Right: 3D printed hand orthoses made of compounds containing bioplastics reinforced with thermome- chanical pulp fibres (left) and lignin (right)

claimed to enable cost-effective separation of lignin from virtually any form of biomass. Once extracted, the lignin can be compounded with traditional resin systems or new bioplastic materials to cost dilute the finished formulation, increase sustainability and maintain performance. “To date, Attis’s lignin has shown terrific

Below: With single-use

cutlery soon to be banned in Europe, multi-use

versions made in biocompos- ites may gain favour. These are made using UPM’s Formi EcoAce

compatibility with polyolefins such as HDPE and PP where, when blended at 15-25% concentrations, finished products have yielded 100% retention in tensile modulus and impact strength as well as 90% of the tensile strength compared to the neat polymer,” Montgomery says. “The melt-flowing material injection moulds extremely well with a high gloss, uniform surface and has the ability to fill long flow-length parts and complex geometries.” The Attis lignin has also coupled successfully with an array of other polymers. “There is evidence of outstanding coupling behaviour in conjunction with PMMA and other acrylics,” Montgomery says. “Attis lignin is also an intuitive complement to various bioplastics, where the inherent 100% biobased content adds to a number of fantastic solutions currently provided, while serving as a stiffening agent and cost diluent. Attis lignin can work effectively alongside PLA, PBAT, PHA, PBS, and more, provided appropriate coupling tech- nologies are followed.” Montgomery is even more excited by the ongoing development by Attis of a fully biobased, 100% lignin-borne carbon fibre product. “With tensile strengths and modulus value exceeding any benchmarks found in current literature, this technology has already been proven out on existing commercial melt extrusion equipment,” he says. “Combining the lower material and manufac- turing costs possible using this breakthrough product, Attis expects a finished carbon fibre can be manufactured at a dramatic price reduction

compared to current low-cost carbon fibre avail- able in the transportation market.” RISE PFI’s Carasco also sees growing interest in lignin for biocomposite products. “We have various ongoing initiatives, in close cooperation with Norwegian and European companies, where different lignins are being explored for 3D printing and injection moulded products.” He highlights 3D printing of complex structures such as hand orthoses, composed of bioplastics and lignocellulosic components such as thermomechanical pulp fibres. “3D printing of polymers and compounds is

rapidly evolving from a technology for prototyping to production of tailor-made products. This has been in a focus recently in the coronavirus crisis where engineers are cooperating with the health sector to 3D print equipment of urgent necessity such as ventilators, protection masks and various tools to fight Covid-19,” he says.

Granular biocompounds Germany’s Nova-Institute, which provides research and consults on the bio-based and CO2

-based economies, monitors European

producers and suppliers of biocomposite granu- lates. It estimates there are at least 35 producers across the continent, with the amount of granulates produced and sold in 2018 reaching almost 140,000 tonnes. Before the coronavirus emergen- cy, Nova-Institute was predicting double-digit annual growth for the next few years. One such producer is UPM in Finland. It has developed what it says is a new world-class biocomposite material which meets the highest sustainability requirements. The Formi EcoAce biocomposite combines certified wood and cellulose fibres with a certified renewable polypro- pylene from SABIC’s Trucircle solutions, which is made using wood-based feedstock from UPM’s biofuel production. Each tonne of UPM’s naphtha saves three tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil naphtha, it is claimed.




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