Structural Biocomposites Builds for the Future


Structural BioComposites (SBC) of Rotterdam, New York, is a startup that’s developing tree-free alternatives to traditional forest service products. Founder T.J. Fiala believes that his company’s products could revolutionize the construction industry and help reduce global deforestation. SBC’s industrial hemp lumber (IHL) will consist of a suite of engineering composite products ranging from traditional sheet goods to high-performance structural members for buildings.

Currently, SBC is developing a product called HemPLY that can be used instead of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) for applications such as roof decking, subflooring, and wall sheathing. HemPLY will integrate seamlessly with standard construction materials and support the use of traditional carpentry tools. Compared to traditional plywood or OSB, HemPLY is stronger, more uniform, and more fire resistant. It’s also impervious to fungus and insects.

With the FuzeHub grant, SBC was able to hire the necessary talent to perform the materials characteristics testing to optimize the strength of the product and bring down the fabrication costs to make it viable for the open market.
T.J. Fiala

The Challenge

SBC needed funds to fabricate test samples, purchase testing equipment, and retain the services of an expert who could analyze the data from material characteristics testing. The company also needed to determine the financial viability of its prototype concept and establish the necessary fabrication parameters for a high-speed continuous product line.

The Solution

CITEC Business Solutions, the North Country’s NY MEP Center, applied for and received a 2023 Manufacturing Grant in partnership with SBC. This $50,000 award from FuzeHub’s Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund covered all the required testing costs, including parts to build their own in-house testing equipment. The award also covered the cost of hiring a composites expert with 40 years of experience. The project involved testing a multi-part hemp composite with the familiar 1/2” cross-section of 4’x8′ sheet goods. This HemPLY specimen has a hemp hurd core that is encased with a hemp fiber stress-skin.

Outcomes / The Impact

Today, SBC has a team of four engineers: a chemical engineer, two mechanical engineers, and a composites engineer. The company also has an administrator. SBC plans to establish a process line and is researching high-speed machinery.

The team’s accomplishments include:

  • Fabricating over 100 test specimens with various configurations and cultivars
  • Building material testing equipment
  • Determining the material characteristics of HemPLY’s constituent parts.

The project has also proven that HemPLY can be cost-effective and strong. This material is expected to meet or exceed the American Plywood Association’s specifications for traditional plywood.

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