Finland a forerunner in cellulose-based design products


The combination of strong design competence and cutting-edge cellulose-based technologies could soon result in new commercially successful brands. VTT, Aalto University and Tampere University of Technology have launched an extensive cellulose-based design product research project aiming to create new business models and commercial ecosystems in Finland.

The joint research project is called Design Driven Value Chains in the World of Cellulose (DWoC). The objective is to develop cellulose-based products suitable for technical textiles and consumer products. The technology could also find use in the pharmaceutical, food and automotive industries. Another objective is to build a new business ecosystem and promote spin-offs.

The project combines Finnish design competence with cutting-edge technological development, and makes use of the special characteristics of cellulose to create products that incorporate the best qualities of materials such as cotton and polyester. Product characteristics, achieved by using new manufacturing technologies and nanocellulose as a structural fibre element, include recyclability and one-off production.

VTT has developed an industrial process that produces yarn from cellulose fibres without the spinning process, as well as efficient applications of the foam forming method for manufacturing materials that resemble fabric. A future combination of these methods will enable the efficient production of individual fibre structures and textile products, even with 3D printing.

Projects are currently under way with the objective of replacing wet spinning with extrusion technology. The purpose is to develop fabric manufacturing methods that replace several stages of weaving and knitting without losing key characteristics, such as the way the textile hangs.

The current share of textile industry raw material taken by regenerated cellulose fibres is a meagre six per cent. By regenerating Finland's current logging surplus (25–30 million cubic metres/year) into fibre, equating to approximately 5–6 million tons, it would be possible to replace 20% of the world's cotton. A corresponding fall in cotton production would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 120–150 million tons, and free farming land to grow enough food to feed 18–25 million people. Desertification would also be decreased by approximately 10 per cent.

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