(Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) is part of the University of Sheffield with Boeing. Its research focuses on the production and machining of composite components, including hybrid parts which combine high-performance metals and composites in a single structure. Lately, they came up with some great innovation within the snowboard construction, for a greener ride.
The Primary Materials used in the snowboard are: Flax fibre / Epoxy-cashew nut resin (70% epoxy, 30% cashew nut oil – a waste product from the shells of the nuts) / bCore (recycled PET core reinforced by flax fiber composite)
Snowboards require high properties from their construction materials, being required to be stiff, strong and light. As such they are typically made from glass fibre or carbon fibre composite and with a wooden core. There is around 830,000 tonnes of flax produced commercially every year, with major suppliers in Europe being France and Belgium. Flax is a relatively cheap bio-material, with good mechanical properties and is a very good candidate for replacing the glass fibres typically used in snowboards.
In place of wood, a recycled PET core reinforced with flax fiber, was selected: the bCore. The recycled PET is light weight, affordable and helps to reuse plastic waste products. The flax reinforcement adds the shear properties, good longevity and vibration absortion. The 2 together form the bCore which delivers a just as good as wood skiability.
Composite materials offer substantial benefits over conventional materials, such as low weight and high performance. This can give substantial environmental benefits when they are used, for example, for transport applications. However, one criticism of composite materials is that they are generally derived from non-renewable resources, require high energy in manufacture and can pose an environmental challenge after service, due to not being degradable or readily recyclable.
Natural based composite materials have been around for many years, but a drive towards sustainable materials to replace synthetic, non-renewable resources is now gathering pace. A number of factors are making sustainable resources more attractive: lower energy required to create, lower cost (by volume) and a good range of useful properties.
The AMRC Composite Centre, is actively researching the practical use of biocomposites, and have manufactured aerodynamic panels for a heavy goods vehicle (the AMRC’s travelling showcase for advanced engineering, Mantra) using biomaterials. To further demonstrate the potential of these materials, we decided to produce a product that is currently made using composite materials, and determine the applicability of biomaterials.