for THRIVE, which gives a rating of 1 (0-4 scale): www.weyerhaeuser.com/pdfs/msds/501.pdf

naperlou
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Local materials
naperlou   10/15/2012 9:30:55 AM
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Ann, ne thing I like about this product is that it is produced by materials we have naturally here in the US.  With materials such as coconut, grow in a fairly narrow band of the planet.  This tends to cause overharvesting in areas with low environmental controls. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Local materials
Ann R. Thryft   10/17/2012 12:07:50 PM
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Lou, I understand your POV on US materials sources. Actually Weyerhaeuser owns forests in various parts of the world and expects to source cellulose from them as needed. Forests that can be harvested for wood products in northern temperate zones (there aren't many in southern ones) are no longer as common as you might think, including in the US.

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Local materials
Scott Orlosky   10/19/2012 5:38:11 PM
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Ann, really ejoyed the article.  Whenever we can repurpose natural and renewable resources as replacements for energy intensive manufactured goods it moves us in the right direction. Thanks.

notarboca
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Fascinating Material
notarboca   10/15/2012 11:39:08 AM
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Hmm, 40% shorter mold times, comparable weight and material properties, less tooling damage during manufacturing, and blendability with a variety of plastic base material.  What's not to like about the new THRIVE?

I agree with the flammability issue and the possible overharvesting of dwindling resources.  Still, it seems to be a good idea.

TJ McDermott
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Water absorbtion
TJ McDermott   10/15/2012 1:01:14 PM
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What happens to these composites in the presence of water?  Glas fibers do not absorb water; is that a problem with this new material?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Water absorbtion
Ann R. Thryft   10/15/2012 1:56:11 PM
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TJ, since this is a composite, the fibers are surrounded by a polymer matrix (polypropylene at this point in time), so I doubt if water absorption is a problem.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Water absorbtion
Rob Spiegel   10/15/2012 11:50:41 PM
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Nice article, Ann. This sounds positive all the way around. With cycle times 40 percent shorter, there are probably some cost savings. Does the material itself also offer some cost savings.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Water absorbtion
Ann R. Thryft   10/16/2012 11:58:49 AM
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Rob, we didn't get info on the fiber/glass cost differential, but considering that Weyerhauser's main business is wood pulp and wood products, I'd guess it's probably cheaper than glass.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Water absorbtion
Rob Spiegel   10/16/2012 2:29:27 PM
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Ann, that's what I was thinking as well. Yet the process savings alone could make a big difference in giving cellulose a chance in the market.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Water absorbtion
Ann R. Thryft   10/18/2012 7:45:20 PM
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Rob, I also figure that paper is a lot cheaper than glass, so these have got to be cheaper as fibers, plus they start out as fibers, which glass does not.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Water absorbtion
Rob Spiegel   10/22/2012 8:41:16 PM
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Good point, Ann. My guess is there are plenty of savings up and down the road on this technology.

Jerry dycus
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Re: Water absorbtion
Jerry dycus   10/26/2012 6:38:28 PM
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  Sounds like a waste product they are trying to find a use for.  From the specs it's rreally just a filler pounded into dust so fine it won't show on the surface.

 It's flamability is higher because it's so fine but the resin is more flamable so the point is moot.  Wood actually is far less flamable than synthetic ones.  The navy went to all polyster uniforms until they went up in flames regretfully with sailors in them so they switched back to cotton blends I believe. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Water absorbtion
Ann R. Thryft   10/30/2012 7:54:44 PM
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That's an interesting story about polyester vs cotton and the flammability of natural vs synthetic materials. I remember as a kid in the 50s-60s hearing about the flammability of synthetic clothing material, which, I believe, is when many of the standards were developed for clothing material flammability.

Jerry dycus
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Re: Water absorbtion
Jerry dycus   10/30/2012 11:07:10 PM
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  Just as bad is it melting on the skin then when you slap it to put it out it sticks to the hand and spreads sticking to the skin where it was buring/melting.  Not a good way to go.  

 

Living in Fla pure polyster is just too hot and uncomfortable in the summer.  Though I really like rayon which is about the most comfortable cloth usually, slightly better than cotton and doesn't seem as flamable as polyester or nylon.  A good 65% cotton, 35% polyster works fairly well and cuts the problems of pure cotton or pure poly.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Water absorbtion
Ann R. Thryft   11/5/2012 12:16:00 PM
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Jerry, that poly-cotton mix sounds like what I liked best for hiking clothes in my backpacking days. Cotton was supposed to be a no-no among backpacking enthusiasts because it takes so long to dry, either when wearing it, or when washing it at the campsite. But I found 100% polyester and other non-natural clothing to be too hot and sticky for comfort, no matter how it was made.



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