WPC industry is experiencing new upturn

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  • Trend towards co-extrusion to lower material costs
  • Live demonstration: Production of hollow WPC profile consisting of PVC filled with 50% rice husks
  • AMU conference well attended with more than 150 international participants

Rising market growth, above all in the USA and the Far East by more than 5%, machinery concepts with high output rates and new applications are stimulating the global Wood Plastic Composites (WPC) industry, which has slowed down slightly recently. This was clearly shown during the 10th Wood Plastic Composites Conference in Vienna organized by Applied Market Information (AMI) in cooperation with Battenfeld-cincinnati. More than 150 guests from five continents attended the event and witnessed over 15 presentations and subsequent live demonstrations at Battenfeld-cincinnati’s technical lab.

120 people were present at the demonstrations in the  battenfeld-cincinnati technical lab.

More than 120 people were present at the demonstrations in the
Battenfeld-cincinnati technical lab.

Trend towards co-extrusion to lower material costs

What is true for plastics processing in general is equally true for WPC processing: with up to 80%, the material costs take up the largest share of the overall production costs. With the aim of reducing these costs, a trend towards co-extrusion applications is currently emerging in the industry. At the same time the demand is rising for low-cost fillers such as rice husks, mineral fillers and recycled fibers. And there is an increasing demand for cost-efficient machinery concepts to reduce the overall costs, especially for the main product line of decking profiles. The use of recycled materials to reduce material costs is as much an issue in the WPC industry as is the use of biologically based and/or biodegradable materials.

Hollow WPC profile

Hollow decking profile made of PVC filled with 50% rice fiber

Extrusion of hollow WPC profile consisting of PVC filled with 50% rice husks

Battenfeld-cincinnati focused its equipment demonstrations on these trends and showed, in cooperation with Beologic NV (Belgium), a complete extrusion line for the prodcution of hollow WPC profile consisting of PVC filled with 50% rice husks. This line, equipped with a fiberEX 93-34 D parallel twin screw extruder tailor-made for WPC processing, reached an output of 380 kg/h. A second line produced biopolyester resin-based WPC profiles. This smaller line was equipped with an alpha 45 single screw extruder and reached an output of 40 kg/h.

 

Sonja Kahr, the company’s WPC product manager, commented: “In our product portfolio, we have single screw extruders and conical twin screw extruders to produce small technical profiles, while for high outputs we offer parallel machine models which, with their 34D processing length, provide every possible option for direct addition of colorants, degassing and flexibility in plasticizing. Both machine concepts can be optimally combined for coextrusion applications.”

PVC-rice compounds as low-cost alternative with further advantages

On both lines, materials from Beologic NV, a company specialized in WPC compounds, were processed. PVC-rice compounds are not only a low-cost alternative to wood-plastic compounds, they also have the advantage that they contain no lignin, and consequently the color of the finished products fades much more slowly.

New applications for WPC were also displayed by the two companies Rehau and Plastic.WOOD. While the German profile manufacturer Rehau presented a WPC sun-shade system made of WPC in an aluminum frame, the Italian company Plastic.WOOD showed various injection-molded products, such as tableware and chairs made of WPC.

With this combination of presentations, machine demonstrations and a small exhibition, the latest developments in materials and machine concepts for WPC processing were presented, and it was clearly shown that this industry continues to offer enormous potential.

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