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Cellulose composite targets widespread application

Recently in the news for its collaboration with Ford and work on a composite material with Interfacial Solutions (River Falls, WI), pulp and paper company Weyerhaeuser Company (Federal Way, WA) has released more details of its proprietary, patent-pending thermoplastic composites that use sustainably sourced cellulose fiber as a reinforcement additive.


Called Thrive Composites, the product will initially be used in household goods and automotive parts. In addition, Thrive can be used in a variety of composite plastic applications, including office furniture, kitchenware, small and large consumer appliances, and other industrial goods. Thrive composites offer several advantages over materials reinforced with short-glass fibers or natural fibers such as sisal, hemp and kenaf. The product is available in either masterbatch form for custom compounders and ready-to-mold thermoplastic pellets for molders.

“Thrive composites are economical and widely available, and they are low mass yet demonstrate excellent tensile strength and flexural properties,” says Don Atkinson, VP, marketing and new products for Weyerhaeuser’s Cellulose Fibers business. “These composites can improve molding cycle times up to 40%. Products made with Thrive require less energy to produce and can reduce wear and tear on processing equipment when compared with those containing abrasive short glass fibers. These substantial benefits create significant advantages for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprints while enhancing performance and productivity.”

Thrive composites are currently available as cellulose blended with polypropylene with both high and low melt flow indices. Because cellulose fibers are compatible with various “workhorse” polymers, Weyerhaeuser plans to expand the Thrive line of products beyond polypropylene to a range of hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon polymers.

In addition to enhanced design aesthetics, Thrive products demonstrate consistent performance characteristics from batch to batch, which isn’t always the case with other natural fibers. And the cellulose fiber in Thrive composites is sourced in part from some of the 20 million acres of forestland that Weyerhaeuser manages to third-party sustainability standards, ensuring a readily available global supply from a trustworthy source.

“Using composites with cellulose fibers makes sense,” says Ellen Lee, plastics research technical expert of Ford Motor Company. “Their excellent thermal stability allows us to extend the range of potential automotive applications for natural fiber materials. With increased use of these renewably sourced materials, we can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of our products while accruing a variety of benefits across our entire supply chain."

Weyerhaeuser will use its substantial pulp manufacturing facilities and well-established global logistics channels to produce and deliver the product to customers around the world. More information on Thrive composites is available here.

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