Norafin GmbH is exploring the use of flax fiber for spunlaced nonwoven constructions including composites for a range of technical applications.
N orafin GmbH — a Switzerland-based developer and manufacturer of durable spunlaced, needlepunched and composite nonwoven fabrics for applications such as apparel, automotive, filtration, industrial, medical, roofing and other applications — has begun developing spunlaced and spunlaced composite roll goods for applications including roofing, automotive, packaging, sports equipment and filtration. The company sees flax fiber as an environmentally responsible alternative to glass and other high-tech fibers typically used for those applications, and the spunlace process offers advantages over needlepunching, which also is used to process flax for certain applications. Flax offers other advantages as well, according to Stuart Smith, business unit manager, Norafin (Americas) Inc., Hendersonville, N.C.
“Flax and other natural fibers have the potential to address both our short-term and future needs with respect to environmental considerations,” Smith said during a presentation at the Techtextil North America Symposium earlier this year in Atlanta. In addition to natural fibers being renewable and biodegradable, he added, “on average, the production of natural fiber suitable for composites is about 60-percent lower in energy consumption than the manufacture of commonly used glass fiber.” He also noted that natural fibers produce no more carbon dioxide when incinerated than they consume while growing.
The 100-percent flax roll good shown above features Norafin’s 3D Performance® pattern, which is hydro-embossed into the structure during the spunlace process.
Compared with other natural fibers, flax offers advantages in terms of its cultivation, as it requires no special soil conditions or pesticides, and also needs less water. In terms of performance characteristics, it offers better tensile strength and modulus, and lower elongation — ranging between that of glass and aramid fibers. In addition to good tensile strength — though lower than that of glass, aramid or carbon fibers — and elongation properties, flax’s other potential advantages for composite use include vibration absorption, ultraviolet (UV) resistance, moisture retention, low density, no static charge, low relative cost, a natural resistance to insects and bacteria, and hypoallergenic properties. (more…)