A Design Boost for Natural Fibre Composites

Layer Chair by Jorrit TaekemaIt is expected that the use of renewable raw materials can give a substantial impulse for a sustainable society. Natural Fiber Composites can provide an alternative for increasingly scarce raw materials.

Product designers play an important role in setting new aesthetic values, presenting materials in different contexts and forms, with different properties. Design research can facilitate this process by providing insights about the user-material-product interrelationships in the attribution of the desired meanings to materials.

Natural Fibre Composites

There are a number of plant fibres in the world (such as abacá, bamboo, cane, coir, corn, cotton, flax, etc.) processed into long continuous threads mainly for weaving and textile production; or chopped as a filler material and combined with a resin to create Natural Fibre Composites (NFCs).

Natural Fibers: Cotton, sugar cane, Pastoe, Low Chair lc03 and abacá

The use of natural fibres particularly within composite materials is predicted to be a growth market as the technical and environmental properties of NFCs, their cost, formability with low investment and straightforward technology make these materials suitable for various applications.

“The use of natural fibres particularly within composite materials is predicted to be a growth market”

In addition to that, NFC materials have unique aesthetic properties which might facilitate the creation of particular user experiences aimed by designers.
In order to give an impulse to the use of Natural Fibre Composites in product design, The Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (TU Delft) has initiated the foundation of a knowledge platform supported by The Dutch Government (AgentSchap NL): NFC Design Platform.

The platform organized two successful events with high interest from material suppliers, manufacturers and product designers. The 3rd NFC Design Event was held on 16 May2012. Below, the approach of the platform to create awareness on NFC materials among product designers is shortly explained. Snapshots from the organized events and results of a master graduation project conducted with the support of NFC Design Platform are presented.

1st NFC Design Event (April 2011): DESIGN IT !!

From the 1st NFC Design Workshop

From the 1st NFC Design Workshop

The 1st NFC Design Event aimed to introduce the knowledge platform linking material scientists-, manufacturers and designers. After presentations on the NFC potential for design applications in the morning session, participants attended to the ‘Meanings of Materials’ Workshop facilitated by Dr. Elvin Karana in the afternoon.

In the workshop, designers were provided with basic information regarding the varieties of NFC materials through material samples and applications. Provided samples presented a diversity of sensorial and technical properties and exemplified different manufacturing processes to assure that designers get an overview of possible manufacturing processes applicable to NFC materials. The workshop was given in a creative game format encouraging designers to think about different applications for NFC materials. At the end of the workshop, around 100 product ideas for NFC materials were created by participants.

2nd NFC Design Event (April 2011): MAKE IT !!

From the 1st NFC Design Workshop

From the 2nd NFC design Workshop

The focus of the 2nd Event was to experience the NFC materials with different manufacturing processes. After presentations on various production techniques and on technical properties of NFC materials, in the afternoon, participants attended to the ‘Make It Workshop’ where they made simple products by injection moulding, resin transfer moulding and compression moulding.

Layer Chair by Jorrit Taekema

Cocolok® by Enkev (Image source: http://www.stylepark.com/)Jorrit Taekema is a recent graduate from Industrial Design Engineering, TU Delft. He completed his master project on ‘NFC Materials in Design’. His main aim was to design a NFC product which shows the properties and potential of the material, which creates awareness on NFC among Dutch Designers. Inspired by Cocolok®, which is a resilient material based on natural cocos fibre bonded with 100% natural latex, developed by Enkev, Jorrit designed his Layer Chair referring to the different layers in nature.
The egg box (by Enkev) is made of Cocolok® (100% natural coconut fibre and 100% natural rubber).


While experimenting with the Cocolok® material, Jorrit came up with the idea of using the same material both as a ‘hard structural/inner element’ and soft ‘outer cushion’ by compressing the material in different degrees. After making a number of tests concerning the strength and durability of the material, he developed his chair. Following pictures shows steps in the process.

Making the Layer Chair - by Jorrit Taekema
Making the Layer Chair - by Jorrit Taekema

The finished Layer Chair by Jorrit Taekema

Find more information on the NFC Design Platform here.

Dr. Elvin KaranaAbout Elvin Karana
Elvin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology. She has run various workshops on the ‘meanings of materials’.
> More about Elvin Karana

Hello Materials exhibitionAbout the Hello Materials exhibition
Experience fascinating examples of present and future materials and gain an insight into what they will mean to society and the individual. Visit the exhibition between the 2nd of April and the 21st of September 2012.
> Visit ddc.dk for more information about the Hello Materials exhibition

4 responses to “A Design Boost for Natural Fibre Composites

  1. Nowadays, agricultural area is used either for energy plants, food plants or fibre plants for the manufacturing of NFC – these three uses stay in competition to each other. On the long run, NFC can be successfull if either waste from food production is used or if the fibre plant is grown complementary to food plants. Therefore, It is obvious, using corn for biofuel or NFC means to bark up the wrong tree. Using corn cob instead is the right path.

  2. It’s great to see this type of practical research work. For me the emotional attraction of non-woven natural fibre composites is the raw feel of the material. It feels fresh and I get it! Maybe it is a reaction to the increasing promise of proliferation of laser sintering RP products. RP creates beautiful complex forms but maybe the material is not relevant contextually?

  3. Reblogged this on Liz Ciokajlo and commented:
    Wonderful Blog and would love to see the exhibition. Further evidence of the potential and relevance of natural fibres.

  4. Dear Sir,

    Please note that we are a supplier of natural jute fibres, textile waste, tires waste, PET bottle waste from Bangladesh. Kindly let us know if you are interested in our goods. Packed in Bales. Loaded per 20′ , 40′ containers.

    Shall appreciate, if you would kindly let us know if you have any other business opportunities for our mutual benefits.

    Looking forward to hear from you soon.

    Best Regards

    Tanvir Reza
    Cell / Viber : 008801715155930
    e-mail treza747@yahoo.com

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