Development of a New Material Based on Banana Fibre for Rapid Manufacturing Technologies.

Natural banana fibre on a polyurethane matrix acts a reinforcement of the properties of the material, at the time as a renewable resource is used.

The blend of organic materials with polymers is an alternative to increase the capacity of degradation of plastics while reducing their environmental impact. Moreover, depending on the processing technology, they can substantially change the mechanical characteristics of the final product, like resistance, for example.
The University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, within the IBE-RM Project framework, has been the organization responsible for this development, which consists in the reinforcement of polymeric pieces by means of vacuum casting with fibre obtained from banana trees cultivate in the Canary Islands.
Vacuum casting is a method employed in the rapid manufacturing (RM) industry for the achievement of both prototypes and final goods, in a short period of time comparing with other kinds of technologies. This procedure is based on the employment of silicon moulds achieved from a produced model, as for example, by means of Rapid Prototyping technologies, for the production of small series of pieces. The resins employed in this work are located in vacuum conditions, in a proportion determined by the manufacturer, where a chemical reaction occurs between the two components forming the resin.
Banana fibre acts as a reinforcement of those materials. The advantage of employing natural fibres consists in the decrease of their weight, as well as the increase of the mechanical properties (stiffness and tensile strength) of the pieces achieved.
Asunción Martinez, manager of the SP3 refered to the development of new materials for those technologies, declares "Composites require the introduction of cohesive and reinforcement components. These additives change the mechanical properties of the materials substantially and, according to the processing technology, the characteristics of the final product. These properties have been established as one of the industrial requirements and, consequently, it is a relevant field to be developed, in addition to research and the production of new types of materials and the variation of material already available referring to size and grain distribution, purity and quality levels, alloys, etc., regarding to the requirements previously determined".
The results accomplished so far show that there is a potential use of this fibre as a reinforcement of polymeric pieces obtained by vacuum casting, although as far as IBE-RM project is developed, research in this field will continue.

RM technologies allow the achievement of prototypes or final pieces with a high level of personalization and complex geometry, starting from the continuous deposition of layers of polymeric or metallic material.
The IBE-RM project is challenged to develop a RM technology MADE IN SPAIN. For that purpose, the consortium is formed by 27 partners between enterprises, Universities and Technological Centres.
Research is carried out in three action fronts: the development of RM technologies, the development of materials and the implementation of TICs in productive processes.
The project's leader is the Ascamm Foundation, a TECNIO member, the network created by ACC1Ã" that includes expert agents in Technological Transfer in Catalonia. AIJU is the leader of SP3, referring to the development of materials.
The project is expected to last until 2012 with a budget of 3,3 million Euros for the first two years. This project is partially funded by the Science and Innovation Ministry as well as the European Union within the Operative Program for R+D+I and on the SME's benefit (Technological Found) by FEDER (Expedient PSE-020000-2009-1).
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