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The Hemp Report

An online trade journal covering the North America hemp industry: agriculture, processing, marketing, research, business and regulatory news, and updates. Strong focus on hemp farming and developments in Canada.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Natural Fiber Composites Slowly Take Root 

By Dale Brosius, Contributing Writer
Composites Technology
February 2006

     Driven by increasing environmental awareness, automakers in the 1990s made significant advancements in the development of natural fiber composites, with end-use primarily in automotive interiors. A number of vehicle models, first in Europe and then in North America, featured natural fiber-reinforced thermosets and thermoplastics in door panels, package trays, seat backs and trunk liners.


Harvesting of mature hemp plants, using a custom-designed swather.
Source: Hempline Inc.

     Promoted as low-cost and low-weight alternatives to fiberglass, these agricultural products, including flax, jute, hemp and kenaf, signaled the start of a "green" industry with enormous potential. A market study in 2000 projected growth rates exceeding 50 percent per annum through 2005.

     Actual growth, according to natural fiber suppliers, has been much lower, although still respectable at 10 to 15 percent per year. Factors that have retarded growth include limitations in processing technologies and molded part performance as well as the recent economic lull that depressed auto sales and prompted a renewed focus by OEMs on purchased part price, which temporarily overshadowed potential weight savings, and concerns for recyclability and environmental stewardship.

(posted with permission)

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