The Strengths And Weaknesses of Industrial Hemp’s Weight
As our team has sent out sample materials to manufacturers across automotive, plastics, and other downstream markets, we have gotten some amazing feedback. The information provided to us about the strength and lightweight nature of industrial hemp is paramount.
Some of the largest manufacturers in America have spent months testing our materials in their R&D facilities.
This has given us the opportunity to work alongside some of the top mechanical engineers and materials scientists in the world.
We have put ourselves, and the industrial hemp industry as a whole, in a great position to integrate our products into the raw materials supply chain of manufacturers.
Now more than ever, it is apparent that manufacturers want to remove mineral-based additives from their supply chains. The plastics industry is itching for a sustainable solution that they can sink their teeth into. With each client moving tens or hundreds of millions of pounds of plastics per year, the implications are huge.
A reliable supply chain of bio-based materials would instantly give these manufacturers newfound value propositions that were previously impossible.
There isn’t a manufacturer on the planet that doesn’t want to make stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable products. The question is, how can they do it in a way that doesn’t put their whole business at risk?
Luckily, industrial hemp is here to save the day.
As the R&D teams at some of the largest manufacturers in the states have tested our product, they have all gotten back to us with similar feedback: these fibers are too light!
Lightweight natural fibers
Although this wasn’t what we expected, we appreciate the honest and straightforward feedback. These types of insights are helping us navigate product development and future sample batches.
As manufacturers compound our hemp fibers into plastics, they’re experiencing problems with feeding the material. The low bulk density (and high volume) of the hemp fibers prevented the R&D labs from creating a compounded product that has more than 10% hemp. Although they were aiming for 20%-60% hemp, 10% was all that fit into the plastic.
Ironically, what helps hemp create a superior end product (lightweight) is what makes hemp difficult to ship and compound. Lightweighting only becomes a value add at the end of the supply chain. Up until that point, it creates a bottleneck.
One customer recommended a crammer, but that is not a sustainable solution. If every company we worked with needed a crammer, it would create friction in the adoption process. To us, adding a crammer into the equation created a problem, not a solution.
To prevent manufacturers from changing their manufacturing process, and other retooling costs, we have come up with a viable long term solution.
Our team is working on a proprietary input format for the hemp fibers and hemp hurds. This will optimize the raw materials so that they can be easily compounded with the desired polymers. We’re also doing research on several different additives that will further ease the compounding process. Given that these ratios can be standardized, these substances can be added to the raw materials to further ease compounding and ensure the desired performance benefits.
When we discussed this idea with our customers, they were ecstatic! Instead of each customer being forced to buy a crammer to stuff the plastic compounding equipment with hemp fibers, they can now utilize the hemp materials without any retooling costs.
These optimized raw input materials that will allow plastics compounders to easily work with hemp. With this small tweak, our customers are now anxiously awaiting the next batch of samples. This shift will allow them to dive deeper into product development with hemp-based materials.
As we’ve gone through this process, we have learned a lot as a team.
Shipping lightweight materials
It’s crucial to have strong feedback loops from trusted counterparties. We’ve built relationships with many of our customers over a long period of time. Because of this, we have a level of trust that allows us to better understand some of the benefits and limitations of our materials.
If we were just spraying our materials out to anyone who would accept them, we would have a difficult time navigating the iteration process. Much like anything in life, it all comes down to relationships.
Building the right relationships is what has set the foundation for us to effectively navigate the plastics industry. This has helped us learn how to iterate in real-time.
- We have learned from other hemp companies that have come before us.
- We have learned from the sawmill industry, which creates wood flour that some plastics companies utilize.
- We have learned from other natural fiber supply chains to make sure we’re not falling into some of the traditional traps that bio-based materials face.
This education process has allowed us to shorten the R&D timelines that are typically found with bio-based materials in manufacturing.
After consulting with our clients and advisors, we’re confident that this new innovation to our raw materials will help us in every part of our supply chain.
It is the attention to little details like this that is consistently separating us from our competition. As we build a supply chain of bio-based materials, it’s the little details that will make or break us.
We believe that this iteration is a step in the right direction, and we’re grateful that we’ve been able to surround ourselves with some of the top industry leaders who are guiding us down the right path.
Join us on the journey as we build a world out of hemp.