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Students Build Paper Composite Snowboards with Reichhold Resins

30 April 2004

A team of seven North Carolina State University (NCSU) students have fabricated functioning snowboards out of a paper composite using thermoset resins from Reichhold in a national competition in the 2004 “Energy Challenge” project.

One of the NCSU team members Jacki Gerken, is a senior material science and engineering major, currently completing her service to Reichhold as an intern at the resin supplier’s Headquarters and Research Centre in North Carolina.

Along with her team mates, they have formed the Red Wolf Board Company to produce boards for the competition. The team also submitted technical reports and presentations on its development followed by “on the snow” races in Winter Park, Colorado.

Red Wolf Team Captain Natalie Killmon said the team started from scratch, researching the different types of paper available. From an engineering standpoint, the team looked at all aspects of the design principles that go into snowboards. “We looked at the different parts of the board, such as the core, the edges and the outer surface,” she explained. Then, we started thinking about making paper composites that would replace the typical metal, wood and polymer components,” Killmon continued. “We could have just glued loads of paper together, but that’s not innovative, and innovation is what the competition is all about.”

Gerken’s work at Reichhold gave her insight into what resins might possibly be right for creating a paper composite. “We knew the paper had to be bonded together, and the answer seemed to be a resin,” she explains.

Reichhold Senior Development Chemist Sean Walsh, suggested a new urethane-hybrid resin for composites from the Dion Xtreme family of products. Walsh worked with the team and showed them how to cure a laminate. They began fabricating composites using a hand lay-up technique and tested their work in Reichhold’s Physical Testing facilities at RTP.

The team built multiple snowboards, including one for the competition and another for destructive testing.

The design of the Red Wolf boards consisted of honeycomb-type matrices with paper spirals in each square inserted in an edging material. This edging material acted as a load-bearing frame and was comprised of 37 layers of paper and resin. The outer edges of the board were then cut to a 45° angle to act as a substitute for the typical metal edges found on a commercial snowboard.

The boards were all cured in a non-heated press, which contributed to a high compressive strength. Most importantly, the resin coating on the paper resulted in a water-proof board, a crucial element of the design. Additionally, the resin throughout the board imparted the desired amount of flexibility that a snowboard requires.

The Red Wolf team travelled to Colorado recently for the actual races. Their board was ridden by team member Lauren Killough, an experienced snowboarder. The 13 teams competed in a number of categories in addition to the race. The Red Wolf team came in fifth overall. They had the top score for their presentation and came in second in the mid-term, final, board performance and video categories.

Killmon says the team came away from the project with a much better appreciation for the paper industry and green engineering in general. “On top of that, we now know how to make a snowboard from paper,” she says.

From a design standpoint, Killmon says the Red Wolf team found that they didn’t need to make the board stronger. “What we needed to do was engineer the board well so that it was not so strong that its construction becomes wasteful, yet sturdy enough for the purposes of the competition,” she explains. “This board had to be made with a focus on the environment and the paper industry.”

The Energy Challenge was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Never Summer Snowboards.

Thirteen teams from across the United States were charged with designing and building a functional snowboard comprised of 80 percent cellulose (by weight). Along with the 80% paper rule, teams were instructed to follow “Agenda 2020,” a guideline the pulp and paper industry will follow to realize certain “green engineering goals by the year 2020.” This meant concentrating on energy and waste reduction

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