Natural fiber fabric saves weight in composite structures


A technology based on the concept of leaf-veins can be applied to strengthen synthetic fiber-reinforced composites and reduce overall weight. Based on flax fibers, powerRib fabrics can be used to reinforce thin-walled structures, resulting in a "pseudo mini sandwich," since no core material is involved. The fabrics can readily be processed with standard vacuum molding techniques.

Supplied by Bcomp (Fribourg, Switzerland), for a given performance, the technology reportedly enables 50% weight reduction while simultaneously cutting costs due to the need for less costly synthetic fiber reinforcement, which is of particular interest for the automotive sector. The reinforcement material can be combined with all types of structural materials, such as carbon-fiber composites, glass-fiber composites and non-woven natural-fiber composites.

For a given flexural stiffness, the weight of a reference carbon fiber-reinforced composite plate can be reduced by 27% with a cost lowered by 40 % when the carbon fiber is partially replaced by powerRibs. When compared to a 100% glass fiber-reinforced composite plate, cost can still be reduced by approximately 30% while slashing over 40% of the weight for the same performance.

This unique combination of high flexural stiffness and damping is reportedly ideal for a wide range of applications in the sports and leisure industry (including kayak hulls and bicycle frames) but especially in the automotive industry with the current strong drive for light-weighting and high-performance bio-sourced materials according to Bcomp: powerRibs can be used for automotive interior semi-structural shell elements (door panels, seat backs, front panels) as well as exterior body parts (roofs, fenders, etc.).
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