I recently bought some materials from Lee Valley Tools, and they were looking for feedback. Few of their customers are materials science and engineering people, so it wasn't surprising that they didn't think highly of my suggestion.
People bend wood. And often, they need to machine the wood after bending it.
If the wood is wood, people have been doing this for a long time and there is no problem.
A person could choose to lay up natural fibres (jute, kenaf, flax, ...) in a "green" epoxy. The advantage being, that the grain follows the curve desired by design.
Most people who might want to take advantage of such a thing, don't want to build the thing from scratch.
For me, epoxy (green resin and green hardener) is the only choice, green resin and non-green hardener is more available.
PLA might be an alternative to epoxy in terms of making this kind of "wood". I've seen a MechE talking about using styrene with PLA in a thesis, but I don't think this is where anyone wants to go.
But do people think about how to produce materials which look like wood and act like wood, but aren't wood? Or in this case, are designed to behave like wood machines in a straight direction, when the tool is not traversing a straight direction.
I have to describe myself as a skeptic when it comes to the idea you have proposed.
With that being said I am certainly open to the idea of using new materials. The wood products industry would certainly benefit from innovation in material science. By that I mean something that is new. Not just a new ultralight MDF panel or niche product for architects to drool over.
I do have my doubts.
If you are able to develop this into a workable solution, I would like to see proof that produces results that are aesthetic, efficient, and cost effective.
I have first hand experience that tells me steam bending, and bent lamination work very well. I don't think I would want to mold parts that could easily be laminated, steamed, or CNC machined unless I had an artistic, or structural reason to do so.
Finally to go on a rant the meaning of the term "green" has certainly been degraded due to frequent use as a go to marketing catch phrase. In other words very few products actually are environmentally friendly. Wood from trees when harvested responsibly happens to be as "green" as you can get. I cringe every time I see another overpriced engineered, or panel product that is marketed as a "green" alternative to plain old tree wood.
I would want to see multiple independent peer reviewed scientific studies that prove that the particular "green epoxy"that you would propose is (1.) significantly better from a health and safety standpoint, and (2.) actually reduces environmental impact in such a way that the benefits outweigh other factors including cost, or decreased performance.
I am not trying to discourage you. Go for it. If you make this work (well) I would like to hear all about it.
We do already have popular products that look like wood, but are not. Some are
Bamboo...it is a grass
"Hardie board" products...cement with maybe 5% fiber
Interior flooring..mostly plastic
Exterior resin boards for decking, boardwalks, etc.
Plastic wood grain laminate on a core such as MDF
Of course, we have lots of wood products that are not lumber.
So, your idea is indeed possible. It is all about money.
Yes, I suppose everything becomes money at some point. That isn't my interest. Sure, it would be nice to have lots of money, but the reason I got into materials science was to develop better materials for society. I had family only interested in chasing a dollar, and at nearly 41 I found out why my life was screwy (autism). But, nearly 12 years later, I am still trying to find how to use all this knowledge in my head, and to make a living. I guess I have to divorce the two in part, do something to make a living, keep looking for ways to apply the knowledge. But getting rich isn't on my TODO list.
In terms of epoxies, I am still trying to find better hardeners. On the resin side, one sometimes sees "evidence" that a resin is sensitizing. But in the case of DGEBA and DGEBF, the possibility that it is excess epiclorohydrin that is sensitizing, and not the resin per se doesn't seem to be answered yet.
I don't think that just because some material has epoxide groups, doesn't necessarily make it sensitizing. But the most recent review I read, was I think 2006, and they didn't even consider epoxidized vegetable oils or free fatty acids in their analysis.
In response to the "green" aspect.
"Green" as has been pointed out, doesn't really mean much except from a marketing point of view.
Take the solar panel business for instance.
sure energy from the sun what could be greener than that? but... there is a tremendous amount of toxic waste created during the manufacture of the panels so could they still really be called "green"?
Now wood is truly an environmentally friendly product when managed correctly.
How many toxic waste products would be produced during the manufacture of the Epoxy and hardeners to make the "green" end product?
I think we need to take a hard look at how we produce products and label them accordingly.
Just my 2 cents.
Good luck and really work at it. who knows perhaps you can come up with a new product that can fill this need.
Just a small point about "green". When referring to epoxy, "green" means partially cured. It's probably best to use a specific word in this case, as marketing bs and material science are off putting bedfellows.
It seems that you are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Or, at least the problem hasn't been fully created yet. In this case the technical problem is still best solved by forest stewardship and traditional skill retention. When those are no longer an option we will all have a different opinion of "green", and won't be so opposed to expensive composite materials. Look to cutting edge surfboard manufacturing; they bailed on wood a while ago. The hot process uses single strand fiber placement within a low resin matrix for super-engineered boards; plant fibers are too variable to have much value here.
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