2011-12-15_textilArmering_johanReinforcement made of textiles may appear strange to veterans of the construction business. Johan Forsberg, designer at Forsberg Form, has, however, advanced one step closer to the future. In a company-driven Smart Textiles project conducted in collaboration with the CBI Swedish Cement and Concrete Research Institute, Johan has developed a recipe for concrete where textile reinforcement is one of the constituents.

Johan Forsberg runs Forsberg Form and manufactures interior decoration products such as grandfather’s clocks, tables and wall sculptures in concrete. Many people in Sweden are probably familiar with his design, since his grandfather’s clock “Urbild” is visible behind the hosts of the TV4 program Nyhetsmorgon as it is one of the props in the studio.

However, concrete is a difficult material to work with and its considerable weight is the foremost problem. This is partly due to the material in itself, but also because holding it together requires steel reinforcement.

– I contacted Smart Textiles a few years ago because I wanted to know if there was any knowledge about textile reinforcement to be gained. It turned out there was no research done and all of a sudden we had a project going, says Johan Forsberg.

Carbon fibers and glass fibers

While Johan Forsberg concentrated on how textile reinforcement influence design, researchers Carsten Vogt and Katarina Malaga at the CBI experimented and tested various recipes for textile reinforced concrete. The textile reinforcement consists mainly of carbon fibers or glass fibers and textile fabric.
– It is a difficult process because we have to optimize the material and find the perfect recipe with exactly the right size and mix of fibers. And we have succeeded, Katarina Malaga observes.

2011-11-15_textilArmering_armering

The image shows an example of a high performance concrete where glass fibers are part of the reinforcement. To further increase tensile strength, the concrete has been reinforced with a carbon fiber net.

For the construction business – with the times

Katrina Malaga is one of few in Sweden who researches textile reinforcement and she hopes research in the field will attract more investments in the future.
– There is great potential in being able to apply this research to the construction business. Practical uses of textile reinforcement include the non-load bearing parts of a house, e.g. the outer section of a so called sandwich panel. Today, such a panel is eight to twelve centimeters thick. With textile reinforcement, the facade panel can be reduced to a mere two to four centimeters.

She observes that there is much to gain by textile reinforcement, e.g. reductions on material consumption and weight and, hence, less transportation.
– Research in Sweden is far behind that of e.g. Germany, where research in this field has been conducted for ten years.

2011-11-15_textilArmering_bordHalf the material

For the purposes of Johan Forsberg’s work, however, the material is already a reality and he is very satisfied with the result.
– I required textile reinforcement to be able to introduce a slimmer design for my products and that is what I have today. We use the material for one of our tables and we have been able to considerably reduce the thickness of the table top. It weighs about half as much now and I cannot make it thinner without affecting the design of the table.

The image to the right shows the table Skärva, where the table top weighs only half of what it did before, thanks to textile reinforcement.

Written by: Therese Rosenblad
Photo of fibres: Henrik Bengtsson
Photo of table: Forsberg Form
Portrait photo: Therese Rosenblad