Conifers (Softwoods) for thinnings, small roundwood and sawlogs for paper, panels, veneer sawn boards and biomass for energy production
Broadleaves (Hardwoods) for sawn timber, veneers and biomass
Bamboo and other woody materials and derivatives such as cork and flax residues
Whilst plywood and fibreboard were developed a long time ago, panels manufactured from small particles or flakes have only been developed since the end of the war. It is fair to say that the particleboard industry has found technical solutions to just about every problem and application.
In the early stages of development, wood chipboard used sawmill residues bonded with adhesive. During intensive research and development it was found that better results could be obtained by engineering chips to precise shape and dimension, and to build up panels in layers. Sawmilling machinery evolved that could generate by-products ideally suited for the production of these engineered chips. Panels could be manufactured not only with consistent strength properties but also fine surface finish and with less consumption of adhesive binders. Particleboards are manufactured with extraordinary consistency, flatness and accurate dimensions. Grades are available with good moisture-resistant properties. Some sawdust and planer chips can be used in the core of the panels.
Plywood has the potential to be a strong engineering material, but it is expensive, requiring the best logs and much labour. Many applications of plywood have been replaced by flake boards such as oriented strand board OSB. Although similar to chipboard it is formed of large engineered flakes that are assembled in a similar manner to plywood. Waterproof adhesive is used resulting in a product like plywood but a fraction of the price.
Panels have been made from wood pulp for a very long time and were an extension of the methods used in the paper industry. Wood chips were defibrated and then formed into a mat that could then be pressed or dried. Familiar products are hardboard, insulation board and pinboard. They used no adhesive and generally had one rough side where water was allowed to escape.
Over forty years ago a type of panel was developed that used dry fibres bonded together with an adhesive binder. This became known as MDF or medium density fibreboard. It is almost homogeneous and can be machined to fine tolerances and profiles. Grades have been developed that can be used in wet areas.
Research on panels continues, improving moisture resistance, reducing emissions and adhesive content and many other properties.