Wood-plastic composites combine the attractive appearance of wood with the flexibility and ease of manufacture of plastics. To produce firm, smooth pellets for easy handling and further processing, these wood-plastic composites combine fine wood particles with sustainable, biodegradable, reused, recycled, or virgin plastic materials.
The wood fibres are extracted from waste materials produced by lumber mills and processed to create a consistent reinforcing product. The use of these particles encourages the reuse of wood waste that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills, as well as ensuring that no new trees are cut down to create the product.
Since wood-plastic composites melt at lower temperatures than traditional plastics, they use less energy. Wood-plastic composites, while most commonly associated with decking, have a surprisingly broad variety of possible applications. Different properties can be achieved by varying the species, scale, and concentration of wood particles in the formulation.
Wood-plastic composites may also be foamed to create a solid and lightweight material. Wood-plastic composites can achieve a wide range of characteristics while maintaining one constant: their durability. Smarter materials provide a path forward as customer views toward our obligation to the world change.
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Wood-plastic composite’ applications
Building & Construction Product:
Wood-plastic composites are made up of wood fiber, thermoplastic, and insignificant amounts of pigments, lubricants, blowing agents, and foaming agents. They are long-lasting and have a longer shell life than raw wood. They are also considered environmentally friendly because they are made primarily of sawmill byproducts and recycled plastic. Since the last few decades, the demand has been rising due to a change in consumer preference for wood-plastic composites.
Since consumers are becoming more conscious of the different uses and benefits of wood-plastic composites, their use in automobiles is increasing. Automobile manufacturers are concentrating on producing components that are either recyclable or biodegradable. The use of recyclable or biodegradable wood-plastic composite-based parts is expected to improve mechanical strength and acoustic efficiency, reduce material weight and fuel consumption, reduce manufacturing costs, improve passenger protection and shatterproof performance under severe temperature changes, and improve biodegradability for auto interior parts.
Industrial & consumer goods:
Another wide market that uses wood-plastic composites is industrial and consumer goods producers. Wood filled PVC is gaining popularity due to its combination of thermal stability, moisture resistance, stiffness, and strength, despite being more expensive than unfilled PVC. In this area, there is a lot of patent activity. Wood-plastic composites are used in a variety of industries around the world, but their techniques differ. For longevity, they extrude wood filled PVC with an unfilled PVC capstock, while others extrude a PVC core with a paintable wood filled PVC surface.
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Extrusion, injection moulding, and compression moulding or thermoforming are the main manufacturing methods for wood–plastic composites (pressing). Additive manufacturing through fused layer modelling and laser sintering are two newer manufacturing processes for WPCs.
The extruder is the heart of a WPC profile processing device, and its main job is to melt the polymer and combine it with wood and other additives in a method known as compounding. The compounded wood–polymer mixture is also conveyed through the die by the extruder. WPC profiles are processed using four different types of extrusion systems. The single screw, co-rotating twin screw, counter-rotating twin screw, and Woodtruder are the four types.
The simplest extrusion method for manufacturing WPC profiles is a single-screw fiber composite extruder. The length to diameter (L/D) ratio of a standard single-screw extruder is 34:1. Melting and metering will be done in two steps, with a vent segment to eliminate volatiles. Pre-compounded fiber-filled polymer pellets would be the material type for the single-screw extruder. Drying the pellets can necessitate the use of a dryer. The most common method of material feeding is via a gravity hopper. The barrel heat and screw shear mechanism melts and mixes the ingredients. The single-screw extruder has the advantage of being a proven technology with the lowest capital acquisition cost. High raw material costs, lower output rates, the need for a drying system, the fact that the polymer is melted with the fiber, increasing the risk of fiber thermal decomposition, high screw speed (rpm), increasing the risk of burning at the screw tip, and the inability to keep melt temperature low with higher head pressures are all disadvantages.
Counter-Rotating Twin-Screw Extrusion:
Counter-rotating twin-screw extruders are ideal for heat-sensitive polymers such as rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-temperature extrusion for fibres and foams, non-compounded materials such as powder blends, difficult-to-feed materials, and materials that require degassing. Parallel or conical screw configurations are available for the counter-rotating twin screw.
The fiber/flour and polymer have the same polymer dimension, which is normally between 250 and 400 m. Fiber drying is accompanied by high-intensity mixing with the polymer and additives in the material preparation process. A crammer feeder is commonly used in the material feed process. The barrel heat and screw mixing mechanism are used to melt and combine the ingredients. Screw flight cut-outs and gear mixers are used to mix the screws.
Vacuum venting is used to remove moisture. Low screw speed (rpm) and low shear mixing are two advantages of counter-rotating twin-screw extrusion, as well as the fact that it is an established technology. A drying system may be needed, a size reduction system for fed materials may be required, a pre-blending system may be required, and material transportation can affect mix feed ratios.
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Features of Wood Plastic Composite (WPC)
WPC products combine the best qualities of wood and plastic to provide exceptional strength and resistance. Unlike timber, which needs maintenance on a regular basis to maintain its optimal efficiency, WPC is naturally resistant to rotting, cracking, and splintering. WPC is also fade and UV resistant, which are important characteristics for materials used in outdoor environments like decks and patios. In contrast to natural wood, WPC needs very little maintenance beyond periodic washing, resulting in significant cost and time savings.
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Since WPC is made from wood waste and recycled plastic, there is no need for deforestation in the manufacturing phase. As a result, it's a more environmentally friendly alternative to wood, whose development puts pressure on already scarce plantation forests. In addition, the use of recycled plastic items is important in addressing waste management concerns and promoting industry best practices in terms of sustainable material use.
The fact that colour and species choices are entirely dependent on availability from plantation forests is one of the major disadvantages of designing with timber. WPC, on the other hand, is available year-round in a variety of colours, textures, and price points, and is not reliant on external factors including plantation yield and quality. As a result, it provides incredible design versatility as well as a beautiful natural look, often at a fraction of the cost of natural wood. Due to a high degree of material uniformity that cannot be matched by timber, WPC also allows for unrivalled ease of matching vertical screening, horizontal decorative laths, and decorative elements.
WPC decking removes the complicated fixings that come with timber decking, allowing for a more efficient installation process and a major reduction in labour and expense. WPC decking is easily mounted using hidden fasteners that clip into side grooves in the board. While timber decking is usually fixed with screws, exposing potentially dangerous screw heads on the deck surface, WPC decking is easily installed using hidden fasteners that clip into side grooves in the board.
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The wood-plastic composites market is expected to develop at a CAGR of 12.4% from 2016 to 2021, reaching USD 5.84 billion. The growing demand for wood-plastic composites in the building and construction industry is a major driver of market development.
Between 2016 and 2021, the wood-plastic composites market in Asia-Pacific is expected to expand at the fastest pace. Increased construction activities and investments in the expansion or upgrade of manufacturing facilities have fueled development in China and India's economies.
The largest economies in Asia-Pacific, China, Japan, and India, have more prospects for the growth of the wood-plastic composites market in the near future. Government initiatives to encourage industrial growth would further aid the growth of the wood-plastic composites industry in these countries.
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Over the last five years, the Indian Composites Industry has developed at a steady pace, serving a diverse range of raw materials, parts, and industries. The Indian composites industry is expected to develop rapidly, with a CAGR of 8.2 percent, to cross 4.9 lakh metric tonnes by 2022. Rebounding renewable energy, growth in mass transportation, penetration of composites in strategic sectors, and a modestly growing index of industrial production could all contribute to this level of growth.
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