08. Apr 2022
EconCore (Leuven, Belgium), world leader in technologies for economic honeycomb sandwich production, has collaborated with partner Flaxco® (Roeselare, Belgium), to develop and manufacture an innovative new thermoplastic honeycomb sandwich panel – pioneering the use flax fibres in such an application.
In 2020 Flaxco approached EconCore suggesting combination of thermoplastic honeycomb technology with Flaxco’s flax fibre technology. The polypropylene honeycomb material produced by EconCore offers a high-performance-to-weight ratio along with efficient energy absorption.
The materials honeycomb shaped hollow cells support sandwich sheets to provide levels of high rigidity with minimal weight. High level of stiffness are generated by surface layers on the sandwich core. Once created the panels can be thermoformed thanks to their thermoplastic properties. This is typically done by means of short cycle compression moulding.
To achieve a product with well-balanced characteristics, pre-pregs of 0.5–1mm thickness were used. By optimising flax technology with the polypropylene honeycomb core Flaxco can achieve much higher levels of rigidity.
The 100 % natural flax fibre produce lower CO2 levels than competitor materials like, e.g. glass and carbon fibres, an increasingly important element within the automotive industry. Furthermore, research and testing are already underway for the material to find its place within the sports industry.
“For new product developments sustainable materials have become a key requirement. Within the automotive industry in particular, suppliers seek sustainable materials which lower their CO2 footprint”, says EconCore CEO Jochen Pflug
With high levels of cost efficiency compared to more conventional materials, the new Flaxco composite is expected to be the material of choice in a number of applications, especially those requiring dimensional stability. With sustainability being a key focus for companies across the globe, this all-new flax composite’s ability to be recycled without compromising on performance will play its role in reducing carbon emissions. The new material aims to not only be used in new markets and applications but also replace non-sustainable materials already in use.
One factor that has greatly benefitted the partnership between Flaxco and EconCore is the locations of their facilities. With both EconCore and Flaxco being based in Belgium, allowing for a local supply chain. Throughout both the design and manufacturing stages the advantages of this proved its advantages with regular stable deliveries and less transport being required, essential when one crisis after the other affects the transportation chains, from the Coronavirus pandemic to the recent raw material shortages.
Or as Ludwig Ryckebosch, Innovation and Business Development Manager at Flaxco said, “It was a match made in heaven”. AT