As the world opens its eyes to the dangers of single use plastics, companies are looking for new, sustainable materials to use in manufacturing. From beeswax to paper, there are plenty of alternatives that can be used in production. One alternative in particular is becoming more and more prevalent: Bamboo fibre.
Bamboo is easily sustainable, fast growing and versatile. It can be used to make furniture, straws and even fabrics and clothing. When someone describes an item as being made from bamboo, they don’t mean it’s now brown in colour and made from twigs tied together. They are referring to bamboo fibre.
Interestingly, bamboo fibre is not 100% bamboo plant. A good manufacturer will use a mix of ground white bamboo fibre powder mixed with corn fiber and resin. This should be 60% bamboo fibre, 25% corn fibre and 15% resin. However, there are suppliers who will use almost no bamboo fibre in their production. At first glance, it looks a lot like plastic and is used to make traditionally plastic products such as lunch boxes, salad bowls, cups and jugs.
But how can we manufacture using bamboo fibre to make these types of products?
Despite being an alternative to plastic, the technique for manufacturing using bamboo fibre is closer to silicone than it is to plastic; a machine is used to compress the bamboo fibre mix, resulting in a completed product!
This process is relatively simple but does put restriction on the size and shape of items which can be made using bamboo:
- Firstly, a pre-calculated amount of bamboo fibre mix is loaded onto the machine.
- The machine then drops, compressing the powder with heat for a period of time.
- The compression plate lifts to reveal the formed item.
- After the initial compression when the product is formed, any ready-made prints or decals can be transferred onto the items by compressing it again with the decal.
- After these steps have been completed you need to remove the excess bamboo fibre which is normally done using a file.
The main difference between bamboo compression and silicone compression is that the bamboo is not flexible when it comes out of the machine. But just like silicone, you can only produce certain shapes. The end product is also very brittle meaning it needs to be used for a solid product. If dropped, the fibre will easily crack.
Just like with silicone manufacturing, the compression plates are not as expensive as injection moulds and each mould can carry multiple cavities to decrease production time.
As the raw material is powder, the manufacturing environment is often extremely dusty. This means quality control and cleaning the items is a vital step and something that our factory partners know a great deal about.
If you are interested in exploring bamboo fibre products and production, please give us a call for a free consultation.