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First report on biocomposites production in the EU

Process-wise, compression moulding of Wood and Natural Fibre Composites is an established and proven technique for the production of extensive, lightweight and high-class interior parts in mid-range and luxury cars. Advantages (lightweight construction, crash behaviour, deformation resistance, lamination ability, depending on the overall concept, also price) and disadvantages (limited shape and design forming, scraps, cost disadvantages in case of high part integration in construction parts) are well known. Process optimisations are in progress in order to reduce certain problems such as scraps and to recycle wastage.

Since the year 2009, new improved compression moulded parts have shown impressive properties in weight reduction. This is one reason for the increasing interest in new car models. Today with the newest technology, an area weight of down to 1,500 g/m2 (with thermoplastics) and even down to 1,000 g/m2 (with thermosets) is possible - outstanding properties compared to pure plastics or glass fibre composites.

In the EU, 15.7 million passenger cars were produced in 2011; in addition, 2 millions of other motor vehicles (incl. trucks, transporter, motor bikes, etc.) were manufactured. Considering that 30,000 tonnes of natural fibres and another 30,000 tonnes of wood fibres were used in 15.7 million passenger cars, every passenger car in Europa averagely contains 1.9 kg of natural fibres, respectively 1.9 kg wood fibres, so in total that makes almost 4 kg of these fibres per car.
From a technical point of view, much higher volumes are possible. Vehicles with considerably larger amounts of 20 kg natural and wood fibres have been successfully produced in series for years. The market development depends also on the political framework: Any incentive for the use of natural and wood fibres in the European automotive industry could help to extend the existing amount of 30,000 t/year for natural and wood fibres each. The vision could be an increase of up to five times, that means to 150,000 t/year for each fibre type - the technologies are ready to use.

The figures will be presented at the biggest WPC event in Europe, "Fifth German WPC-Conference", 10 and 11 December 2013 in Cologne.