Partnering opportunity

Single-step process for the economic production of natural fiber composites (NFC) like wood-plastic composites (WPC) for various applications e.g. in the construction sector and automotive industries

Summary

A German research institution has developed a single-step, versatile, cost-effective, pilot-plant scale approved production process for wood-plastic composites (WPC) and other natural fiber composites (NFC) with tunable mechanical properties for different applications. An industrial partner in the NFC, WPC, compounding or refiner branch, i.e. a refiner manufacturer, NFC, WPC, pulp or fiberboard producer/processor is sought for licensing, IP transfer, knowledge transfer or research cooperation.

Partner sought

Partners could be (WPC-)compounders, pulp producers, manufacturers of refiners, or producers in the areas of construction (fiber slabs, floors, furniture), automotive, and various consumer goods. A transfer of rights of the existing IP (patent pending) or licensing would grant the exclusive use of the process in relevant target markets. The patent application is pending in the European Union (EP), United States, Canada, China, and Brazil. Preferable would be a transfer of IP or licensing to a refiner manufacturer, NFC, WPC, pulp or fiberboard producer/processor of any size. A research cooperation with a manufacturer could also help to refine the production process for a specific application and depending on the needs of a respective partner. This could include the modification of process machinery for the proposed process conditions and evaluation of of process results supported by the academic partner.

Description

Wood-plastic composite (WPC) stands for the combination of a thermoplastic matrix with wood particles. WPC has found increasing applications in many areas, e.g. automobile industry and building sector, and has become a reliable, cost-effective composite material for a growing market. The mechanical properties of WPC can be improved considerably through the use of wood fibers. However, their use has posed various challenges, e.g. difficulty of efficient dosing, formation of (fiber) agglomerates, downgrading of fibers during manufacturing, and generally high consumption of energy and resulting costs. A German research group has developed a novel single-step, versatile, and cost-effective compounding process for lignocellulosic raw materials like wood and bamboo, yielding an intermediate compound (WPC or NFC) for commercial exploitation in extrusion, injection, and compression molding. In this process, the defibration of the lignocellulosic raw material and compounding happen simultaneously, thus avoiding interposed drying and melting steps. The formation of undesired fiber agglomerates is also excluded, and the use of inexpensive wood chips or thermomechanical pulp fibers is possible with this approach. Tests performed using DIN EN compliant probes yielded comparable tensile and bending strength results compared to conventionally produced reference material. WPCs with a wood to plastics ratio of 30:70 to 70:30 have been produced with costs 30 - 50 % lower than in conventional processes. Partners could be (WPC-)compounders, pulp producers, manufacturers of refiners, or producers in the areas of construction (fiber slabs, floors, furniture), automotive, and various consumer goods. A transfer of rights of the existing IP (patent pending) or licensing would grant the exclusive use of the process in relevant target markets. The patent application is pending in the European Union (EP), United States, Canada, China, and Brazil. Preferable would be a transfer of IP or licensing to a refiner manufacturer, NFC, WPC, pulp or fiberboard producer/processor of any size. A research cooperation with a manufacturer could also help to refine the production process for a specific application and depending on the needs of a respective partner. This could include the modification of process machinery for the proposed process conditions and evaluation of of process results supported by the academic partner.

Advantages and innovations

Advantages offered at the process level: Different lignocellulosic raw materials, such as wood and bamboo, in different shapes like shavings, chips or powder can be processed. Single-step compounding process: wood refining / fiber production takes place during the compounding process. Less agglomeration of fibers and reduced fiber damage. Production is compatible with generally used thermoplastics, e.g. polyolefins. Process can be adapted to intended end-product, e.g by adjusting the wood:plastic mixture ratio. Very large WPC production volumes are possible. Production costs are reduced.

Development stage

Field tested/evaluated

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Patent(s) applied for but not yet granted


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