Scion’s wood fibre technology branches into North American markets

10 June 2013

Sonae potsCrown Research Institute Scion and global wood processing giant Sonae Industria Group have signed an agreement that extends Sonae Industria’s exclusive “Woodforce” licence to commercialise a revolutionary wood fibre technology for polymer reinforcement to North America.

Sonae Industria has held the exclusive European licence since mid-2011 and in December of that year launched the technology as “Woodforce”, a name that accentuates the strength and consistency of the wood-fibre polymer product.

Since then Scion and Sonae Industria have successfully worked together to scale-up the technology for commercial production and also build the European market.

“This licence 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 utilise the technology and supply major markets as demand grows.”

As a multi-market licensee, Sonae Industria is very well placed to respond to the growing global market for natural fibre composites by providing a globally uniform supply of Woodforce that consistently meets global standards and specifications.

Scion has also provided Sonae Industria with a timeframe to access the Asian market, which will facilitate future expansion of the Asia Pacific market.

“We are very conscious of our responsibility as a Crown Research Institute to ensure New Zealand further benefits from this innovation.

“While no New Zealand company took up the opportunity to take the lead in the world market, a role remains for local companies. A unique aspect of the technology is that it can readily use existing plant and processes, and our agreement with Sonae Industria maintains opportunities and markets for local companies to exploit the technology,” said Dr Parker.

Invented by Scion, the technology binds wood fibre in pellet form to produce ‘dice’. A major advantage of the wood fibre dice over agricultural fibres 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 moulding as well as profile extrusion for processing as fibre-reinforced plastics.

Wood fibres typically have lower costs and more consistent supply than other fibres, and wood-fibre reinforced plastics are stronger, lighter and have a lower environmental footprint than many plastics they would replace.

Applications for this wood plastic reinforcer are wide-ranging and include automotive parts, household goods, furniture, extruded products and hardware componentry.

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

Scion developed and patented the technology under its biofibre research programme funded by New Zealand’s former Foundation of Research, Science and Technology (now the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).

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