Natural Fiber Composites Used in More Than 1.5 Million Vehicles
Elkhart, Indiana — FlexForm Technologies LLC, a North American leader in natural fiber composites (NFC), has gained widespread acceptance as a leading substrate supplier for automotive interior trim applications. FlexForm’s NFC products, which are formulated from a blend of natural fibers such as kenaf, hemp, flax, jute and sisal and thermoplastic polymers such as polypropylene and polyester, are the substrate of choice in more than 1.5 million vehicles in the United States.
“Natural fiber composites are revolutionizing the automotive interior business,” said Gregg Baumbaugh, chief executive officer of FlexForm Technologies. “With continuous demands to provide products that are environmentally friendly, light weight and lower cost, our NFCs meet or surpass all performance standards for a majority of interior trim components.”
Automotive manufacturers are increasingly taking advantage of the benefits associated with NFCs and are seeking alternatives to polymers, which are becoming more costly. NFCs are, on average, 25 percent stronger than wood fiber reinforced thermoplastics and have none of the negative handling or environmental issues associated with glass fiber. These aspects, along with one-step processing and faster cycle times, make NFCs the likely choice for automotive interior manufacturers, Baumbaugh said.
FlexForm is currently ramping up production on its unique materials for interior components for three new vehicle models. FlexForm NFCs are used for the molded seat back of the 2005 Ford Freestyle SEL, the door armrests and upper panels on the front and rear doors of the redesigned 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the front and rear door panels on the new 2005 Mercedes M-Class.
According to Baumbaugh, another application will debut on a new North American vehicle in early 2005.
As a total solutions provider, FlexForm Technologies can provide its customers with composite formulation and design, as well as product development. Performance features can be engineered into custom formulations to meet a variety of needs.
Founded in 1999 and based in Elkhart, Ind., FlexForm Technologies is a North American leader in biocomposites. In addition to automotive interior trim, FlexForm Technologies’ natural fiber composites are also suitable for heavy duty truck, trailer, recreational vehicle, office furniture, ceiling tile and packaging applications.
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