International Conference Demonstrates Natural Fibre Applications

10 December 2004

The Second International Conference of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) demonstrated new press moulding technology using natural fibres.

The EIHA conference held in Hürth in the Rhineland on November 18th-19th attracted under 80 hemp and natural fibre experts from around the world to exchange ideas on the latest developments in the field of hemp utilization.

In the German automotive industry, for example, 45,000 composites with natural fibres like flax, hemp and jute are applied every year. Dirk Fischer from R+S Technik (Offenbach), a leading German engine building company, demonstrated how technically mature and applicable for full-production runs the production technology “press-moulding” is.

Until recently the press moulding technique was fully restricted to the automotive industry, but now its use is being extended to new applications and products. At the EIHA conference, two briefcases were presented which are produced by the press-moulding technology, “proudly” presenting this innovative material and its natural fibres without any lamination.

Natural fibre press-moulded parts are lightweight, have a high mechanical load capacity and produced with mature large serial production techniques.

One of the two companies demonstrating a natural fibre briefcase consisted of Kenboard made of natural fibres with polypropylene as matrix by R-S Technik, and one is made of the natural fibres hemp (50%) and kenaf (50%) by J. Dittrich & Söhne Vliesstoffwerk (Ramstein-Miesenbach) that uses the BASF duroplast Acrodur as matrix.

According to Heribert Jungmann and Manfred Lahm, Dittrich will soon introduce a complete product series with briefcases, eyeglass cases etc. that is available in both “natural” (Nafacryl basic) and coloured (Nafacryl colour) look. The briefcases will be available before Christmas.

In addition to the briefcases, Eisenblätter (Geretsried) a leading manufacturer of flap discs, has developed a flap disc which uses an injection-moulded part made from polypropylene (PP) and hemp fibres as backing disc for the first time. Hemp fibres have replaced glass fibre as reinforcement.

Eight lectures held at the conference revealed up-to-date market trends in Europe and Canada, new products and technical development potentials. PP natural fibre injection moulding was referred to as “sleeping giant” by Michael Karus, managing director of nova-Institut, referring to its “mechanical properties, use on non-modified injection moulding machines and an attractive price” making this material applicable for new uses.

Hubertus Schmidt (IST Ltd., Vilters) from Switzerland presented a measuring system called FIBRESHAPE, which, compared to hitherto existing techniques, showed that natural fibres can be analysed very quickly and cheaply by means of a high-performance scanner and special software.

Other sessions dealt with the potentials and constraints for hemp use in the textile sector as well as the numerous ways of using hemp fibres and hurds in the building sector.

A CD-ROM will be made available shortly on the organisations website, covering all lectures mentioned above.

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