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16th August 2017, Cologne

Growing uses for biocomposites

Biocomposites is an umbrella term for composites made completely, or to a significant degree, from biomass. © BCC The 7th Biocomposites Conference Cologne (BCC), will take place from December 6-7 this year in Cologne, Germany, and is on course to be the largest industry meeting on these materials worldwide, with more than 250 participants and 30 exhibitors expected.

Biocomposites, explains organiser the nova-Institut, is an umbrella term for composites made completely, or to a significant degree, from biomass.  Natural and wood fibres are combined with petrochemical or bio-based polymers to achieve very good mechanical and often light-weight properties. The most commonly used types of biocomposites are wood plastic composites (WPCs) and natural fibre composites (NFCs).

In the past, WPCs were mainly processed via extrusion technologies for applications such as decking and NFCs in press moulding for the automotive industry and for many years, research institutes and industrial labs have continuously developed WPC and NFC applications, using the materials in small series of consumer goods. Relevant volumes were only deployed in the decking market, which is still the biggest biocomposites sector.

Recently, however, they have started to enter several additional markets. With the latest advances in injection moulding and 3D printing, both WPCs and NFCs are of high interest for a multitude of applications and fruitful new synergies are being created for new products. Companies are specifically using wood and natural fibre plastic granulates in consumer goods such as instruments, electronic casings, furniture, tables, toys, combs or trays as well as 3D printed goods – the unique look and haptics convey high quality and value and are well received by customers. There are many opportunities for these niche materials to soon achieve large-scale production.

Benefits

Consumer products made of WPCs or NFCs have a different look to pure plastic products and many also offer special properties producers are looking for, such as acoustic performance, light-weight or antibacterial properties.

Signs of market growth can be found in various markets.

In the furniture market, IKEA has re-introduced its wood-plastic composites chair PS 2012 to its programme and offers additional new products with WPCs such as picture frames. Consumer electronics is a growing area too, and a a product group in which acoustic performance is an essential key to  success. In this area market leader LG has started to use the cellulose-based granulate Aqvacomp as a biocomposite material in the manufacture of loudspeakers.

The wide range of successful new technologies and applications for biocomposites in consumer goods, automotive and construction will be presented at the BCC.

The preliminary programme featuring 17 speakers is now online at www.biocompositescc.com/programme.

As in previous years, one session will be dedicated to the Innovation Award for new developments. Producers and inventors of innovative, new applications are invited to submit their applications until the end of August:

www.biocompositescc.com/award

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