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Particleboard

Particle board, or Particleboard is an engineered wood product manufactured from wood particles, such as wood chips, sawmill shavings, or even saw dust, and a synthetic resin or other suitable binder, which is pressed and extruded. Particleboard is a composite material.
Particleboard is cheaper, denser and more uniform than conventional wood and plywood and is substituted for them when appearance and strength are less important than cost. However, particleboard can be made more attractive by painting or the use of wood veneers that are glued onto surfaces that will be visible. Though it is denser than conventional wood, it is the lightest and weakest type of fiberboard, except for insulation board. Medium-density fibreboard and hardboard, also called high-density fiberboard, are stronger and denser than particleboard.

A major disadvantage of particleboard is that it is very prone to expansion and discoloration due to moisture, particularly when it is not covered with paint or another sealer. Therefore, it is rarely used outdoors or places that have high levels of moisture, with the exception of some bathrooms, kitchens and laundries, where it is commonly used as an underlayment beneath a continuous sheet of vinyl floor coverings.

Particleboard is manufactured by mixing wood particles or flakes together with a resin and forming the mix into a sheet. The raw material to be used for the particles is fed into a disc chipper with between four and sixteen radially arranged blades. The particles are first dried, after which any oversized or undersized particles are screened out.

Resin, in liquid form, is then sprayed through nozzles onto the particles. There are several types of resins that are commonly used. Amino, formaldehyde based resins are the best performing when considering cost and ease of use. Urea Melamine resins are used to offer water resistance with increased melamine offering enhanced resistance. Phenol formaldehyde is typically used where the panel is used in external applications due to the increased water resistance offered by phenolic resins and also the colour of the resin resulting in a darker panel. Melamine Urea phenolic formaldehyde resins exist as a compromise. To enhance the panel properties even further the use of resorcinol resins typically mixed with phenolic resins are used, but this is usually used with plywood for marine applications and a rare occasion in panel production.
Panel production involves various other chemicals — including wax, dyes, wetting agents, release agents — to make the final product water resiantant, fireproof, insect proof, or to give it some other quality.

Once the resin has been mixed with the particles, the liquid mixture is made into a sheet. A weighing device notes the weight of flakes, and they are distributed into position by rotating rakes. In graded-density particleboard, the flakes are spread by an air jet that throws finer particles further than coarse ones. Two such jets, reversed, allow the particles to build up from fine to coarse and back to fine.

The sheets formed are then cold-compressed to reduce their thickness and make them easier to transport. Later, they are compressed again, under pressures between two and three mega Pascal and temperatures between 140 °C and 220 °C. This process sets and hardens the glue. All aspects of this entire process must be carefully controlled to ensure the correct size, density and consistency of the board.

The boards are then cooled, trimmed and sanded. They can then be sold as raw board or surface improved through the addition of a wood veneer or laminate surface.

India produces most of its domestic particleboard requirements. The particleboard industry is not export oriented and India is a net importer of particle board. Table 20 details India’s imports of particleboards in 2003 and 2004. In 2004 India imported a total of US$ 15.3 million worth of particleboard and OSB while total exports in the same year were US$ 5.4 million. Among the various types of particleboard imported by India, oriented strand board (OSB) is increasing in popularity as a promising rate. Up until 2002 India’s imports of OSB were negligible. India began importing a sizable quantity of OSB in 2003. The countries from which India imports large quantities of particleboard are Nepal, Bhutan, Belgium, and Malaysia.

The US is the largest importer of Indian particleboard, importing US$ 1.6 million in 2004, which accounted for about 30% of India’s total particleboard exports. The export of particleboard to the US has increased by over 200% since 1999. The second largest importer of particleboard, in value terms, is Singapore which imported US$ 1.1million.