What Led to the Invention of Fiberwood’s Material?

As Fiberwood´s name suggests, our roots delve deep into the Finnish coniferous forest and draw inspiration from a long tradition of wood processing and research expertise. At the heart of our innovation is a pioneering foam-forming technology developed in a Finnish research laboratory. This technology enables us to create safe insulation and packaging materials for people and the environment, using forest industry by-products and other natural fibres.

The catalysts for this innovation were Finnish visionaries who questioned the traditional use of materials, saw opportunities for more resource-efficient use of raw materials, and always considered the interests of future generations. Most importantly, they did not give up after the initial “no, no, no” responses.

Part 1: Foam-Forming Technology at the Heart of Innovation

Peat, moss, pine needles – even onion skins. The opponent’s face had started to redden slightly. What raw material couldn’t be applied to the foam technology developed by the doctoral candidate?

In May 2017, a doctoral defence at Aalto University’s Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems discussed Karita Kinnunen-Raudaskoski‘s dissertation, “Foam as a Carrier Phase – a Multipurpose Technology for Industrial Applications.” At the time, Karita was a former Senior Researcher at VTT and co-founder and current CTO of Paptic Oy.

Karita’s research began over a decade earlier at the Central Laboratory KCL, driven by the need to develop a new type of paper. Using traditional methods, it seemed impossible to apply a microfibrillated cellulose coating made from ground mechanical pulp. Then it hit Karita: what if the coating material was applied as foam?

Part 2: From Sawdust to Rigid Board

At the same time, the Pitkälä brothers from Muurame, Jukka and Jyri, were thinking about how traditional sawdust could be used in modern construction. This pure natural product was abundant as a by-product of the forestry industry, but a significant amount was being burned for energy.

Their company, Vipura Oy, manufactured wooden houses, and they wanted to replace mineral wool and plastic insulation with an ecological alternative. However, a known challenge was the compaction of loose sawdust over decades, causing the structure above windows and at the roofline to start leaking. What if sawdust could be processed into a rigid board using an ecological method and thus used as insulation throughout the house?

Part 3: Taking an Idea to Fly with Business Know-How

The parties continued their pioneering work separately. The Pitkälä brothers developed their material idea through a customer project with VTT, investigating how to form sawdust into a cohesive board. Based on these VTT-commissioned projects, Fiberwood was established in 2019, and a patent application was filed.

New board members Juho Kivioja and Tage Johansson brought crucial development and business expertise to the company. Juho became Chairman of the Board, and Tage took on the role of CEO. The duo drove the development work forward with the necessary additional resources. Tage, an experienced developer of technology start-ups, accelerated the process. After successful FFF and angel funding rounds and positive test results, Fiberwood was ready to move forward and hire its first employees.

Part 4: A Well-Timed Collision

One person knew another, and eventually, in January 2022, Karita’s phone rang. The caller was Tage, who believed foam technology was the way to achieve the desired goals. Thus, a few months later, Fiberwood began its active product and process development, supported by Karita and a mechanical engineering specialist familiar with foam-forming technology.

The development gained further momentum when Karita’s former VTT colleague, Jani Lehmonen, who had also defended his thesis on foam-forming at Aalto University, joined Fiberwood in February 2023.

Part 5: From Forest Industry Leftovers to Fossil Material Challenger

Fiberwood’s development work and expertise were well received by the market. There is a vast demand for fossil-free and natural insulation and packaging materials, and the company began product development projects with its first customers. As the founders had anticipated, the technology and material were suitable for various applications.

The result is that Fiberwood now has a new type of 100% recyclable material made from wood and other natural fibres using novel technology. This material is challenging traditional mineral wool, foam plastics and much more.

And the story is just beginning.

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