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FoWoCo – Foamed Wood Composites

Foamed fibre composites made of wood fibres and biopolymers for ightweight applications

Background and Content

The project idea is the development of foamed fibre composites with wood fibres and bioplastics. Bioplastics in combination with wood fibres can be used to produce biocomposites that are based 100% on renewable raw materials. The wood fibres serve not only as fillers but also as reinforcing fibres. By foaming the structures, the weight of the fibre composite can be further reduced in order to fully exploit the lightweight construction potential. The high weight of plastics with wood is still a problem. The raw materials used in this project are not only renewable raw materials but also recycled renewable raw materials such as residues from the paper and wood industry.

Project Objective

The aim is to investigate the potential of foamed structures made of bioplastics in combination with wood fibres and to bring them to market maturity. In the process, materials (base polymer, additives, blowing agents and wood fibres) are newly developed, properties are investigated using test specimens, applied to a final product and the possible market readiness is demonstrated using a demonstrator. The current disadvantage of plastics with wood is their high weight. With a filler content of 30% by weight of spruce fibres, the density of polypropylene increases from 0.9 g/cm³ to approx. 1.2 g/cm³ depending on the processing. Furthermore, wood is usually only used as a filler in so-called WPCs(Wood-Plastic-Compounds) in combination with plastics. The potential of wood as a reinforcing fibre is therefore not currently used. Furthermore, only standard polymers from fossil sources are usually used for WPCs. The wide range of biopolymers still receives little attention.

Project Procedure

  • Use of biopolymers from paper industry residues (ARBOFORM®) and other biopolymers (ARBOBLEND®: PHA, PCL, Bio-PET, PLA, Bio-PE, Bio-PA) for foaming in injection moulding in combination with wood fibres
  • Development of a biopolymer-based blowing agent
  • Application of the material via inline foam extrusion on a final product (construction element for e.g. carports)
  • Implementation on a demonstrator component (full utilisation of the lightweight construction potential, high wall thicknesses, large wall thickness jumps, high torsional stiffness and crash properties, strengthening of the foam structure through wood fibres, high acoustic damping behaviour, long flow paths, high wall thickness jumps at the end of the flow path, implementation of functional elements as well as snap hooks and film hinges)

Innovation

Possible areas of application for the material are technical components, the automotive industry and the furniture and construction industries. So far, such components have rarely been used because the density of the material is very high and processing is difficult. The implementation with foamed biopolymers and wood reinforcement fibres should maximise the idea of sustainability, exploit lightweight construction potential and thus advance the further development, acceptance and market maturity of biocomposites. Material combinations of wood and plastic or bioplastics can thus be significantly improved. The SME partners thus have the opportunity to further develop existing products and processes. In addition, completely new business areas can be opened up and sales markets can be gained. The company Novo-Tech (associated partner) currently produces construction elements from crude oil-based polyethylene foam. They would like to switch to foamed bioplastics with wood fibres. Spritzguss Müller (cooperation partner) is planning to implement the novel material combination on toys for animals.

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