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Despite the great perspectives for renewable resources, natural fibre reinforced plastics need to be made more competitive through innovation.
This is the conclusion drawn by a round-table discussion organized by the workshop on „Naturfaserverstärkte Kunststoffe“ [natural fibre reinforced plastics] of the AVK (Federation of Reinforced Plastics), which took place in February in Hagenbach in the presence of representatives from the automotive industry as well as tier 1 suppliers.
The current discussion about the climate and sustainability issues might clear the path for renewable materials. This is true both for natural fibres that are used as reinforcing fibres as well as biopolymers used as matrix materials. While natural fibres are already conquering their own market share in the automotive industry, biopolymers are unlikely to tap the industrial market in the near future.
At present, the sustainability argument (renewable raw materials, conservation of resources) is still a minor factor with regard to material selection. Any future success of natural fibre reinforced plastics in the automotive industry depends largely on the expenses associated with the raw materials and the components, the weight of the components, and the workability and machinability using established technologies, such as compression moulding and lamination. However, natural fibres – used as design elements – and biopolymers – used as matrix systems – may gain importance in the future, primarily because of their global availability, their processability by injection moulding, as well as legal requirements, including reduced CO2 emission limits.
The design concept, on the other hand, is a major factor with regard to material selection. Natural fibre – reinforced plastics, which are lightweight construction materials, have a definite advantage in this respect. According to the current state of the art, the corresponding costs usually remain neutral at the very least. This is why tier 1 suppliers are now also offering suitable alternatives based on renewable materials at a very early stage. Global availability of natural fibres is guaranteed. The pertinent processing technologies, however, do tend to create regional bottlenecks, which is quite an impediment to the worldwide use of natural fibre-reinforced plastics.
The workshop for natural fibre reinforced plastics has developed a plan of campaign to enhance the popularity of biopolymers. Initially, they will find out in how far a sponsored project may be initiated in this respect. Besides, the workshop is to investigate the possibility of registering pertinent characteristic parameters for component simulation, a feasible technique these days for components made of glass fibre – reinforced plastics.
New members are more than welcome to join the workshop. For more information please contact the AVK e.V.
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