||Committee Solicits Input for Flax Standard
A task group of ASTM Subcommittee D13.17 on Flax and Linen Products seeks participation from academia,
government, and industry as it develops a Standard Test Method
for Assessing Clean Flax Fiber Fineness.
Assessing clean-flax fiber fineness according to the proposed
ASTM standard will help users to avoid processing difficulties
because the content of flax products will be defined prior to
purchase, according to the task group chair, Jonn Foulk, Category
1 scientist and agricultural engineer, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Research Service (ARS), Clemson, S.C.
This doesnt happen now because U.S. standard procedures for marketing
for flax fibers havent been established, Foulk said. The problem
is further complicated because most flax fiber is imported to
the U.S. for industrial uses ranging from textiles, to composites,
to paper. U.S. industries that use flax fibers are dependent
upon brokers to subjectively determine the quality of these fibers,
he explained. Despite the fact that globally the U.S. is the
largest per-capita consumer of flax fiber, little flax is grown
for fiber in the U.S. and most fiber for textiles and composites
is imported. Major technical problems associated with establishing
a flax fiber industry in the U.S. are the efficiency of harvest
methods, fiber extraction and refinement, and the lack of standards
for judging fiber quality.
Flax fiber requires different standards than cotton, he continued,
due to the composite nature of flax (flax is natures composite
with bundles of elemental or ultimate flax fibers bound together
with natural resins). These standards would be used in the same
manner as cotton to streamline fiber marketing using objective
According to a draft method proposed by the task group, problems
occur during cleaning and processing, because fiber bundles can
be further separated and/or shortened, and may or may not be fibrillated
on one or both ends.
Fibers of varying fineness (fiber and fiber bundle diameter)
affect the speed of processing, Foulk said. If a bale of flax
has a known fineness, processing equipment can be adjusted accordingly.
Different fineness levels may indicate different industrial purposes
or processing equipment modifications that are currently unknown
due to the lack of standards and US marketing system.
The task group includes specialists in microbiology, agronomy
and mechanization, and representatives of a Canadian commission
working in partnership with the flax industry and allied-agricultural
organizations. The group hopes their standard will allow the profitable
transformation of flax straw into a range of value-added components,
including fibers for textile and non-textile uses, Foulk said.
To participate in this activity or comment, contact Jonn Foulk at the USDA ARS, Clemson, S.C. (phone: 864/656-2488). ASTM Committee
D13 meets Oct. 13-16 in Norfolk, Va. For meeting or membership
details, contact Maxine Topping, manager, ASTM Technical Committees (phone: 610/832-9737). //
Copyright 2002, ASTM