Processing

Developing the Future: Sunstrand is Making Construction Greener
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by Matthew Van Deventer

 

Kentucky-based fiber manufacturer Sunstrand is taking product development into their own hands. 

The company originally focused on processing raw, natural fibers like hemp, kenaf, and bamboo harvested by farmers, working them to the client’s specifications for their own applications. More and more clients went to Sundstrand requesting they develop a proof of concept asking, “Can we offset a traditional synthetic material with our material,” said Patrick Flaherty, a seasoned mechanical engineer and Sunstrand’s director of product development. “So, we’ll play around in the lab.” 

Last December, they started looking at a variety of products they could start developing themselves, ones that would be widely accepted, yet cost effective while still utilizing hemp. They narrowed those down to about six ideas and are planning to launch two of them in the next year, a hemp hurd board and hemp insulation. 

While the two products aren’t necessarily party conversation, they do represent the longtime dream of a fringe industry nearing the mainstream by making quality, everyday hemp products. 

Flaherty says they start off “tensile testing” new products or performing small, basic pressure tests on them to get an understanding of what they need to do next with that product.

“Our whole goal was to meet or beat the existing products out there,” said Flaherty regarding the hurd board. They could have just made any slipshod job of a hemp hurd board because what it’s made of can be harvested every 90 days, as opposed to wood, which is harvested after decades of growth. So even a mediocre product would still be more environmentally friendly. But Sundstrand isn’t into mediocrity. 

Flaherty continued, “But we still have to meet or beat performance metrics. You don’t want to buy it because it’s hemp, you want to buy it because it has value. So we want to make sure it does that.”. 

The hemp-hurd board, which is scheduled to be released in the last quarter of the year, is about 35 pounds and has a “real neat texture,” according to Flaherty. It is competitive in strength and thickness and could be used in building structures, but the four-foot by eight-foot board won’t be cost effective right now at $100 each. It will, however, be comparable to other decorative wall boards on the market or could be used as substrate—walling other materials can be attached to—or used for sound mitigation. 

Their other product they chose to focus on is a hemp-mat insulation. Again, it will be competitive with  other natural-material insulation rolls a builder could put between two-by-fours to insulate a house. Small green builders more apt to spend a little extra for sustainable products will be their target market until their cost point meets the demands of larger box retailers.  

You won’t see it on the shelves next to the fiberglass rolls, “but eventually it could fit on the shelf right next to the other stuff, because currently the cotton shoddy stuff [fits there] as well,” said Flaherty. The R-13 insulation, the value you’ll find at Home Depot or Lowe’s, will come in eight-foot rolls, three inches thick, and 16 inches wide. They expect to release it the first quarter of next year. 

“We narrowed it down to the hurd-board and the insulation basically because no one else is doing it or people have done it in the past but weren’t successful with it, and we felt with our expertise we could be,” noted Flaherty. 

They’ll also be releasing a hemp spray application that can be used in existing fiberglass chopper guns. The device chops up fiberglass material to be sprayed onto surfaces. It creates that web-like surface on things like bathtubs, hot tubs, boats and recreational vehicles. 

Flaherty says an aerospace company is interested in using the hemp spray-up for their tooling — molds that help make other composite parts. Because it’s made out of hemp, more of the material can be sprayed on without making the finished piece too heavy. ♦

 

Biorefinery Technology Developer PureVision To Pursue Industrial Hemp Biorefining—Creates PureHemp
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FORT LUPTON, Colo. – March 12, 2015 – PureVision Technology, Inc., a Colorado-based biorefinery technology developer, announced today that it has formed a subsidiary company to promote and develop industrial hemp biorefineries.

The subsidiary, PureHemp Technology LLC, has obtained exclusive rights to the PureVision biorefining technology for processing industrial hemp into traditional and never-before-produced products.

On behalf of PureHemp, PureVision is conducting a robust pre-commercialization program—using its laboratories and pilot plant and a milestone-based approach—to target a path to profitable commercial-scale hemp biorefineries.

PureVision’s patented refining technology takes in raw biomass—like corn stalks, wheat straw, or, in PureHemp’s case, industrial hemp—and produces sugars, pulp, and lignin for making hundreds of bio-products.  PureVision’s process has advanced from proof of concept, to bench scale, to an operating one-half-ton-per-day continuous pilot plant at the company’s Fort Lupton headquarters.

The company has processed many different biomass feedstocks for global clients, most recently conducting initial trials on industrial hemp.

“The PureHemp initiative offers new business opportunities for farmers, end-product manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and investors,” said Carl Lehrburger, a PureVision and PureHemp cofounder.

“The PureVision technology offers an entirely new way to process industrial hemp into consumer and industrial products,” he said.

“In Colorado, Oregon, and the 19 other states permitted to grow industrial hemp, we’re seeing increasing awareness and interest by farmers and skyrocketing demand for hemp-based products.  Emerging products include food supple­ments and sweeteners, specialty chemicals, papers and tissues, plastics, lightweight composites, and the many other products that can be sustainably made from the hemp plant.”

Presently, nearly all the hemp seeds, oil, and fiber imported to the United States are from countries like Canada and China.

Current practices of cultivating and harvesting industrial hemp result in significant underutilization of the whole plant.  The traditional applications of industrial hemp are fiber for rope and textiles, pulp for paper, and seeds for oils for food products and animal feed.  Once fiber and seeds are removed, the remainder of the plant is often underutilized.

PureHemp plans to revolutionize the existing global hemp industry by uniquely converting more of the plant to value-added raw materials and products.  New products that can be produced from industrial hemp include beverages, plastics, chemicals, and sweeteners.

“The emergence of a new generation of hemp products, along with the U.S. trend toward legalizing industrial hemp cultivation, are driving forces behind the creation of PureHemp,” Lehrburger said.

For additional information, visit: www.PureHempTech.com and www.PureVisionTechnology.com.

About PureHemp Technology

A wholly owned subsidiary of PureVision Technology LLC, PureHemp Technology LLC’s mission is to commercialize PureVision’s biorefinery technology for converting industrial hemp to sugars, lignin, pulp, and many hemp-based products.  Industrial hemp is the world's premier renewable resource, approximately four times richer in biomass/cellulose per acre than nearest rivals: corn stalks, sugarcane, kenaf.  The 2014 Farm Bill allowed pilot programs of hemp cultivation by universities and agencies in states where hemp is legal: 10 at the time including Colorado, and now 21.  The bill defines industrial hemp as Cannabis sativa L. “with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis."  By contrast, marijuana—a variety of the same plant—has THC levels of five to 20 percent.  Canada lifted its ban on industrial hemp in 1998; now, a billion-dollar industry there and a growing piece of worldwide annual production, approximately 123 million pounds in 2014.

About PureVision Technology

PureVision Technology, Inc. is developing an advanced biorefining technology platform for converting nonfood biomass—straw, corn husks, industrial hemp—to biomaterials like sugar, pulp, and lignin for producing bio-based consumer and industrial products.  Bio-based products from PureVision sugars include ethanol, polymers, and biodegradable/renewable plastics.  Value-added co-products from the unique PureVision lignin biomaterial include carbon fiber for making lightweight composites.  Nonfood biomass, or cellulosic biomass, refers to wood, grasses, or the inedible parts of plants.  Cellulose and lignin are the most common organic (carbon-containing) compounds on earth.  Based in Fort Lupton, Colorado, PureVision Technology was founded in 1992 to develop technologies for refining cellulosic biomass.  The company remains privately held and is led by its three founders: Ed Lehrburger, Richard Wingerson, and Carl Lehrburger.

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