25 Februar 2005

A world first at ZOW 2005: New lightweight board made of hemp from Resopal

Following a development period of almost two years, Resopal is presenting Germany’s first lightweight construction board made from hemp at ZOW 2005 under the “Cannabis Excellent” product label. Coated with RESOPAL®, the eco-friendly product becomes an attractive option economically. It also offers advantages in terms of processing and application. The hemp board has less than half the weight of conventional particleboard and provides better insulating properties on account of its lower density. The advantages of its lower weight become all the more apparent the thicker the board needs to be.

The hemp board is naturally free from formaldehyde emissions. It is easy to coat for postforming, trim, edge and screw-fix. “Cannabis Excellent” can be worked using conventional carpentry methods and with comparatively little effort.

Whereas on its own the hemp board is still uneconomical and expensive, it becomes a competitive and marketable option when coated with RESOPAL®. Uncoated, the hemp board currently comes in at a cost some three times higher than that of conventional particleboard. With the Resopal coating, it is only about 20 per cent more expensive than comparable conventional products. Given the benefits that are offered in terms of transport and handling as well as the trend towards ever increasing worktop thicknesses, Resopal sees a real chance of getting “Cannabis Excellent” accepted and established on the market, particularly since its low weight helps to cut costs at all downstream processing stages.

Hemp makes a comeback

Hemp was regarded as a profitable plant as long ago as the 30s, particularly in the US. It can be used to produce almost everything from food, clothing textiles and medicines to building materials, energy and technical products. A new method using hemp again to make paper was to save the forests. However, the anti-drug frenzy surrounding Cannabis Marihuana led to the industrial plant being outlawed across the country with consequences throughout the globe. Only once the events of that time had been analysed scientifically and published in the 80’s did hemp make a return. In Germany, the ban on growing agricultural hemp, which contains almost no psychoactive substances, was lifted in 1996. In the established industrial setting, however, hemp is finding it difficult to regain the status it once enjoyed.

Created by accident

The innovative “Cannabis Excellent” hemp board is the result of a development partnership marked by chance and involving several companies. In addition to laminate board manufacturer Resopal, these mainly include particle board manufacturer Valentin from the Kosche Group in Much near Cologne, HAV NafiTech GmbH and, with them, the Möller Group in Bielefeld. As a car components supplier, the latter is also using increasing quantities of hemp fibre because compression-moulded parts reinforced with hemp fibre mat for car interior claddings are shown to exhibit better qualities, a better energy balance and better impact behaviour than parts reinforced in the conventional way with fibreglass.

The hemp fibres removed from the stalk by HAV NafiTech for the automotive industry leave dried woody hemp particles, so-called shives, that Valentin compresses to make high-quality hemp board. This is then surface-finished by Resopal.

Perfect ecological balance

In ecological terms, hemp is associated with highly positive properties during the growing cycle. In practice, hemp grows without fertilisers and pesticides. The plant requires a vegetation period of only three to four months in which time it manages to put on up to four metres of growth. It suppresses weeds and, with appropriate crop rotation, even pests. The hemp plant grows long taproots that bring about a deep loosening of the soil and make ploughing unnecessary. Organic residue from leaves and roots enrich the soil’s humus content after cultivation. As hemp is not sown until April or May and harvested as early as August, plenty of time is left for growing winter grain and crops. Involving very little work on the growing and harvesting side, hemp is as profitable as wheat. As a regenerative raw material, hemp grows many times faster than trees and can also be processed using less energy.

Cultivation and processing demand short distances as the voluminous hemp straw incurs high transport costs and can only be exploited economically in the proximity of the growing region. This means that hemp grown within the country is protected from cheaper imports and is thus detached from the expected rise in raw-material prices.

Benefits to landscape and farming

Stepping up the cultivation of hemp would offer new perspectives to regional agriculture, to the landscape and, not least, the Germany as a host to industry. It would provide a relevant alternative to overproduction on traditional food markets as well as an alternative to the socially illogical and economically senseless set-aside compensation payments for regulating growing quantities. The cultivation of hemp preserves and cultivates the landscape, eases the strain on resources and helps to protect the climate.

The effective alternative

It is in combination with hemp board that the strengths of RESOPAL® come to bear as the coating meets most of the demands placed on a board material. This makes “Cannabis Excellent” an alternative and convincing solution wherever weight matters, i.e. in transportation, handling, processing and installation. What’s more, the Resopal coating leaves all options open from the aspect of aesthetics.

Source: Marketing + PR-Service Wilfried Wadsack GmbH vom 2005-02-24.

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