Swiss Wood Solutions

Credit cards made from Swiss wood

Wood is older than humanity – and today it is in greater demand than ever as a raw material for a wide variety of applications. Swiss Wood Solutions AG uses this natural, carbon-neutral material to make widely diverse products, from credit cards to musical instruments.

When it comes to making superior musical instruments, ebony – harvested from Diospyros trees – is the best choice. The wood is not only an attractive colour but also very hard, with a consistent density that guarantees good sound quality. However, due to high demand, stocks of this tropical timber are in sharp decline, and overexploitation is causing quality to become poorer and poorer. In 1994, ebony was placed on the Red List of Threatened Species kept by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some countries have even imposed export bans to protect their tree populations.

Fortunately, musical instruments and other high-quality wood products can also be made from Swiss wood – provided it is given these same physical and mechanical properties of extreme hardness and uniform density. That is precisely what Oliver Kläusler and his fellow timber specialists at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich succeeded in doing. The densification process they developed does not involve any toxins or produce any harmful emissions. Their work led to the creation of Swiss Wood Solutions AG, which pulls together expertise in wood and adhesive technology, materials science, chemistry and certification. To finance the development work, the company successfully completed several financing rounds. Contracts for licensed production bring in further funds.

The innovations developed by Swiss Wood Solutions include a payment card that, except for the chip and magnetic strip, is made entirely of wood, paper and a bio-adhesive. The card was first used as a certified payment card by the German GLS Bank in 2022. Another German company, Copecto GmbH, independently produces, markets and sells a similar product, the Timbercard®, under licence from Swiss Wood Solutions. The wooden cards went into full-scale production at a certified site in Germany in 2024. Bank cards made of native woods have great marketing potential: banks can strengthen customer loyalty by having cards made with wood from their home canton.

Swiss Wood Solutions is a technology incubator for sustainable wood-based products. Products are developed using its patented wood modification process until they are ready to be marketed and then spun off into specialised subsidiaries. One new product class is protective components for the human body, which involves finding ways to replace composite materials, such as those made of carbon fibres, with wood.