Fibre cement - rooted in history

From paper to fibre cement

The fibre-cement manufacturing process was invented by an Austrian Ludwig Hatschek in the 1890’s. He combined, after 7 years of experimenting, cellulose, reinforcing fibres and cement in solution in water. This “slurry” was fed into a paper making machine, basically a cylindrical sieve or sieves rotating through the slurry. The solids are deposited on the sieve which on each rotation attracts a layer of the solids and transfers the layer onto a continuous belt. The layers are built up to the desired thickness and then removed and if necessary compressed. This process was patented as the “Eternit” process. 

From Eternit to Cembrit

By 1894 Hatschek’s factory Eternit Werke Ludwig Hatschek was manufacturing fibre cement products for sale. Licenses were sold throughout Europe, including to our Danish parent company Dansk Eternit Holding A/S in 1927, one of the proliferation of independent companies entitled to use the “Eternit” trade name. By the time the license expired in 1906 the industry was established. Since 1906 many imitators also were founded who did not use the Eternit license. Over the intervening years many of the fibre-cement manufacturers were acquired by the Belgian Eternit Group, now known as Etex. Dansk Eternit have however always remained independent and marked this fact in 2008 by adopting one of our successful brands, Cembrit, as the new name for the whole Group.

Fibre cement - a building material with many strenghts

Man made PV A fibres have long since replaced the mineral fibre, and other solids are now added to the slurry to furnish differe nt performance characteristics. Colouration is now often incorporated on the surface or in the slurry and extra curing is also undertaken to improve strengths and speed up the process, however the essential heart of the process, the Hatschek machine and the “magical” conversion of a liquid into a solid remains.

The beauty of fibre-cement as a building material is 4 fold; Fire resistant, rot resistant, malleability and low weight.

A flexible building material

Immediately after it is formed fibre-cement is still pliable. This means it can be moulded into 3 dimensional shapes, can be embossed and because the fibre matrix supports the cement and other solids, can be far thinner than concrete. Random and natural surface effects can be achieved but with the consistency of a production line giving superb levels of control and cost efficiency. By the simple formation of a repeated wave in the wet material, larger panels can be made self-supporting and thereby provide excellent method of cladding large areas.

Fibre cement is a light weight building material

The hydration process means the material gets progressively stronger, providing concrete like strength but at a much lower weight. The advantage is that a lightweight sheet can be produced which can mimic stone without the low yields associated with extraction, or can reproduce the effect of clay based building products without the need for high temperatures in production. Light in weight it is easier to transport and work on site. Fibre-cement is consequently faster to install and less energy intensive in production, saving cost.

Fibre cement is fire resistant

Although there is cellulose (wood fibre) content, because it is held in a matrix of inorganic cement the material has excellent fire resistant qualities, of vital importance for structures for human occupation. The best combustibility ratings can be achieved with the subtlest of variations to the raw materials.

A defence against rot and humidity

The combination of raw material and matrix structure of fibre-cement also provides excellent durability. Fibre cement is not susceptible to mould or rot damage thereby exceeding the longevity of timber, it contains no metals so will not rust and decay like steel and has low thermal conductivity so will not distort in the prescence of heat like PVC. Fibre cement is however porous thereby making it ideal for use in high humidity climates.With such strengths you would think fibre cement should be used everywhere, and you would be right. We have over 80 years of experience of the use of fibre cement across the varied climates of Europe and beyond. There are manufacturers on every continent testament to the popularity and durability of this amazing material. Talk to Cembrit about what fibre cement can do for your project and join the long line of satisfied users of this exceptional building material!