Answered here are some of the questions we are often asked about the services provided by the European Centre of Excellence and about Hemp & Flax bio-based materials in general.
If there is a question you would like answering, please contact us
Q: "What are bio-composites?"
A composite is made up of multiple materials, commonly a binding agent (matrix) and a reinforcing agent (fibre). A bio-composite is any composite material that includes a renewable resource. A variety of plant fibers with high tensile strength can be used including hemp and flax. The fibers can be combined with traditional or plant based resins. The result is a plant based alternative for many traditional wood, steel, fiberglass, or petroleum-based applications.
Q: "What are the benefits of bio-composites"
- Lower material and operating costs compared to molding and forming of non-renewable parts.
- Lower assembly costs compared to current wood, steel, and fiberglass parts by using bio-composites to mold and form a complete part rather than assembling components into a part.
- Ability to change part features: weight, rigidity, flex, shear, abrasion, compression, tensile, water resistance, etc. as needed.
- Increase noise damping / reduce vibration effects of a part.
- Reduce negative environmental impact (e.g. VOC emissions).
- Add a “green product” feature.
- Improve “recyclability” of a part.
Q: "How do bio-composites look with regards to colour and appearance?"
This is dependent on the materials used. Recycled content will usually result in black or dark brown. Using prime or wide-spec resin will result in lighter brown or light beige and what type of biomass (natural fibre) is used.
Q: "Are bio-composite products recyclable?"
Yes, biomass material products can be recycled.
Q: "Are all bio-composite materials/products biodegradable?"
No. Bio-composites can be bio-based, biodegradable or both. Biodegradability is an inherent property in certain materials that can benefit specific applications.
The bio-composite market
Q: "What are the main characteristics of the bio-composite market?"
There are numerous internal and external factors within the industry encouraging the growth in bio-composites.
Internal factors include:
• Advanced technical properties and functionality
• Potential for cost reduction through economies of scale
• New, cost-efficient recycling options for biodegradable products
External market factors include:
• High consumer acceptance
• Societal concerns about climate change
• Price increase of fossil resources
• Dependence on fossil resources
With a growing number of materials, applications and products, the number of manufacturers, converters and end users is increasing steadily. Significant financial investments have been made in production and marketing to guide and accompany this development.
Q: "Are bio-composite products fully penetrating the market?"
Bio-composites are moving out of the niche and into the mass market. Although full market penetration is just beginning, bio-composite products are multiplying continuously.
European Centre of Excellence
Q: "What is Grow2Build?"
Grow2Build is a European project which has received European Regional Development Funding through INTERREG IVB.Grow2Build works towards the transition of the North West European economy from an oil-based economy towards a bio-based economy in a sustainable and profitable way. It chiefly focuses on the integration of local sustainable cultivation of resources in this future-oriented economy. The project tackles the remaining bottlenecks in the whole product chain (production and supply) of hemp and flax based bio-building materials as well as in the marketing of those products so that this bio-based business can develop in a sustainable and profitable way.
Q: "What are the main achievements of Grow2Build?"
Grow2build partners have organised an open innovation network to link the three different target groups: farmers, processors and builders. The purpose was to help them meet each other, exchange information and, ultimately, create a better product together.
Project results per target audience:
Grow2build stimulates and supports farmers to grow hemp and flax. To create a stable market for farmers it is necessary they grow crops with good technical qualities. Different pilots were organised to find out which crops, soils and conditions are best suited.
The processor, manufacturer and retailer will continuously help guarantee the product has all the necessary technical qualities. They also aid the market development by promoting hemp and flax based building products. Grow2build organised pilots to enhance product performances and has set up a European Centre of Excellence with a knowledge database to gather information.
The end user demands affordable quality building material which follows all necessary technical demands. Grow2build presents healthy and environmental alternatives to existing building materials. This has been done by publishing a label catalogue and some brochures, as well as the use of a mobile exhibition for a road show with organised workshops and building scans.
The Grow2Build partners continuously involved policy makers during this open innovation network. The project partners have included their input in a policy paper that has been published on the website to be actively spread among interested policy makers.
Q: "Where can I find the results of the main actions undertaken by Grow2Build?"
The main actions of Grow2Build concern the development of sustainable product chains of hemp and flax based building materials in NWE region. The results of several pilots, research and studies have been published on the output result pages of the main Grow2Build website (www.grow2build.eu). The results have been divided according to the target group: farmer, processor and builder.
Q: "What is the purpose of the European Centre of Excellence?"
To exploit the strengths and differentiate the economic development within the North West European region, a European Centre of Excellence has been established at Brunel University London to expose the innovation in manufacturing of hemp and flax based eco-building materials. Experts will be available to inform stakeholders on technical matters of product manufacturing. Equally, manufacturers can address themselves to the centre of excellence with their technical questions or requests for product innovation.The centre guarantees the continuation of the initiative after the project and can be seen as a platform where demonstration, guidance and education on hemp and flax bio-based materials is permanently available, with the manufacturers as the main target group of this centre.
Q: "How do I get started?"
A meeting can be arranged in our European Centre of Excellence to discuss on technical information and desired outcomes you hope to achieve. The centre can provide you with all the physical evidence of eco-building materials and facilitate training and study exchange. A proposal can then be developed within our centre.
Q: "Where is the European Centre of Excellence located?"
Bio-composite technology for today's innovations
Q: "Can you provide start-to-finish project management?"
Yes, and the contracts we undertake of this nature typically commence with a design and production feasibility study. This is usually followed by structural design, prototype build and testing - with tooling and production engineering carried out in tandem. Alternatively, we can provide services at any intermediate stage.
Q: "Can you look into the feasibility of a project for us?"
The European Centre of Excellence possesses the technical skills necessary for the objective appraisal of innovative structures and commercial opportunities.
Q: "Can you help us to set up a bio-composites manufacturing facility?"
We are ideally positioned to help. We have wealth of technical knowledge and practical experience of setting up and operating Hemp & Flax bio-composite manufacturing facilities, including designing and implementing training programmes and testing and QA procedures to building material standards.
Q: "As well as designing a structure for us can you help us to identify a suitable manufacturer?"
Yes - with the majority of projects, this is part of the brief. The process typically involves submissions from a minimum of three leading UK-based suppliers. Our sourcing experience also extends to the manufacture of components in Europe.
Can you afford to ignore the technical and profit potential of bio-composite structures?
Q: "How do the costs of Hemp/Flax bio-composite structures compare with equivalent structures produced in steel, aluminium or other metals?"
The use of Hemp/Flax bio-composites can result in substantial savings in manufacturing costs. The overall economics are likely to be determined by volume and other factors.
Q: "What weight saving can be made by using bio-composite materials?"
It depends on the complexity of the component / structure and strength requirements. However, in virtually all cases a substantial weight saving can be achieved using composites.