French company Scale transforms fish scales – from sardines, salmon and tilapias – into "wood". 100% biodegradable, this next-gen material offers a wealth of applications, including decoration, closures and paper.
Ictyos' marine leathers, upcycled like exotic skins from food industry waste, are already well known. With Scale, a new expert is emerging in the fish skin arena. While the idea of valorizing by-products destined for destruction is the same, this material—Scalite—is altogether new as it is made exclusively of fish scales. Biobased, biodegradable, and fire-resistant, the material comes in the form of plaques and contains no binders or synthetic additives. “The only binder used is the collagen present in fish scales," explains Leïla Badr Soulard, Scale's Account Manager.
After being transformed into powder and cold compressed—a carbon neutral production process—Scalite can be reground and reintegrated into the production chain.
From an aesthetic standpoint, it has the aspect of granite as inclusions remain visible, a smooth marble-like surface, but a touch warm as wood. Scalite can be be tooled like wood (cut, sanded, engraved...) and once bulk dyed, in bespoke colors, can be made into applications as varied as wall panels, furniture, and objects.
The only drawback for the moment is that contact with water remains problematic: "We recommend applying a thin layer of protective varnish to the material and are looking for partners who offer biosourced hydrophobic coatings," notes Badr Soulard.
Interior design and caps
Conceived by Scale Founder Erik de Laurens, while in design school the Royal College of Art in London, the material can now be produced on an industrial scale. "It’s not a raw material that will be in short supply," smiles Badr Soulard. "We are producing at capacity and have already delivered interior design elements for the boutiques of a few major luxury brands."
Scalite is also undergoing tests at a major supplier of wine and spirits closures, while in-house, the start-up's R&D department is working on 3D printing the biomaterial.
And last but not least, Scale has developed a paper made entirely from fish scales. Semi-flexible and translucent, it has the appearance of traditional Japanese washi paper, can be shaped during drying and mass dyed with food colorants or botanical pigments.