7. Example projects

Past and present projects regarding the introduction of natural fibre composites (NF composites) in developing countries are discussed in this chapter. These projects can be used as an example for setting up future projects. Already some knowledge is being transferred in past projects and consequently the number of companies in developing countries dealing with natural fibre composites is increasing. Expertise at research institutes is increasing everyday and due to the execution of projects in co-operation with local companies, experience is gained in the development in marketable products.

7.1 Past projects

Rural Industrialisation project India 1998-1999

The Indian Ministry of Small Scale Industries and Agro & Rural Industries started in 1998 a program to develop rural areas by renovating the traditional coir industry. Emphasis was given on fibre processing, machine and product development and service extension. Rural society was trained to increase quality and revenue of the traditional fibre industry by developing new products and machines and expanding the market without the loss of jobs. An inexpensive motorised spinning ratt was used for training and production. The distributed machines produced yarns for the production of for instance geotextile (textile to prevent soil erosion, see figure 7.1.). At the same time enterpreneurship was promoted, aiming at new entrants and educated unemployed from within the rural society. The final part of the program was the promotion of coir products. In the following years export value of coir products raised with 11%.

Coir geotextiles

Although this project isn't about NF composites, it is one of numerous projects searching for new natural fibre based products. In these projects, NF composites are often left out, simply because people are still unaware of the potential natural fibres have to offer as construction materials. Hopefully due this report, NF composites will form a part of every future project searching for new natural fibre applications, or become part of follow-up activities of existing projects.

Low cost water system project, Guatemala

Early 90's, the Centre of Lightweight Structures TUD- TNO, The Netherlands, executed a United Nations project in Guatemala for the local manufacturing of primitive composites. Starting point formed Guatemala's enormous jute resources. With trucks water-soluble resin-powder (modified urea-formaldehyde) was transported to remote areas, where rainwater was used to impregnate the locally manufactured jute textiles, see figure 7.2. Large PVC balloons where used as mandrel to manufacture water tanks and latrines, see figure 7.3. After the project, production of these products for local use continued successfully.

Left: Hand lay up of jute on a PVC balloon - Right: Jute letrine

Vietnam Composites Project 1999

In 1999, the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands) and the International Training Institute of Materials Science (Ministry of Education and Training, Vietnam) initiated a program concerning the transfer of composite technology to Vietnam, the Vietnam Composites Project 1999. This project formed the first step in transferring composite technology to Vietnam with the objective to investigate feasible applications for composites, to establish co-operation with Vietnamese industry and Universities, and to start a training program applying on a group of Vietnamese students. The outcome of this project can be summarised as follows:

Based on the outcome of the pilot-project, a second project is initiated: ABC 2001, see section 7.2.

7.2 Running projects

Applied NF composites 2001, Mission Vietnam

After a pilot-project, mentioned in section 7.1, a second project targeting natural fibre composites for the locale market is initiated in 2001: Applied NF composites 2001, Mission Vietnam (ABC 2001). The final goal of this program is to develop a NF composite industry in Vietnam. The need for this is high since Vietnam's industrial development is being held up by the following phenomenon; to develop a type of industry already existing in her region is more costly than to import products of this same industry from neighbouring countries. With the aforementioned kind of industry, Vietnam will be able to increase her export capabilities resulting in a strengthening of her economic and technological position being a property consequently stimulating the entire region. Involved parties are the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands) and the International Training Institute of Materials Science (Ministry of Education and Training, Vietnam).

ABC 2001 structure

On short term, the knowledge on various manufacturing technologies will be increased up to a sufficient high level for Vietnam to develop its own low-cost composites and to become a valuable companion for further research in co-operation with Delft University of Technology and local industry. For the latter, a student and Ph.D.-candidate exchange program will be initiated and local industry will be approached. Manufacturing of suitable natural fibre composites for the local market will start on the plantations, with the aim to raise demand for these fibres and to improve the situation of the small-scale producers of this part of the agricultural society. In the wake of the increasing knowledge a regulatory institution has to be erected. Gradually expanding the market for the natural fibre towards a national and possibly international size, the long-term goal will be achieved: A Vietnamese self-sustaining full grown composite industry incorporating design, manufacturing and trading of NF composites guarded by regulations and an international co-operating educational system to pass on and increase knowledge. Although in modern countries the composite is a Hi-Tech industrial branch, small-scale farmers are targeted, forming an important pillar of the Vietnamese composite industry.

Before any technology is actually transferred a workshop (i) will be organised in Vietnam in the beginning of 2002, see figure 7.4. Participants will consist of experts of The Netherlands and Vietnam in the field of composites, natural fibres, economics and development aid, completed by representatives of the Vietnamese government, industry and agriculture. The aim is to discuss the best way for the technology transfer, consequently maximising efficiency. Based on the outcome of this workshop the first field projects (ii) can be prepared. The aim is to start courses in Vietnam at the end of 2002. The project will run for 3 to 4 years.

Sisal: Agriculture business in north-eastern of Brazil

In 2002, a project will be executed by SEBRAE (Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas) in Rio Grande Do Norte, Paraiba and Bahia in the north-east of Brazil. The main objective of this project is to obtain new sisal fiber applications with increased added value. The focus areas are geo-textiles and composites for the automotive industry and civil building. Besides the design of the related products, bringing them to the market forms an important project part. Main beneficiaries are rural population in producing areas in Brazil. This population will get the follow benefits: (i) new jobs; (ii) technological procedures; (iii) new market opportunities.

Composite Applications using Coir Fibres in Sri Lanka

In an era where natural fibre based products gain increasing market acceptance, the coir industry in Sri Lanka seems to loose international market share. Very limited break through and value added products have been internationally launched in the past decades from Sri Lanka. In order to increase the market penetration of coir in the present industries, and also to penetrate new industries, in addition to traditional products, new and innovative technologies are needed.

The present project aims to assess the suitability of coir fibre for the use in presently available composite technologies and thereby determine the potential for marketable products. It is hoped that in this project a real synergy between applied R&D and International Marketing orientation will lead to commercially acceptable results. This project is an initiative of:

Sri Lanka: Jafferjee Brothers - Zylyon International b.v., Hayleys Group, The Industrial Technology Institute (ITI)
The Netherlands: Delft University of Technology

Sisal Fibres from Madagascar in New Composite Applications

Sisal fibre is grown in large quantities on Madagascar. Applications are cordage, ropes, car-interior panels, geo-textile and paper. Today, two problems are faced: these sisal products are loosing their market to artificial materials, and secondly, sisal is mainly exported as raw material with very low added value. Component manufacture takes place outside Madagascar (Europe) Competition with other sisal suppliers is strong and profits are low.

With the right know-how on processing technologies, sisal composites can easily be introduced in developing countries without the need of large investments. At the Delft University three of those low-investment technologies have developed, being the vacuum injection technique, LFT pressing and filament winding. These techniques will be further optimised for sisal fibre composites, resulting in directly applicable products. The new applications that sisal composites can offer and the fact that components instead of raw material can be exported will both have a positive impact on the competitiveness of sisal. Besides Delft University of Technology also SIFOR, Societe du Sisal Malgache, Domain Pechpeyrou, Antananarivo University, the Malagasy Institute of Technology and Syndicat de Producteurs de Sisal de Madagascar are involved.