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Green Matter: Woodforce reaches into North America, sets sights on Asia, too

A patented technology that binds wood fiber in pellet form to produce injection moldable and extrudable 'dice' will be commercialized globally.

A patented technology that binds wood fiber in pellet form to produce injection moldable and extrudable 'dice' will be commercialized globally.

The New Zealand Crown Research Institute Scion and wood processing giant Sonae Industria Group have signed an agreement extending Sonae Industria's exclusive "Woodforce" license to commercialize the institute's novel method of converting wood fibers into pellets suitable for extrusion and injection molding to create wood-fiber reinforced plastics to North America. Scion developed and patented the technology under its biofiber research program funded by New Zealand's former Foundation of Research, Science and Technology.Woodforce pellets

Sonae Industria has held the exclusive European license since mid-2011 and in December of that year launched the technology as "Woodforce". Since then, Scion and Sonae Industria have successfully worked together to scale-up the technology for commercial production and also to build the European market. "This license extension was therefore a logical request of Sonae Industria," said Scion CEO Warren Parker. "Manufacturing capability in North America, in addition to Europe, will increase Sonae Industria's ability to fully utilize the technology and supply major markets as demand grows." Scion has also provided Sonae Industria with a timeframe to access the Asian market.

The agreement between Scion and Sonae Industria maintains opportunities and markets for local companies to exploit the technology using existing plant and processes.

"Woodforce is designed for efficient mass production in an existing MDF plant", says Christophe Chambonnet, Woodforce's Global Manager. "Our business model has been validated by larger compounders, molders and OEMs. The mechanical performance, industrial friendliness and environmental benefits have convinced many major companies. Our ability to deliver the same product, with the same specification and quality on each continent is the global plan that makes Woodforce a superior natural fiber option."

Woodforce is a renewably sourced mechanical reinforcing material that can replace glass fiber for short fiber applications. A major advantage of the wood fiber dice over agricultural fibers is that they behave just like plastic pellets in the manufacturing process. This ease and accuracy of handling means the dice can be fed directly into conventional extruders, from which the compound can then go into injection molding as well as profile extrusion for processing as fiber-reinforced plastics. Wood fibers typically have lower costs and more consistent supply than other fibers, and wood-fiber reinforced plastics are stronger, lighter and have a lower environmental footprint than many plastics they would replace. Applications for this wood plastic reinforcement are wide-ranging and include automotive parts, household goods, furniture, extruded products and hardware components.

In the future, Scion will continue to provide technical support to Sonae Industria. There is still room to develop the product with different formulations and polymers.

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