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Natural Fibre Composites Gain Widespread Acceptance in US Automotive Industry

14 January 2005

FlexForm Technologies LLC, a North American supplier of natural fibre composites (NFC), has gained widespread acceptance as a leading substrate supplier for automotive interior trim applications.

FlexForm's NFC products, which are formulated from a blend of natural fibres such as kenaf, hemp, flax, jute and sisal and thermoplastic polymers such as polypropylene and polyester, are the substrate of choice in more than 1.5 million vehicles in the United States.

""Natural fibre composites are revolutionizing the automotive interior business,"" said Gregg Baumbaugh, chief executive officer of FlexForm Technologies. ""With continuous demands to provide products that are environmentally friendly, light weight and lower cost, our NFCs meet or surpass all performance standards for a majority of interior trim components.""

Automotive manufacturers are taking advantage of the benefits associated with NFCs and are seeking alternatives to polymers, which are regarded to be more costly. NFCs are,on average claimed to be 25 percent stronger than wood fibre reinforced thermoplastics, and don’t have handling or environmental issues that are associated with glass fibre. These aspects, along with one-step processing and faster cycle times, make NFCs a more attractive choice for automotive interior manufacturers, Baumbaugh said.

FlexForm, who provide customers with composite formulation and design as well as product development, are currently ramping up production on its materials for interior components for three new vehicle models. FlexForm NFCs are used for the moulded seat back of the 2005 Ford Freestyle SEL, the door armrests and upper panels on the front and rear doors of the redesigned 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the front and rear door panels on the new 2005 Mercedes M-Class.

According to Baumbaugh, another application will debut on a new North American vehicle in early 2005.





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