By Nick Gilbert
Weyerhaeuser, a company that specializes in sustainable forestry and cellulose fiber technology, has achieved a significant advance in thermoplastic composite manufacture by launching a yet to be patented thermoplastic composite that is reinforced with cellulosic fiber sourced sustainably.
Labeled as THRIVE composites, the products are intended for use in automotive parts and in homecare products. The application of THRIVE composites can also be extended to kitchenware, office furniture, industrial goods and small and big consumer appliances. The new composites are considered to offer multiple advantages over conventionally employed reinforcement materials such as natural fibers like hemp, sisal and kenaf and short glass fibers.
Molders can avail the THRIVE composites in pellets of ready-to-mold thermoplastics while custom compounders can avail the product in masterbatch form. The THRIVE composites are available at present in the form of polypropylene blended with cellulose featuring both high and low indices of melt flow.
Weyerhaeuser intends to expand the THRIVE family of products to a gamut of hydrocarbon and nonhydrocarbon polymers from polypropylene owing to the compatibility of cellulose fibers with numerous polymers. The THRIVE composites are stated to exhibit remarkable flexural properties and tensile strength in spite of their low mass. Products employing THRIVE need less energy for production and result in reduced wear and tear on the processing equipment as opposed to short glass fibers which are abrasive. The composites are claimed to enhance molding cycle time by a maximum of 40%. Manufacturers gain design flexibility with THRIVE as it provides exemplary thin-section fill and ability to flow in addition to being able to absorb dyes.