End of life
Photo by Paul van de Velde
DuoLin is a continuous exploration to create biocomposites to replace standard toxic materials used at the moment in the sport equipment industry. The focus has been specifically on the use of flax, with each step as a continuation from the previous exploration, building a constellation of experimental design research.
Each investigation goal has been set on progress breakthroughs: to find better performance, create circularity and develop compatible processes. From the beginning, the research series has been built on the expertise of organisations, as well as producers and suppliers such as CELC Masters of Linen and Bcomp. This knowledge with Design enables us to juxtapose centuries-old knowledge with cutting edge material innovations.
Flax, or linseed is a renewable resource. It grows abundantly in many climates in only 100 days, sequestering carbon and enriching the soil. From the seed to the stem and even the resin, every part of the plant can be used.
For thousands of years, fibres from the stem have been used to make linen fabric. These naturally straight fibers are two to three times as strong as cotton. Flax also needs far less water and pesticide than cotton, making it a more sustainable crop, both environmentally and economically.. Seed oil or mucus (Mucilage) extracted from the plant seed can be processed into sophisticated biopolymers to one day replace the toxic, non-renewable materials in wide use currently.
From seed to resin, plant to fibre – all parts of the flax plant transformed and used. The proposed developments in products can now improve a whole sector: with bicycle helmet and saddle, modular frame constructions, to fully bio-based sports equipment and automotive applications.
There are increasing advantages in using environmentally and human friendly fibres like flax, from agricultural growth to reduced water and energy consumption, renewable non-hazardous fibres, compatibility with modern manufacturing processes, and for fully circular, bio-based products.
In the context of creating a 100% flax bike helmet, we conducted a hands-on exploration of the different parts of the flax plant to determine how a diversity of material types can be created. In this initial research we manually transformed different raw parts of the plant to create the conceptual helmet; from the woven fabric strap, the protective foam from resin, to the structural bio-composite shell.
As a participant of the ‘BRIDGE’ (Building Research In Developing Green Economies), cross-Channel eco cluster project, we had the chance to connect with different companies in their initial explorations with flax. Design and material exploration with partnerships across industries, encourages growth in new businesses based around this renewable resource.
From the understanding of these materials, we began the search for performance. We explored the possibility of replacing the toxic material with manufactured flax fibre textiles. Experimenting with different layering and geometries, we found a solution that was a durable and flexible alternative to leather.
Taking into consideration the inherent flexibility of the material, we found the industry that could allow a right balance between performance, cost and aesthetics. Our goal for this bike frame was to create an innovative production process with the potential of integrating the new composite with an economy of scale.
With the challenge of reducing the tooling cost of bike frames, we created an innovative modular construction method: a single shape of tube that can be multiplied at different points of a bike frame. The new shape creates strong mechanical properties, providing performance, efficiency and comfort. The lightweight frame offers similar strength as a carbon equivalent, with the advantage that flax absorbs vibrations. Different sized frames can be created without the need of multiple frame moulds, and high volume production of a sole tube profile is more cost effective.
A critical design and iterative development approach has helped us understand the potential and shortcomings of the material, allowing us to understand in which scenarios it could be outstanding against carbon fibres. We decided to focus on winter sports with Baked, reducing the climate impact of sports equipment. You can read more about the latest stage of research in the Baked project here.