Wood composite: What it is, how it is made, the different types and applications
Wood has long been used as a construction material and revered for its strength and natural aesthetics. Today we are going to look at wood composites. Specifically, how they are made, the different types and the applications of wood composites.
What is wood composite?
Wood composites include a range of different derivative wood products, all of which are created by binding the strands, fibres or boards of wood together. It is also known as manmade wood, engineered wood and wood-plastic composite (WPC).
How is wood composite made?
Wood composite is usually made from the same hardwoods and softwoods used for lumber, except that it uses the sawmill’s scraps and wood waste and is created by mixing ground wood particles with heated thermoplastic resin. Some combine and process the materials into pellets which are re-melted and formed into their final shapes while others create the final product by a one-step mixing and extrusion process.
Both virgin and recycled thermoplastics are used with polyethylene-based products - the most common ones. UV stabilizers, colourants, coupling agents and lubricants can also be added to create a product specifically targeted to its application, forming both solid and hollow shapes.
Types of wood composite products
Plywood is considered the original composite wood product, manufactured from sheets of cross-laminated veneer which are bonded with moisture-resistant adhesives under heat. Fibreboard is another, made by combining wood fibres with wax and a resin binder under high temperatures and pressure, while particleboard is manufactured from wood chips or sawmill shavings pressed with a synthetic resin.
Oriented strand board is made from strands of wood arranged in layers and bonded together using moisture-resistant adhesives. These are then cross-oriented to give the panels strength and stiffness. Laminated timber is created using dimensional timber glued together into structural columns or beams, while laminated veneers bond thin wooden veneers into a large billet which can be used for rafters, beams, columns and joints.
Use of wood composite products
Composite wood products can be used in a variety of different ways, including both home and industrial construction. Wood composites are often used to replace steel for joists and beams in building projects. Their most widespread use, however, is in outdoor deck flooring, but they are also popular for railings, fencing, benches, window and door frames, cladding and landscaping work.
While composite wood can be used in most applications which traditionally use solid wood, it is also a popular material for making flat-pack furniture due to its low manufacturing costs and light-weight properties.
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