Structural material from cellulose fibres: design-driven research case

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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127 + 6
Innovative wood-based biomaterials can be seen as a strategic asset for Finland, both from economic and environmental perspectives. Pioneering research programmes such as FinnCERES are positioning the country at the cutting edge of global forest material innovation, targeting novel material solutions with advanced properties and efficient manufacturing technologies. Simultaneously, the contribution of design gradually increases in the field of material research. Design transforms from a separate practice into a valuable component of a collaborative approach. Multiple recent projects have exhibited the potential of design to accelerate scientific innovation of wood-based materials. This thesis describes a design-driven case of applied research focused on wood-based fibre materials. It provides a detailed description of an experimental process leading to a structured approach that facilitates interdisciplinary material development. The study is practice-based, and focuses on the development of foam-formed structures from cellulose fibres. Previous research of new foam forming technology indicates a unique property of precision in surface texture. Building upon this discovery, an attempt was made to produce a structural material composed of millimetre-scale units by a combination of geometrical design and the understanding of cellulose fibre interactions. The research was performed as an iterative process composed of five cycles. Each cycle consists of a series of practical experiments focusing on the development of material structures via prototyping. The experiments included design of foam-formed structures, and qualitative assessment and mechanical testing of the prototypes. Improved understanding of the materials and manufacturing process was obtained through observation and analysis of the experiments, which was transformed into new concepts during collaborative ideation. Interdisciplinary collaboration between material scientists and designer resulted in combined expertise that is at the core of the iterative approach. The outcome of iterative exploration is expressed in structural material prototypes with improved technical properties and appealing perceptual characteristics. The prototypes demonstrate the feasibility of foam forming as a mean of production for cellulosic materials with increased compressive strength and reduced density. Correspondingly, the obtained visual and associative material properties provide a new perspective on fibre materials and an engaging experience for future users. This material has potential for further development into lightweight applications that can become alternatives to fossil-derived products. The detailed description of the process showcases the benefits of interdisciplinary methods in materials development and provides the background needed for future research.
Kääriäinen, Pirjo
Thesis advisor
Kääriäinen, Pirjo
material design, interdisciplinary research, cellulose fibres, foam forming technology, structural material, iterative development process
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